Signs, language, and knowledge in St. Augustine's "De Magistro"
The de magistro is the primary work of Augustine which focuses on his philosophy of language. The dialogue, however, is concerned centrally with the question of the acquisition of knowledge and it is through an analysis of this question that Augustine arrives at his conclusions about language. Plato's presentation of the Paradox of Enquiry, in the Meno, pervades the de magistro and is at the basis of this thesis on Augustine's text. The overall approach, in this study, to the issues in the de magistro is focused upon elucidating four main interrelated themes which Augustine employs in his approach to the Paradox. These themes are (1) the Stoic 'commemorative' sign and the subsequent questions concerning the nature of linguistic signs as evidence and as a basis for knowledge (2) the idea of ostensive definition as a means of exposing the limits of language and of demonstrating possible ways around these limits (3) the semiotic nature of language with the related analysis of a theory of meaning, and signification, so as to attempt an understanding of the relation of language to reality and (4) the Platonic theory of Recollection and Augustine's use of it as a means of positing a possible solution to the Paradox. The methodological approach will involve a consideration of the primary influences on Augustine's analysis of language a contextualising of the ideas presented in the de magistro by means of other relevant works by Augustine and a consideration of subsequent philosophical and semiotic theories when these can serve to clarify the ideas posited by Augustine. The main focus of the above approach is to clarify Augustine's picture of knowledge acquisition and the philosophy of language which developed together with his epistemological concerns. Although Augustine is shown to develop a sophisticated approach both to knowledge acquisition and to the related theme of language acquistion, both approaches are argued to ultimately founder upon the Paradox as presented in Plato and as applied to language acquisition in the modern critique employed, with particular reference to Augustine, by Wittgenstein.