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Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine's Thought Hardcover – April 2, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0195336498 ISBN-10: 0195336496

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Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine's Thought + Augustine's Invention of the Inner Self: The Legacy of a Christian Platonist + Inner Grace: Augustine in the Traditions of Plato and Paul
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195336496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195336498
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.4 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Phillip Cary's Inner Grace and Outward Signs together constitute a fascinating account of how Augustine's Platonism shaped his account of grace, of faith, of language, of sacraments indeed, of almost everything he ever wrote about. Cary's discussion was full of surprises for me; the Augustine that emerges is much more strange and much more creative than the Augustine I thought I knew. Many readers won't like this new Augustine; Cary's treatment will be controversial. But it is so remarkably original and so thoroughly documented that no Augustine scholar will be able to ignore it." --Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University; Senior Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia

"Philip Cary's new books, Inner Grace and Outward Signs, are major contributions to scholarship on Augustine. They are also controversial ones, since the upshot of one of his central arguments is that Augustine not only doesn't but can't have any genuine sacramental theology because on his assumptions there can be no intimate and transformative causal connection between material objects and inner states. Cary supports this argument with learning, wit, and intellectual passion. It deserves what it will undoubtedly receive, which is much lively discussion." --Paul J. Griffiths, Duke Divinity School

"Augustine's thought has informed the mind of the Christian West for the past sixteen centuries, and occasionally a book is published that marks a watershed in Augustinian scholarship. Cary's book Outward Signs is, I believe, such a book. Like many important books on Augustine, Cary's is both brilliantly enlightening, and bound to rouse fruitful controversy." --Roland Teske, Donald J. Schuenke Professor of Philosophy, Marquette University

"These two handsome volumes by Phillip Cary complete a trilogy on Augustine's theology...Altogether the trilogy constitutes an energetic and challenging interpretation of Augustinian theology." --Journal of Religion

About the Author

Phillip Cary is Professor of Philosophy at Eastern University in St. Davids, PA, where he is also Scholar-in-Residence at the Templeton Honors College.

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Richard Clark on April 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Three of us old men meet every Saturday evening to educate ourselves in philosophy. So we've watched a DVD series called "Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition" produced by The Teaching Company. Of all the professors who addressed us, Dr. Phillip Cary was most successful in holding our attention.

I decided to purchase "Augustine's Invention of the Inner Self: The Legacy of a Christian Platonist," only to discover it isn't so easily digestible as his Teaching Company lectures. It's a book about space, and it challenges the reader to consider the thought that Augustine actually invented the notion of one's self as "a private inner space--a space into which one can enter and in which one can find God." Well, I had never thought of it in that way. I naturally had no idea of the implications or consequences of such a concept, and my first thought was of Freud, and what he might have thought of Cary's book.

Cary's initial book, published in 2000, made me curious enough to purchase his second book, "Inner Grace: Augustine in the Traditions of Plato and Paul." It's a book about grace as "an inner gift of delight leading to true happiness," the way Augustine saw it. Of course, that includes the inroads Plato foisted upon Augustine's unfolding theology. And of this infusion, Cary believes we should be aware. He concludes with a discussion of the Election (a doctrine that scares me a little).

Cary's second book, published in 2008, made me curious enough to purchase his third book, "Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine's Thought." It's a culmination of three Augustinian stages, moving from space and grace to place.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful By G. Everts on July 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Central in professor Phillip Cary's third book on Augustine, `Outward signs', stands the problem, raised in Augustine's De magistro (On the Teacher), that we learn nothing from words. As clear cut as this important and "really startling" claim is raised though, the more striking is the lack of transparency with which Cary treats it.

I don't like to criticize Cary's didactic qualities at all, because of the brilliancy he demonstrated in his earlier book Augustine's Invention of the Inner Self and elsewhere, but here I have to. Because of the substance itself he is treating. For what Cary unveiled in his first book, he reveiled again in this third. Although he makes indisputably clear that Augustine's thinking on `signs' and words (`shared signs') is mainly influenced by Platonic thought, he makes this all too clear and by doing that unclear. His argument is too lengthy and, taken together with a lack of urgency, it results in an Augustine who is almost drowned in Platonism, leaving out for instance his lifelong virulent Manichaeism and, which matters more here, his Paulism.

Why should that be of a problem? Because, in spite of Cary's repeated pledge for loyalty and sympathy to his Christian (Lutheran) background in the beginning and the end of the book, he does no justice to Augustine by making out of him a sheer academic. Moreover, by introducing the hybrid formula "expressionist semiotics" for Augustine's theory of signs, a misleading flavor of artistic softness enters Augustinian research. If he likes it or not, Augustine's - as well as Cary's own and with him all westerners, including mine - monotheism has to do with good and evil, white and black, biblical Truth and idolatry. The same with Augustine's teaching to his son in his De magistro.
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