Book Launch: "Signs in the Dust: A Theory of Natural Culture and Cultural Nature" (Oxford University Press)
Vrasidas Karalis (University of Sydney), Renee Kohler-Ryan (University of Notre Dame Australia), Nathan Lyons (University of Notre Dame Australia)

June 19, 2019, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
University of Notre Dame Australia

The Moorgate Boardroom & Common Room
10 Grafton St, Chippendale
Sydney 2008


University of Sydney
University of Notre Dame Australia
University of Notre Dame Australia

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You are invited to join us in celebrating the publication of Nathan Lyons' new monograph, "Signs in the Dust: A Theory of Natural Culture and Cultural Nature" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).

Copies of the book will be for sale at a 50% discount for attendees of the launch (cash only).


Professor Vrasidas Karalis

Sir Nicholas Laurantus Professor of Modern Greek

University of Sydney

With a response from Nathan Lyons


Professor Renée Köhler-Ryan 

Dean, School of Philosophy and Theology

University of Notre Dame Australia


The Moorgate Boardroom & Common Room

University of Notre Dame, Australia

10 Grafton St, Chippendale, NSW, 2008


Wednesday 19 June 2019

6:00pm for 6:30pm, followed by refreshments


Modern thought is characterized by a dichotomy of meaningful culture and unmeaning nature. Signs in the Dust uses medieval semiotics to develop a new theory of nature and culture that resists this familiar picture of things. Through readings of Thomas Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, and John Poinsot (John of St. Thomas), it offers a semiotic analysis of human culture in both its anthropological breadth as an enterprise of creaturely sign-making, and its theological height as a finite participation in the Trinity, which can be understood as an absolute 'cultural nature'. Signs in the Dust then extends this account of human culture backwards into the natural depth of biological and physical nature. It puts the biosemiotics of its medieval sources, along with Félix Ravaisson's philosophy of habit, into dialogue with the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis that is emerging in contemporary biology, to show how all living things participate in semiosis, so that that a cultural dimension is present through the whole order of nature and the whole of natural history. It also retrieves Aquinas' doctrine of intentions in the medium to show how signification can be attributed in a diminished way to even inanimate nature, with the ontological implication that being as such should be reconceived in semiotic terms. The phenomena of human culture are therefore to be understood not as breaks with a meaningless nature, but instead as heightenings and deepenings of natural movements of meaning that long precede and far exceed us. Against the modern divorce of nature and culture, Signs in the Dust argues that culture is natural and nature is cultural, through and through.


Dr Nathan Lyons is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Australia. He works on the philosophy of nature, in dialogue with medieval thinkers and contemporary evolutionary theory, and has further research interests in philosophy of religion and semiotics. Before coming to UNDA, Nathan held postdoctoral positions at the University of Cambridge and Durham University.

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Cambridge University

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