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Signs and symbols in Kircher's Mundus Subterraneus

William C. Parcell
Signs and symbols in Kircher's Mundus Subterraneus (in The revolution in geology from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Gary D. Rosenberg (editor))
Memoir - Geological Society of America (2009) 203: 63-74


Symbolism, allegory, and metaphor pervade Athanasius Kircher's (1602-1680) Mundus Subterraneus (The Subterranean World). Elements from the communicative theory of semiotics are useful for exploring Mundus Subterraneus and for illuminating the modern reactions to his works. Kircher used Hermetic and Neoplatonic philosophies as a bridge between medieval thought systems and the growing empirical movement of the Scientific Revolution. In Kircher's studies, no event was taken in isolation, and his examination of Earth rested with Plato's philosophy that the world was created by God as a manifestation of his own perfection. From a modern semiotic viewpoint, Kircher used indexical and iconic signs to combine rational and empirical techniques that sustained his holistic view of the cosmos. In the modern ideal formulation of scientific observation and inquiry, indexical signs are acceptable authoritative causal links between observation and interpretation. For Kircher, both indexical and iconic signs were legitimate articles to collect and employ because they were all manifestations of the Divine Mind. Iconic signs could be religious images or conceptual ideas that Kircher projects onto the workings of Earth.

ISSN: 0072-1069
Serial Title: Memoir - Geological Society of America
Serial Volume: 203
Title: Signs and symbols in Kircher's Mundus Subterraneus
Title: The revolution in geology from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment
Author(s): Parcell, William C.
Author(s): Rosenberg, Gary D.editor
Affiliation: Wichita State University, Department of Geology, Wichita, KS, United States
Affiliation: Indiana University-Purdue University, Department of Earth Sciences, Indianapolis, IN, United States
Pages: 63-74
Published: 2009
Text Language: English
Publisher: Geological Society of America (GSA), Boulder, CO, United States
ISBN: 978-0-8137-1203-1
Meeting name: Geological Society of America, 2006 annual meeting, symposium on From the scientific revolution to the enlightenment; emergence of modern geology and evolutionary thought from the 16th to the 18th century
Meeting location: Philadelphia, PA, USA, United States
Meeting date: 20061022Oct. 22-25, 2006
References: 29
Accession Number: 2009-094462
Categories: Miscellaneous
Document Type: Serial Conference document
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. portr.
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2017, American Geosciences Institute.
Update Code: 200951
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