Announcing the 2021 Lyceum Institute Seminar Catalogue: ten seminars taught by the Director and the Faculty Fellows, spanning the whole year. Each seminar lasts for 8 weeks and includes college-level exposure to philosophical education. Enroll today for discounts and more.
Metaphysics: The Discovery of Ens inquantum Ens
What is “being”, and how do we discover it? The term presents ambiguities; as Aristotle says, it is said in many ways. And as Aquinas, following Avicenna says many times over, it is the first conceived by the intellect, and that into which all other conceptions are resolved. This, too, may be taken ambiguously; and, moreover, it may be conflated and confused with ens inquantum ens as the subject matter of metaphysics. Indeed, resolution is said to be the mode of inquiry which belongs to the science of metaphysics most of all! Yet what this means, and in what manner one resolves, requires clarification. Thus, in this seminar, we will examine some seminal texts of Aristotle and of Thomas Aquinas himself, as well as important contributions and questions which have arisen in the Thomistic tradition, as the first of four seminars in a series on metaphysics.
Ethics: The Good Life
Can we be happy? At times, looking around in our twenty-first century world, it would seem that “happiness” is a contingent, fleeting and difficult-to-grasp matter more of luck than of choice and action. Such a view stems from an implicitly nihilistic worldview, one unconsciously imbibed by many today, in which meaning is imposed upon the realities which extrinsically act upon us. The result of this worldview—this effort to burden the human being with creating the meaning for all the universe—is a deep, gnawing grief at the inevitable failure and ever-more-extreme attempts at improving anesthetics to dull this pain. To the contrary of this sadly inverted worldview, this seminar will look at the philosophical treatments of the ancients and medievals in construing happiness as an inward bearing whereby the human person acts for the sake of attaining real goods meaningful in themselves.
Politics: Postmodern Culture and Principles
This seminar will explore contemporary political and cultural issues from by incorporating classically realist foundations as the basis for a genuinely “postmodern” answer in response to the modern crisis and which looks beyond modernity for its resolution. This response retrieves from pre-modern political philosophy what modernity wrongfully left behind while engaging directly with modern thought–rather than a retreat to the past–in order to propose a way forward. In the first half of this seminar, we will briefly explore the classical foundation of a realist political philosophy, followed by an overview of the modern turn against classical and medieval thought. The second half of this seminar will be a survey of Jacques Maritain’s philosophy on these matters, as his work provides the basis for our claims in response to modernity. Here, we will consider Maritain’s critiques of modern culture, secular liberalism, and totalitarianism, and his philosophy of “integral humanism,” and the “concrete historical ideal.”
Semiotics: The Tractatus de Signis of John Poinsot
What is a sign, and how does it function? It is a question which grew in importance throughout the Latin age of philosophy, and reached its culmination in arguably the last great thinker of that tradition: João Poinsot, better known as John of St. Thomas—a name adopted to signify his fidelity to the great Dominican Doctor around whose thought John based his own. In a work painstakingly retrieved, edited, and translated by John Deely, John Poinsot presents a systematic treatise on signs, the Tractatus de Signis, which answers many questions modernity had not anticipated, and which would not be revisited by a capable thinker for another 200 years (C.S. Peirce). In this seminar, we will closely and rigorously examine the entirety of this text of Poinsot. It is strongly recommended that all interested parties have familiarized themselves with Thomistic Psychology and/or prior semiotics seminars before registering, as this seminar will prove quite challenging without these antecedents.
Thomistic Psychology: The Meaning of Evil
Every human being has some notion of evil, vague though it may be, as that which is opposed to a good: the good that one desires, the good that one honors – or, perhaps, the good that one wishes one honored or desired more than one does. Even those who lack an inclination to deeper questioning concerning the matter and the meaning of evil can nevertheless find themselves possessed with anger at states of affairs, ideas, and other persons they clearly judge to be evil. Might there be some relation of dependence between the lack of deeper questioning and the frenzy of the anger, as well as the lack of humility it evinces? For if we are honest, we must admit that, despite every good intention, we ourselves have some share in, and make some concrete contribution to, the mysterious reality of evil in the world. This seminar aims to deepen our questioning concerning the meaning, that is, the intelligible reality signified by the term evil.
Science: On Being, Language and Reason, and Cause in Aristotle’s Organon
Daniel Wagner and John Boyer
[This seminar is to be taught in collaboration]. The subject is being (οὐσία), language and reason (λόγος), and cause (αἰτία) in Aristotle’s Organon. In part I of the Seminar, Dr. Wagner will treat the logical terms of Aristotle’s sense-realism in Topics and Categories, and his method of induction (ἐπαγωγή) and division for obtaining definitions as the first principles of science (ἐπιστήμη) in Posterior Analytics and De Partibus Animalium. In part II, Dr. Boyer will treat Aristotle’s theory of science through apprehension of the cause (αἰτία) by demonstrative syllogism (συλλογισμός). Both parts of the course will showcase the application of Aristotle’s realist logic in his own work (Physics, De Anima, Ethics, and Metaphysics), and in contemporary science.
Semiotics: An Introduction
In this seminar, we will focus on Charles Sanders Peirce and his unique contributions to the foundations of the discipline of semiotics proper and show how we must instantiate an understanding of signs in our day-to-day practices, both practically and theoretically. Among the specific goals for the seminar are to understand the general theory of semiotics—as the study of the action of signs—which was founded in Charles Peirce and has since been developed; to understand the categorical basis of Peirce’s thought, or his “phaneroscopy”; and to understand especially how signs play a role in human thinking. Readings will primarily be from the two volume Essential Peirce.
Thomism, Artisanship, and Art
What is the being of a work of art? What is the nature of “poetic” knowledge, the experience of the artisan and the artist? How should a Thomist speak about these matters? This lecture series is devoted to these questions, taking as their principal guide, Jacques Maritain, who probed these questions in his works Art and Scholasticism, Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, and Art and Poetry. Other thinkers will be consulted along the way, presenting a synthesis which, however, uses Maritain’s texts as the primary guiding thread of the lecture discussion.
Thomistic Psychology: Environing World and the Passions
In the fourth Thomistic Psychology seminar, we enter into the discussion of the environing world—a concept formulated by a theoretical biologist, Jakob von Uexküll—as a dynamically-constitutive element of the human psyche, with a specific focus on how this affects and is itself effected by the passions. Topics covered include moral and cognitive habituation, technology and technological media, the “moral imagination”, and the conscientious pursuit of the good in our environing worlds. This requires a firm understanding of the faculties and cognitive operations of the human being. Readings will be drawn from a wide array of sources but focus principally on the Secunda pars of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa theologiae.
In the second Metaphysics seminar, we will engage in a deep Thomistic discussion of the intelligible discovery of the existence of God and the justifiable inferences which may be made concerning the Divine Nature. This stands in corresponding opposition to the via resolutionis secundum rationem discussed in the first Metaphysics seminar, concerning the discovery of ens inquantum ens, as the via resolutionis secundum rem—according to the thing, according to the existential cause. This will unfold further into a consideration of the attributes of the Divine which may be justly inferred from the resolution to a First Cause. Thus, the primary reading for the course will be from the Prima pars of the Summa theologiae.