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On Analogy

A Brief Primer on the Doctrine’s Confusion

If you would like to participate in the weekly Lyceum Institute Philosophical Happy Hour this Wednesday, 1 February 2023 from 5:45–7:15pm ET, request an invite here! Just write “Happy Hour” in the form!

Few topics have brought as much consternation to Thomists than that of analogy; not only those living and writing in the contemporary period (subsequent, that is, to the Leonine revival initiated in 1879), but stretching back to the first fluorescence of Thomism begun in the late fourteenth century, the question of analogy has wrought the wringing of hands.  In this earlier Thomism, two names stand out with particular importance: namely, Thomas Cajetan and Sylvester of Ferrara, authors notable not only for their independent contributions, but as those whose commentaries were included in the Leonine editions of the Summa Theologiae (Cajetan) and the Summa contra Gentiles (Sylvester).  Cajetan shifted the discourse on analogy, however, through an independent work of his own (De Nominum Analogia), often thought to be an indirect elaboration and commentary on Thomas Aquinas’ own doctrine of analogy, but well-demonstrated in recent years to be his own relatively original teaching.[1]

Largely because of Cajetan’s interjection (and the mistaken interpretations of its intent), the twentieth century saw an explosion of treatments concerning analogy.  Not only did monographs on the topic proliferate, but nearly every book of Thomistic philosophy, it seems, at least adverted to the integral importance of analogy—while few did little to clarify precisely what it was, even those monographs dedicated to the question.  Indeed, it seems that these works not only failed to bring clarity, but instead stirred up even worse yet the mud.

But what, we must ask, makes this doctrine so contentious?

Origin of Controversy

To provide the briefest summary possible: Aristotle twice in his Metaphysics (a name not chosen by his own volition) makes the assertion that “being is said in many ways.”  More literally translated into Latin, this would be rendered multiplicter dicitur, and such is a formulation we find Aquinas using often.  However, by a conflation of translations, the term analogia—despite in Aristotle’s Greek being reserved to the proportion of mathematical relations—was transferred into Latin as synonymous with the multiplicter dicitur, and thus rendered by Aquinas occasionally with the phrases analogia or analogice dictum (“analogically said”).[2]

When Aquinas refers to analogy, we see he does so as a way of naming through a kind of relation to something understood according to the perfection which we are able to grasp.  Thus, when we say that exercise is “healthy”, this is because we know the perfection of a healthy body, and that exercise is healthy because it has a relation to making bodies healthy.  Somewhat similarly, when we say that God is “good”, we do this not by knowing the goodness of God directly, but because we know the goodness of things God has created and can therefore infer logically that the goodness belonging to finite perfections has an infinite (and therefore incomprehensible) existence in the Divine Creator.  Unlike the predication of “healthy”, we do not in the case of “goodness” know the greater perfection, but only the lesser and the derivative.  Nevertheless, though our knowledge of the greater perfection remains incomplete, we can nevertheless hold it as true, albeit necessarily mediated through the lesser perfections which we do comprehend (as, indeed, we would not know the healthiness of exercise if not for knowing the health of bodies).

The diverse kinds of analogy presented in Aquinas, however, gives rise to the question: what exactly is it that differentiates the kind of analogy employed in speaking of “health” as opposed to speaking of “good”?  It does not seem unfair to claim that, even though Cajetan was not intending to provide an expository commentary on Aquinas’ teaching, he does take this question as his point of departure.

Cajetan’s Confusion

For the sake of brevity, I will not here elaborate on these distinctions (which provide an interesting cognitive exercise but which, I think, will ultimately dissipate through disuse).  Instead, we should attend to one of the principal terms, central to discussions of analogy, upon which Cajetan attempted to shine a light: namely, being.  Here, Cajetan seems to re-center the discussion on the idea of proportionality, drawing upon the original meaning of the Greek term analogia.  Certain terms, and most especially that of being—ens, in Latin—were proposed by Cajetan to be significative of concepts which were themselves analogical, in contrast to those which are univocally predicated (that is, said with one meaning in every instance).  I have criticized this view at some length elsewhere.[3]  Summarily, it is a strange shift to take a property of linguistic signifiers, namely their univocal or analogical mode of predication, and attribute this to the concept.  There are many problems this causes for knowledge.[4]

To leap ahead more than five hundred years, we find the Thomists of the twentieth century, whose concerns were shaped by the need to respond against the faults of modern idealistic philosophy, themselves deeply dissatisfied with Cajetan’s doctrine (most especially when mistaking it to be an interpretation of St. Thomas).  In part, it seems, their dissatisfaction was spurred by the failure of Cajetan’s doctrine to answer the objection, propagated largely by Immanuel Kant, that “being” (and all forms of the verb to be) constitute naught but an empty predicate: that saying “there are” of “a hundred dollars” adds nothing conceptually (let alone to our bank accounts).  Thomists were—rightly, but undoubtedly excessively—concerned to defend the reality of esse (the infinitive of “to be” and used often by Aquinas to designate the act of existence itself as a real principle distinct from the essences of being), and especially to demonstrate how this reality overcomes the “epistemological gap” introduced by Descartes in asking how we can know that our ideas represent the extramental world as it really is.

Analogy of Being

Thus, it was thought, an answer might be found in not merely having an analogical concept of being, but in holding that being itself is analogically.  To illustrate this point, John Deely, in his 2002 article, “The Absence of Analogy”, cites a 1940 publication by Edward T. Foote:

It is because things really are analogous that the universe presents itself, a unity, attractive to intellect, and penetrable by knowledge which excels science.  It is because things are analogous that mind can course up and down the grades (the “steps’” of perfections—where univocal unities would be futile—can freely range transversely from category to category.  By analogies man can go from himself, the being he knows best, far down to the truth, the goodness, the beauty of all inferior creation, which is ordered to him; he can rise to know something of what it means to be a creature without matter.  Finally, since beings are analogous to Being, from the existence and perfections of finite things, man can have knowledge of the transcendence excellences, the very subsistence of God.

Foote 1940: “Anatomy of Analogy”, The Modern Schoolman 18: 12–16.  Cited in Deely 2002: “The Absence of Analogy”, The Review of Metaphysics, 55.3: 547n32.  As Deely comments, “Pure Neoplatonism unconscious of itself.”

What would it mean for things to be analogous?  The suggestion of Foote, that there exists within all diverse things a commonality of being that allows our minds to “freely range transversely from category to category” seems in no way distinct from any generic and supposedly “univocal concept” (or “univocal essence”—which would be univocal, by contrast, to analogical “being”, one must presume)—as, indeed, the concept of “deer” being grasped allows me freely to consider the eight different ruminants picking through the snow in my neighbor’s yard at this very moment; as, indeed, by “ruminant” I am free to consider not only the deer, but the giraffe, the elk, even the bison.

I am not here proposing a solution to the question of analogy; a question legitimate and not easily resolved.  Nor can the thoughts of Neoplatonists or those under their sway be cavalierly dismissed.  But we would do well to stop and reconsider what reality we are signifying by the term “analogy” before we say that something is or is not analogical.

If you would like to participate in the weekly Lyceum Institute Philosophical Happy Hour this Wednesday, 1 February 2023 from 5:45–7:15pm ET, request an invite here! Just write “Happy Hour” in the form!


[1] Cf. Hochschild 2010: The Semantics of Analogy.

[2] Note, however, that “multipliciter dicitur” is, by far, his preferred term.

[3] And criticized it rather harshly, as some would hold.  See Kemple 2017: Ens Primum Cognitum, 40–51.

[4] The biggest of which would be the converse implication concerning “univocal” concepts: as though a concept not in and of itself analogical must signify precise the same cognition-independent reality—as though there exists a quantum entanglement between the concept and every instance in which the concept is precisely realized independently of the mind.

A Meditation on Exile

For better than a decade, I have found myself drawn more to Virgil’s Aeneid and the titular character’s sense of exile and searching—derivative, imitative, precise—than to the great epics of Homer. Voicing this opinion often raises eyebrows, especially those on classicists’ faces. After a meditation upon the insightful conversation of John Senior and Dennis Quinn, of the Integrated Humanities Program once offered at Kansas University, however, I have finally understood my own preference.

Namely: the Aeneid is a poem of maturity. The titular character loses everything. He wanders in homeless exile. But he persists. Virgil, as poet, may be exciting and dashing from time to time, but never, as Senior and Quinn say, could he be called “bombastic”. He crafted his masterpiece over a decade: every phrase and word pruned and ripened by countless hours of care.

But exile—like that faced by Aeneas—more rapidly ages any man or woman, and, today, we are all wandering in exile. We want for a home… many seem not to possess even the sense of what “home” is. This deprivation seems especially true of my own generation (millennials) and younger. Not only are we geographically uprooted, but culturally and spiritually, too. I think therefore that Virgil can teach us more than Homer—Aeneas, as someone facing a situation more alike to our own, more than Achilles or Hector, Odysseus or Telemachus or Penelope.

How are we to deal with our exile?

As I travelled to visit family for Christmas, I read the excellent collection of short stories by Joshua Hren, This Our Exile. Not coincidentally (there are few, if any, coincidences in the stimulation of our minds), we recently concluded our Lectio Commedia: Dante, Poet of Hope reading. Dante, of course, begins his poem in exile: lost in the dark wood of doubt and confusion. Dante the poet appoints Virgil as the guide for Dante the pilgrim. Hren identifies our contemporary lostness. Virgil gives us a tale of human virtue by which we may endure the trials and tribulations of a hostile world. Dante points us toward a divine resolution to our lives.

Late Modern Exile

It is no reach to say that exile has been a theme, of late. It is also no reach to say that this exile is a theme viewed not only from a distance, but one felt.

Our exile is not the same as that faced by Aeneas. We have not been thrown from our land nor had our homes destroyed. Rather, we possess nothing truly ours from which we can be thrown. No foreign invader truly threatens us. We might live in our childhood homes or towns and go off to college, never to return but for visits. But what were the homes which we left?

Speaking for myself, I have long been displaced—uprooted, living in one place after another, moving from apartment to apartment, and only of late have I “settled” in a place I might obliquely call my home. Still, the long habit of living without a place in which I seem to belong leaves me with a feeling of the temporary. But… is it merely the lack of sameness in place that leaves us feeling always stranded in a place we do not quite belong, even when in our houses? Doubtless, geographical uprootedness has something to do with that—but can it alone be accused as the cause?

No: we are homeless because of a cultural decay, a rot from the inside-out.

What makes a house into a home? What makes a land our father or mother? Not a contract, but indeed a belonging—a fittingness in place which constitutes much more than merely “feeling accepted”. To belong is “to go along with”. We belong with that which goes along with us (something much more than merely a psychological subjectivity) toward our end. A home cannot be a place of mere idle rest (more on that momentarily), but must fit what we are as humans. Does one have that, in a modern apartment? In a faceless suburb? In a digital world of communication without community?

Confusing Anesthetic for Genuine Comfort

Late modernity—in the nadir of which I hope we find ourselves, that is, that it may not get any darker than we see now—strives still for the goal of modernity’s founders, Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and René Descartes (1596–1650): namely, the mechanical domination of all nature. Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) rightly asserted that the final hurdle for this intended domination was the human being. The late modern seeks to dominate both others and himself. He is not, therefore, at home either among others or in himself. This exile, into which all of us have been thrown whether willing it or not (relationally-constituted as we are), may last some time. It may outlast all who are now living. How can we rediscover a sense of home?

First, we need to recognize that much of what we take as comfort or comforting in our daily lives, in fact, serves only to numb us. To draw upon another epic poem of antiquity, we have become lotus-eaters. Today we see a proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, smoke shops (many advertising kratom in their windows), and, generally, a culture of using alcohol for numbing our pains or escaping the doldrum rather than in festive celebration of friendship and achievement of the good.

Even apart from use of anesthetizing substances, however, we subject ourselves to anesthetizing habits. We binge watch television on streaming services. Video games suck away hours of one’s life. The doomscroll keeps us numb to our own thoughts. We do not—cannot—think deeply about what we see or hear when something new displaces the old every other second. We thereby become lazy and self-indulgent. Striving for the good appears painful; we expect to be handed it. We outsource difficult, tedious, and unpleasant tasks—caring for the elderly, for young children, educating the youth, caring for our property—to paid professionals. We segment and fragment our lives.

Meditation upon Home

Recognizing our anesthetized condition proves far easier than remedying it. Providing that remedy requires more than breaking the spell of the lotus, as it were. We need a positive purpose. Starved of such purpose, we go hungrily in search of our preferred anesthetics.

But, shocked from our anesthetized insensibility, we may recognize ourselves as lost—therein the chief intellectual merit to Hren’s stories. We know that we lack a home. Let us conceive how to build one.

As aforementioned, a home consists in the fittingness of place. Arguably, nothing in this world ever gives us a perfect sense of fittingness, itself an argument for belief in an afterlife. But we may nevertheless benefit from an imperfect-and-perfecting fittingness. That is, some imperfections are means to greater perfections. Our terrestrial homes ought to fall into this category.

We could do far worse than looking to Aeneas and Dante to re-discover how. In Dante the pilgrim, we discover the correction of will through deepened understanding of error and, especially, the peeling back of our self-deception. In Aeneas we discover firmness of character. Through both, we experience a journey in search of a place where one belongs. Neither choice nor “feeling” dictates this belonging. Neither stumbles into his home by fortuitous accident. Rather, they follow aims handed down from on-high.

Their journeys are unpleasant. They undergo many trials. Aeneas, in particular, finds himself enmeshed in an easy and pleasant distraction—the anesthetizing embrace of Dido. But Carthage is not where he belongs. He matures most of all in leaving her behind: for maturity consists, principally, in doing what we would rather not but know we ought.

We want today for such maturity just as we want for a sense of home. Aeneas and Dante alike must discover who they are in order to discover where they belong. Each, subsequently, matures through undertaking the unpleasant challenges that stand between them and those homes.

So, too, must we.

What Is Wrong with the World?

“What’s wrong with the world?”  Countless thinkers have asked this question, especially over the past century-plus, and they have asked it over and over again; to the point that few in recent years seem to ask it any longer, even for the purpose of adopting the thinnest veneer of rhetorical posturing.  No. Today, almost everyone seems pretty well-decided about what is wrong in the world. As such, their questions aim at means to rectifying those wrongs rather than at understanding what they are.

Taking such an aim ignores, however, that most hold only opinions about what is wrong, for very few hold any knowledge about what is right.  Not knowing what is right—and by knowing is meant not merely “feeling” something to be right or wrong, but being able to articulate what causes the act or practice to be good or bad—we can only react to certain things as wrong.  The reaction might be correct (that is, appropriate) or incorrect (inappropriate).  Someone might react, for instance, with disgust at exposing children to sexually-suggestive performances.  Someone else might laud this exposure.  The former is correct; the latter, not.  But if the former reaction cannot be explained, cannot be grounded in a causal explanation, it will have difficulty justifying itself in a world where the sense of the natural has been evaporated in a cultural confusion, in a culture which has grown increasingly separated from the ordination of nature itself.

Aristotelian Revival

To ask, then, “what is wrong with the world?” one will receive a myriad of answers based on feelings—some of which answers may be correct, others which may be incorrect; but the grounds for both will appear almost equally instable in efforts at communication.  The only means of resolution, then—when confronted with the inevitable conflict between opposed reactions—becomes violent conflict.  But such a resolution is, at best, temporary.  New differences of reaction will arise, even under (perhaps especially under) the most totalitarian and authoritarian of regimes.

What then, are we to do?  Where does the answer lie for our cultural conflicts?  It lies, as suggested, in an understanding of the good (i.e., that in accordance with which a course of action is right).  We can do no better than to begin by returning to Aristotle. We must rediscover his wisdom, and strive as best we can to understand the truths he reveals as they illuminate our struggles today. Chiefly, Aristotle teaches us the necessity of virtue. This rediscovery of virtue should not, as some would understand it, require a “strategic retreat” from the world. Rather, the rediscovery teaches us how to live in a world that might hate us for our virtues—and love us in spite of that hatred.

Virtue of Community

Last year, I read (among many of his works), Byung-Chul Han’s Disappearance of Rituals. At the very outset of the text, Han writes:

Rituals are symbolic acts.  They represent, and pass on, the values and orders on which a community is based.  They bring forth a community without communication; today, however, communication without community prevails.

2020: Disappearance of Rituals, 1.

Doubtless, we can observe the absence of ritual readily in the prevalence of communication without community. Such communication, arguably, fails even to be communication in truth. Indeed, Han here evokes the specter of paradox. There cannot be community without communication. A community coalesces around something common, which does not come into being without communication.  But the exaggerated point remains valid: that distinct, particular acts of communication are not needed when there exist rituals which contain that commonality and communicate it to the community. Explicit linguistic communication finds itself required less when ritual has already established commonality.

Ritual requires definition, of course—and defense of such a definition exceeds the intent of this post. But succinctly, we might say that every ritual comprises an external habit. There may be private or internal elements as well, of course; but rituals are performed. As such, they concern a holding of oneself with respect to the world.

I believe it would do much good if we could see that good rituals result from virtue. Perhaps we can identify—causally—that the absence of true community constitutes something wrong with the world today. Perhaps, recovering virtue, we can recover true community.

Virtue: Ethics

What does it mean to be good as a human being? Modernity, all too often, has treated this as a problem to be solved. That is, we tend to view moral failings as simply in need of the right solution, the right education, the right program. Morality, however, is something that belongs to the individual. It is a matter of internal habit, not a matter of an external system.

⚘ John Deely on the Role of Signs in Human Knowing | Banzelão Teixeira & IO2S Closing Ceremony

On 7 January 2023 (today!) at 11:30am ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Banzelão Teixeira will present, “A Semiotic Perspective of Cognition: John Deely on the Role of Signs in Human Knowing”. Teixeira obtained a Master’s degree in philosophy in 2001 from Divyadaan: Salesian Institute of Philosophy, Nashik, India. In 2016, he completed his doctorate in philosophy from the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome, on the topic “The Tractatus de Signis of John Poinsot and the New Realism: A Study of John Deely’s Proposal.” Presently he is the Director of Divyadaan: Salesian Institute of Philosophy where he holds the chair of Philosophy of Communication. He is also the editor of Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education. He is interested in hermeneutics, communication, semiotics and ecology. His recent publications in the field of semiotics include: “The Notion of Sign in Augustine, Aquinas, Poinsot,” (2016); “Semiotic Revolution in the 4th Century: Assessing Augustine’s Contribution to the Ancient Discussion on the Sign,” (2017); 21st Century Realism: John Deely’s Recovery of Poinsot’s Doctrine of Signs (2018); “The Supra-subjective Nature of Relation: John Deely’s ‘Semiotic’ Response to the Modern Impasse,” (2018); “The Semiotic Proposal of John Poinsot: A Brief Overview of Tractatus de Signis,” (2018); and “The Role of Signs within Cognition: A Semiotic View of the Process of Knowing,” (2020).

Commentary will be provided by Cristina Greco, Assistant Professor of Semiotics and Communication, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, and Head of the Communication Research Unit (CRU) at the Jeddah College of AdvertisingUniversity of Business and Technology (KSA), and John Hittinger, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas and the Director of John Paul II Studies.

Guests speaking as part of the closing ceremonies include, Brian Kemple, Brooke Williams Deely, Donald Favareau, Farouk Y. Seif, Hamid Malekzadeh, Inna Merkulova, Joseph DeChicchis, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Br. Norman Hipps, O.S.B., Olga Lavrenova, Paul Cobley, William Passarini.

Join the Live Q&A Here.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

⚘ The Agonistic Dimension of Peircean Semiotics and Its Postmodern Interpretations: Sebeok, Deely, Petrilli | Ionut Untea

On 5 January 2023 at 12:00pm ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Ionut Untea will present on “The Agonistic Dimension of Peircean Semiotics and Its Postmodern Interpretations: Sebeok, Deely, Petrilli”. Untea is currently a fellow-in-residence at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, in Stuttgart, where he is researching on the semioethic and aesthetic coordinates of the “social compact” and intercorporeal relationships. In 2021, he has taught a course entitled “Intercultural Philosophy: Semiotic Approaches and Aesthetic Themes” as a Visiting Professor at Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro. Since 2016, he has been teaching History of Western Philosophy and Semiotics at Southeast University, Nanjing. He previously taught at the University of La Rochelle, and was a postdoctoral fellow of the Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue (FIIRD) at the University of Geneva. He obtained his doctorate in 2013 at Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE), in Paris. He holds Romanian citizenship, having obtained his first degrees in philosophy and theology at the University of Bucharest. His focus is on the modern and contemporary intersections between semiotic, moral, political and religious thought. He has published recently “Peircean and Confucian Interpretations of Self-Development: Semiotic, Normative and Aesthetic Aspects,” Philosophy East and West 72.1: January 2022: 188–209. His recent work has appeared in academic journals such as The American Journal of Semiotics (2021), Semiotica (2021), Ethical Perspectives (2021, 2019), Philosophical Forum (2019), Journal of Aesthetic Education (2020), Politics and Religion (2019), The Monist (2018).

Commentary will be provided by Dr. Elize Bisanz.

Join the Live Q&A Here.

Abstract: C.S. Peirce’s optimistic appeal to the power of agapasm to somehow magically overlook the interruptions in the development of the signs’ and the species’ life generates an ambiguous heritage in semiotics which may push postmodern thinkers to unwillingly remain under the influence of the Cartesian perspective that gives little importance to what may be seen as a thinking activity of matter itself. Those who have engaged with this aspect of the (either biologically living or non-living) matter’s semiosic activity as an actual thinking of matter, and which manifests itself in the outer world as growth and overgrowth, are Thomas Sebeok, John Deely and Susan Petrilli. For Thomas Sebeok, it is not sufficient to simply marginalize the possibility of decay and death, as Peirce did by asserting that they are “mere accidents or secondary phenomena” in a universe dominated by the unfolding of life (CP 6.58). Sebeok elaborates on the species’ specific capacities to reintegrate in their interpretant, that is to “subserve the general purpose,” as Peirce has said (CP 6.303), overgrown bodily devices that have been formed under the pressure of fear of decay and death generated by potential competitors or predators. While the weight of mind, in the Cartesian sense, is weakened in Sebeok’s thought, it may be that this weakening is done in favor of a collective mind. The one who will push even further the weakening of the Cartesian cogito by questioning again the phenomenon of growth is John Deely. However, by explicitly rejecting Peirce’s appeal to a “final, or ideal cause” (CP 1.212), Deely leaves the door open for an unbounded thinking agon of matter (a phenomenon this time occurring even for inorganic matter). Powered by “pure play,” overgrowth would tend to subordinate semiosis, since Deely sees potentially any “degenerate” sign relationships as a mere pregeneration of more perfect processes. This view tends to marginalize Peirce’s efforts to place agapasm as a counterbalancing force in the universe. Taking inspiration from Victoria Welby’s view on translation, Susan Petrilli weakens even further the weight of the Cartesian approach to mind, by depicting the phenomenon of thinking (in tone with Deely, but without his focus on “pre-generation”) as something that is not the exclusive prerogative of mind, as an independent substance, but rather as a process of vibration, akin to that of digestion. In this perspective, “corporeality” and reason are not distinguished from each other, but rather infused into each other.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

⚘ Victoria Lady Welby, a Significian of our Times | Susan Petrilli

On 4 January 2023 at 11am ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here) Susan Petrilli will present on “Victory Lady Welby, a Significian of our Times”. Petrilli is Professor of Philosophy and Theory of Languages, University of Bari Aldo Moro, Italy, Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Adelaide, SA and 7th Thomas Sebeok Fellow of the Semiotic Society of America. Her main research areas include philosophy of language, semiotics and translation theory. With Augusto Ponzio she has introduced Semioethics as an orientation in semiotics. Her books include: Sign Studies and Semioethics (2014); Victoria Welby and the Science of Signs (2015); The Global World and Its Manifold Faces (2016); Challenges to Living Together (2017), Signs, Language and Listening (2019); Significare, interpretare e intendere (2019); Senza ripari. Segni, differenze, estraneità (2021). Through her work as author, editor, and translator she has contributed to the dissemination of works, among others, by Victoria Welby, Charles C. Peirce, Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Charles Morris, Gérard Deledalle, Emmanuel Levinas, Adam Schaff, Thomas A. Sebeok, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Ferruccio Rossi-Landi, Giorgio Fano, Umberto Eco and Augusto Ponzio. Her numerous essays are published both as book chapters and in journals, too many to name here.

Commentary will be provided by Clara Chapdelaine-Feliciati and Zoe Hurley.

Join the Live Q&A Here.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

⚘ The Profile of John Deely as a Semiotician and a Philosopher | Eero Tarasti

On 3 January 2023 at 12:00pm ET (noon – see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Eero Tarasti will present on “The Profile of John Deely as a Semiotician and a Philosopher”. Tarasti is professor of musicology at the University of Helsinki (chair) in 1984-2016. He was President of the IASS/AIS – International Association for Semiotic Studies, 2004-2014 and is now its Honorary President. In 2016 he has founded the Academy of Cultural Heritages.

He studied music in Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, and then in Vienna, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Bloomington. He got his PhD from the University of Helsinki (1978) after studies in Paris with Claude Lévi-Strauss and A. J. Greimas. He is one of the founders and the director of the international research group Musical Signification since 1984.Tarasti has become Honorary Doctor at Estonian Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, New Bulgarian University (Sofia), Indiana University (Bloomington), University of Aix-Marseille, and Gheorghe Dima National Music Academy in Cluj-Napoca, Rumania.

He has published about 400 articles, edited 50 anthologies, and written 30 monographs; among them one finds: Myth and Music (1979), A Theory of Musical Semiotics (1994), Heitor Villa-Lobos (1996), Existential Semiotics (2000), Signs of Music (2003), Fondéments de la sémiotique existentielle (2009), Fondamenti di semiotica esistenziale (2010), Semiotics of Classical Music (2012, in French 2016), Sein und Schein, Explorations in Existential Semiotics (2015), and Transcending Signs: Essays in Existential Semiotics (2023); two novels: Le secret du professeur Amfortas (2002) and Retour à la Villa Nevski (2014, in Italian L’heredità di Villa Nevski 2014, in Finnish Eurooppa/Ehkä 2016). He has supervised 150 PhDs in Finland and abroad.

Commentary will be provided by Bujar Hoxha.

Join the Live Q&A Here.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

Trivium: Art of Grammar 2023

Today (2 January) we begin our 2023 course in studying the Trivium: Art of Grammar. Our first discussion session will take place on 9 January 2023 at 6:00pm ET. This course is open to all enrolled Lyceum Institute members. If you would like to sign-up and take this course, enroll here. You can find out more about our approach to studying grammar here.

Too few of us know well enough the nuances and difficulties of the English language, or of language in general. Yet all of us live today in a world suffused by language. The more time we spend in digital environments, especially, the more we find ourselves comprised by linguistic structures. A careful study of the English language is necessary to guard oneself against misinformation, deception, and abuse. The Lyceum Institute offers an accessible program and supportive community for undertaking such a study.

[2023 Winter] Ethics: Virtue

What does it mean to be good as a human being? Modernity, all too often, has treated this as a problem to be solved. That is, we tend to view moral failings as simply in need of the right solution, the right education, the right program. Morality, however, is something that belongs to the individual. It is a matter of internal habit, not a matter of an external system.

Put in other words, we might say that the ethically-righteous course of action consists in how we hold ourselves. There is no checklist. There are no solutions. Actions of moral consequence are all unique, unrepeatable. No one is confronted with the same moral difficulty twice. In order to deal with them rightly, we must ourselves be good.

It is precisely this—being good—that Aristotle pursues in his Nicomachean Ethics. This great masterwork, which will be read in its entirety across this 8 week seminar, develops the concept of virtue (that is, in this context, human excellence) through understanding the characteristic activity which is proper to the human being. We will pursue Aristotle in this course with some supplemental readings, expository and provocative lectures, and weekly discussions.

The Aristotelian approach to the question of moral righteousness stands in contrast to many of the presuppositions of today. This seminar will challenge many of our preconceived notions about what it means to be good and how this is achieved.

This is an introductory seminar. View the syllabus here and learn more about Lyceum Institute seminars here. Participants will be challenged but need no prior experience. Participants are required to use a copy of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Preferred translations: Bartlett and Collins or Joe Sachs.

Schedule

Discussion Sessions
10:15am ET
(World times)
Study Topics &
Readings

January
14
Week 1: Happiness and the Good
Lecture: The Work of a Human Being
Readings:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1.
January
21
Week 2: The Nature of Virtue
Lecture: Action and Affection
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 2—Book 3, c.5.
» “On Moral Philosophy”, Yves Simon.
January
28
Week 3: The Moral Virtues
Lecture: Moral Greatness
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 3, c.6—Book 4.
» “The Virtue of Courage”, R.E. Houser.
» “The Virtue of Temperance”, Diana Fritz Cates.
February
4
Week 4: Justice
Lecture: Due Proportionality
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 5.
» “The Virtue of Justice”, Jean Porter.
February
11

BREAK
February
18
Week 5: Intellectual Virtue
Lecture: Prudence and the Unity of Virtue
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 6.
» “The Intellectual Virtues”, Gregory M. Reichberg.
» “The Virtue of Prudence”, James F. Keenan, S.J.
February
 25
Week 6: The Struggle for Virtue
Lecture: Striving for a Coherent Life
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 7.
March
4
Week 7: The Good of Friendship
Lecture: Hierarchy of Friendships
Readings:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 8—Book 9, c.6.
March
11
Week 8: The Hierarchy of Happiness
Lecture: Unitive Goods of Human Life
Readings
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 9, c.7—Book 10.

Registration

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principle of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, priced according to likely levels of income. If you wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the suggested rate, it is acceptable to sign up at a less-expensive level. The idea is: pay what you can. Those who can pay more, should, so that those who cannot pay as much, need not. Lyceum Institute members receive a further discount (see here for details).

Ethics: Virtue

[2023W] Ethics: Virtue – Benefactor

Recommended for those with fulltime employment in well-paying professions and sufficient resources to provide a little more.

$200.00

Ethics: Virtue

[2023W] Ethics: Virtue – Patron

Recommended for those in professions that do not pay as well as they ought and for whom continued education is especially important (including professors and clergy).

$135.00

Ethics: Virtue

[2023W] Ethics: Virtue – Participant

Recommended for those who are currently students or with part-time employment.

$60.00

[2023 Winter] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision

All of us, it seems, today bear a heavy burden of being. Increasingly, we may find it difficult to rise from our beds and confront the day: indeed, even for those who persevere, it is a perseverance, it is a confrontation. The world challenges our fortitude. But why?

We might assign, and justly, many different causes for the increased burden: politics, news, the increased saturation of our lives by notes of strife and conflict; the ubiquitous screens which threaten our hold on reality. But behind these many immediate causes of fragmentation lies a deeper darkness. For our burden is caused not by the what of our lives, but by the why. More truly, it is the absence of a why. Put in other words, even those who have a strong sense of purpose as individuals suffer from the broader cultural nihilism. We are not pure individuals, after all. We cannot but be affected by our friends, family, even our casual acquaintances.

Thus, our burden comes from what we might call a nihilistic background cosmological image: the widespread belief that the universe is inherently meaningless, and that any meaning assigned to things, relationships, or events, is the product of human invention. The universe looms dark and empty. The earth is small and fragile, and we human beings even more so.

In stark contrast to such nihilistic presuppositions—which have leached into the fabric of our late-modern culture—shines the cosmological vision of St. Thomas Aquinas. Many might disregard, out of hand, the cosmology of someone living still under belief in a geocentric model. Indeed, the particulars of St. Thomas’ background image were inaccurate. But, despite the particular shortcomings, we can, by examining how he arrived at his understanding of the universe, that the vision still today applies to our own cosmology. Rather than a dark, empty void, bereft of meaning and purpose, we can discover the cosmos yet retains a meaningful structure: and in this, I believe, we discover hope—and a lightening of our burden.

This is an introductory seminar. View the syllabus here and learn more about Lyceum Institute seminars here. Participants will be challenged but need no prior experience. Digital copies of all readings will be provided.

Schedule

Discussion Sessions
1:15pm ET
(World times)
Study Topics &
Readings

January
14
Week 1: Governance of the Universe
Lecture: Humility in the Pursuit of Wisdom
Readings:
» Aquinas – Expositio in Symbolorum Apostolorum, preface & c.1.
January
21
Week 2: Vision of Creation
Lecture: Aquinas contra Nihilism
Reading:
» Aquinas – Summa contra Gentiles Book II (SCG.II), c.15-24.
January
28
Week 3: Necessity in Creation
Lecture: The Proportionality of Creation
Reading:
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.25-31.
February
4
Week 4: Limits of Reason
Lecture: The Eternal and the Temporal
Reading:
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.32-38.
February
11

BREAK
February
18
Week 5: Distinction of Being
Lecture: Diversity of Beings
Reading:
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.39-45.
February
 25
Week 6: Intellect in the Cosmos
Lecture: The Audience of Creation
Reading:
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.46-55.
March
4
Week 7: Goodness and Perfection
Lecture: The Constitution of Goodness
Readings:
» Aquinas – Summa Theologiae (ST) Ia, q.4-5.
March
11
Week 8: Perfection and its Relations
Lecture: Threefold Relationality of Perfection
Readings
» Aquinas – ST Ia, q.6, a.3-4 and q.45, a.7-8.

Registration

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principle of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, priced according to likely levels of income. If you wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the suggested rate, it is acceptable to sign up at a less-expensive level. The idea is: pay what you can. Those who can pay more, should, so that those who cannot pay as much, need not. Lyceum Institute members receive a further discount (see here for details).

Aquinas Cosmological Vision

[2023W] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision – Benefactor

Recommended for those with fulltime employment in well-paying professions and sufficient resources to provide a little more.

$200.00

Aquinas Cosmological Vision

[2023W] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision – Patron

Recommended for those in professions that do not pay as well as they ought and for whom continued education is especially important (including professors and clergy).

$135.00

Aquinas Cosmological Vision

[2023W] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision – Participant

Recommended for those who are currently students or with part-time employment.

$60.00