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Introduction to Philosophical Principles

Introduction to Philosophical Principles: Logic, Physics, and the Human Person

What good is living? I know a man we’ll call “James”—successful, secure in his career, his family, his hobbies, his religious belief—who claimed not that he was depressed at this stage of his life, but that he found himself nevertheless asking frequently: “Is this all there is?” Then he discovered philosophy. It was not an immediate love; indeed, it was discovered as a requirement for his graduate business program. But, seeking out help, he found more and more to read. More and deeper questions arose. He found his philosophical inquiries were not simply aligned with success in the course, but sprung up from his own life experiences, his own encounters with the world. He became philosophically curious. He wanted to know. To understand. A deeper reality opened up for him; one of inexhaustible meaning.

Philosophy—real, true philosophy—is transformative. It will not make you successful in the world, but it will answer a question that all the success and security never can: what is the good of being alive?

In the nihilistic, “post-truth” context of late modernity, we might despair of finding an answer to that question. The odds seem against us, especially in the absence of success and security. But even the faintest glimmer of the answer—the dimmest light—gives us something that cannot be taken away by the worst the world has to offer.

I first met James at a coffee shop in 2016 to help him with the graduate course. We have since met almost every week for six years—sometimes two or three times in the span of a few days—to discuss philosophy. Our talks have ranged over the distinctions of Plato and Aristotle, of Descartes and Locke, the neglect of scholasticism, the influence of Islamic thought, the value of the Conimbricenses, the genius of João Poinsot and Charles Sanders Peirce, the breadth of Thomas Aquinas, the nature of culture and society, the threats to truth, and much more besides. These conversations, deep though many of them are, have opened more inquiries than we will be able to explore in a lifetime.

This book, now in a second and much expanded edition (with over 100 pages of new material) does not mirror my conversations with James. But it does mirror the endless joy of discovering meaning, a condensed breadth of philosophical learning, and the desire to understand, to answer the question: what is the point of living?

I hope you will read it. I hope you will enjoy it. I hope it will spark a similar philosophical curiosity in you. The text is divided into three main parts: Logic, Physics, and the Person. Each presents what I think are the essential principles for gaining a habit of philosophical reflection. These three parts are supplemented by an extensive series of Glosses, which provide deeper questions and connections to the historical traditions of philosophy from which the ideas in the main text were composed. These glosses serve as suggestions of other places to look for questions about topics such as time, motion, knowledge, causality, signs, and more.

Maybe you don’t think it’s a book for you. I could try to convince you otherwise, but either you have a hunger to ask the question or you don’t. But even if you don’t think it’s for you, I bet you can think of someone in your life who does have that hunger. [Link to book]

Minimum as a Sign in Contemporary Architecture | by Dragana Vasilski

Event by Lyceum InstituteMansarda Acesa and IEF Instituto de Estudos Filosóficos

Public  · Anyone on or off Facebook

Outgrow excess… and you will develop a semiotic sensitivity to what is strictly necessary.

⚘ Minimum as a Sign in Contemporary Architecture by Dragana Vasilski

June 25, 2022 / 6pm (CEST), 5pm (UTC+1h)

Lecturer: Dragana Vasilski

Chair: Yulia Nikitenko

This event is part of the activities of the 2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics: a Tribute to John Deely on the Fifth Anniversary of His Passing, cooperatively 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, the International Center for Semiotics and Intercultural Dialogue, Moscow State Academic University for the Humanities 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.

Dragana Vasilski is Full-time Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of the University Union Nikola Tesla in Belgrade, Serbia. Her work includes writings and research, architectural design, and teaching the application of new methodologies and the pursuit of investigations within an interdisciplinary approach. Current fields of interest: interdisciplinary intersections between architecture and philosophy, architectural theory and history, arts and sciences, architectural design process, design studies, culture studies, humanistic and natural sciences. Her scientific competence and success are reflected in more than one hundred scientific papers. The peculiar field of her interest, within topics related to contemporary architecture, is Minimalism in architecture, as in architecture that changes people’s lives. She uses semiotics as a research method to define, understand, and explain this contemporary aesthetic theme in architecture. Since 2018 she is a member of the Executive Board of the IASSp+T – International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, where she holds the position of Secretary General. Original artistic achievements should also be mentioned.

Zoom Link

Signs of Meaning: The Need for Semiotics

In this first public Colloquium hosted by the Lyceum Institute, we ask: why is semiotics important? Why do we need it?

Recording of the Live Q&A available to Lyceum Institute Members
Thursday 7 July 2022 6:00pm ET
Lecture Below

“Allow me to begin with a prefatory comment: it is difficult to give a presentation on semiotics for two reasons. The first, and perhaps more obvious reason, is that few people know what it really is. It is an unusual word—a word that may sound somehow exciting, but also mysterious. The second, very much related to the first, is that semiotics is at once a relatively new doctrine and yet it subsumes and incorporates and even elevates disciplines very ancient. Its explicit recognition has been rare, but its implicit influence ubiquitous in time and place. Moreover, semiotics brings us face to face with something unknown and yet nevertheless deeply familiar; and perhaps, even, unknown because it is so familiar: namely, signs.

“And so, although the temptation in a presentation such as this—this presentation serving as a certain kind of introduction to semiotics—the temptation is to pass a considerable amount of time traversing the meandering inquiry of what semiotics is—wending through the particularities of its doctrines, its terminologies, its histories—despite this temptation, I will spend relatively little time re-treading those already well-worn steps. There are many books, papers, and presentations already extant which cover the doctrinal, terminological, and historical grounds. Despite these introductions, semiotics remains somewhat mysterious to many. And so I wish today to head in a different direction, and I hope that you all will walk this perhaps even-more meandering path alongside me, for I believe it will give a kind of circumspective view of that well-tread ground, and thereby dispel some of the enigma.”


Brian Kemple holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas, in Houston TX, where he wrote his dissertation under the inimitable John Deely. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute. He has published two scholarly books—Ens Primum Cognitum in Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition (Brill: 2017) and The Intersections of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue (De Gruyter: 2019), as well as a number of scholarly articles, popular articles, and his own Introduction to Philosophical Principles: Logic, Physics, and the Human Person (2019) and the forthcoming Linguistic Signification: A Classical Course in Grammar and Composition (2021).

Philosophy, Faith, and Signs

The Lyceum Institute brings two more seminars available to the general public, each taught by a uniquely qualified professor: Dr. Matthew Kenneth Minerd, translator of many, many works of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, will teach us the philosophical thought of the “Sacred Monster” of Thomism; Dr. Brian Kemple, the only student ever to complete a doctoral dissertation under John Deely offers insight into the semiotic thought and contributions of a man once rightly called the “most important living American philosopher”. Listen to previews and sign up below. Discussion sessions for the seminars begin on July 2nd.

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Philosophizing in Faith – What is final causality?

Deely’s Contributions to Semiotics – A new postmodern era?

Education and Digital Life

The Founding Declaration of the Lyceum Institute, Education and Digital Life, has now been published in paperback, along with a series of related essays written by Faculty and Board Members of the Institute. This slim volume (117 pages) outlines the why for the Lyceum Institute’s existence as well as the manner in which it pursues its goals for education.

Here is an excerpt from the Declaration itself:

“All human beings, by nature, long for knowledge.”[1]  Composing the opening line of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, these are words familiar to many, and have rightfully inspired reflection for millennia: reflections on human nature and operations, as well as the good at which we, commonly human, are aimed.  To long for knowledge: this is not merely to want knowledge for some ulterior motive—making money, gaining power, defeating your enemies—but for its own sake.  We want to know because knowledge fulfills us, because it satisfies a need we experience, a need we suffer in every encounter with our own ignorance.  This longing is what Aristotle meant, and this fulfillment by knowledge, indeed, is what we long for by nature.

Many, both in the present and in decades and ages past, have suffered a diverting and anesthetizing of this longing by the proliferation of easier and lesser pleasures: why read, when you can watch a documentary; and why watch a documentary, when you can watch a comedy?  In the ubiquity of immersive entertainment media—radio giving way to television, to the internet, to streaming shows and movies seeping through every device in our homes—the slide into the ease of unthinking pleasure appears obvious.  But the diversion of our natures from their proper good occurs not only through our entertainments and pleasures, but is further fostered today even by the supposed institutions of learning—even, or perhaps especially, the most vaunted—which have themselves departed the path along which knowledge is sought, and instead flung themselves down the slippery slope of merely conveying standardized sets of information, or, far worse, disguising social activism in the garb of intellectual enrichment (the latter being merely the logical conclusion of abandoning, among other truths, the centrality of classical logic).  Rather than learning to discover what is through their own efforts, therefore, students are taught to receive and retain pre-packaged information about what is (or what is purported to be—no matter how discordant those claims from the cognition-independent reality), so that they might serve as functionaries for how we want ‘what is’ to be: information discovered, interpreted, and arranged by others, to the occlusion of—and thereby depriving us the freedom to ask—that most-human of questions, “What is that?”

Is this knowledge?  Is it learning?  We desire to know; but is that the same as receiving information, pre-determined, pre-packaged for us?  The currently common view of the universe—a reductionist view that posits the most-elemental parts of matter to be the truest reality, such that all other phenomena are merely various configurations thereof—holds that knowledge amounts indeed to nothing more than an organization of information; that our ability to know consists in the right configuration of parts in our minds, or even more reductionistically, our brains; and that what we signify by “information” is only a certain abstract descriptor of this configuration…

Is the mind “what the brain, body, and world around us” collectively do?  Perhaps that is true, in some way; but it is not very helpful for understanding what the mind really is, especially as something distinguished from the brain, body, and world.

No.  No thinking person can accept this flattening, this levelling out of what we know from our own experience to be different.  The mind is manifestly something more than any of its contributory sources or its necessary, integral parts, and—rather than by an enumeration or description of its materially-constitutive parts—we know any object of our inquiry best by discerning its characteristic action.

The action of the mind consists fundamentally in the seeking and understanding of the world in the light of knowledge; and knowledge subsists as a relation to the intelligible truth of objects themselves—the relation whereby is grasped the articulable reality of what is.  This seeking unfolds through observation and a questioning after what is observed: that is, observation and questioning which begets recognition that the things observed have explanations, causes, beyond what the observations themselves entail; and the subsequent attempt to discover those causes to better explain the observed effects.  The phenomena of our experience, in other words, are not self-explanatory, and what we mean by “knowledge” is just such explanation: the grasp of the causes, not merely inchoate, but in a manner that both the causes themselves and the grasp of them can be verbally expressed.  These explanations must be worked out with trial and error, with continued recursion to certain principles—which themselves must be discovered with some difficulty—with experimentation, reflection, and most of all a habit of inquiry; to continue questioning, again and again, seeking always to better understand what we have revealed, always seeking better to grasp the relation between cause and effect.

It is this knowledge, which grows into wisdom, that all human beings desire.

[1] i.348-30bc: Μετά τα Φυσικά, 980a21.
[2] Steven Pinker 1997: How the Mind Works, 21.

Education and Digital Life – purchase your copy today!

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How Truthful is the “Proof of the Truthful”?

In the third Lyceum Institute Colloquium of the year, we present Dr. Catherine Peters, who takes up a controversy between the Islamic philosophers Avicenna and Averroes concerning the “proof of the truthful”:

ABSTRACT: The “Proof of the Truthful” is Avicenna’s most famous argument for the existence of God. Beginning with the essential possibility of creatures, he argues that there must be a first, necessary, cause: God. This argument came to be known as the “Proof of the Truthful” because it proposes an argument which is, in theory, accessible to any rational being (not just to the “wise” or religiously affiliated). In this way, it is the “most truthful.” Though compelling, Avicenna’s proof has not escaped criticism, most notably from Averroes, who rejected Avicenna’s conception of “possibility” and “necessity.” Rejecting these concepts can have far-reaching consequences, not only for the cogency of Avicennian metaphysics, but for any natural theology that seeks to employ these concepts. The present study, therefore, will first defends “necessary” and “possible” as formulated in the metaphysics of Avicenna. It will then show how these concepts serve as premises in the “Proof of the Truthful.” Third, it will address and refute Averroes’ criticisms.

Dr. Peters’ paper is now available at the Lyceum Institute. The live Question & Answer session will be held on 16 June 2022 (Thursday) at 6:00pm ET.

Enroll

Colloquia are available at every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute — starting as low as $10.50/month.

See enrollment options here.

Reclaiming Wisdom – Summer Fundraising Campaign

Reclaiming Wisdom – Perennial Truths for the Digital Age

Once the center of Western culture, the University has lost its way.  For centuries, it was a force both stabilizing and civilizing, training young minds to discover the perennial truths by which they were elevated above the merely material concerns of our baser nature.  The University was a center of wisdom, guiding us to the principles by which we ought all to live. 

Today, however, we observe a culture in decay, and the root cause is the University itself… [read more]

The universities have abandoned the pursuit of wisdom for that of skills, for profits, for worldly success, for the latest ideological fashions.  What they have abandoned, we will reclaim.

The past two years have seen the Lyceum Institute continue to grow, develop, and has resulted in excellent work being done by our Faculty Fellows.  As our members and friends alike know, the Lyceum has not only already accomplished a great deal, but has the potential to do much more.  While money makes nothing happen of itself, it does help to remove some impediments for those striving to realize that potential.

And so, this summer, from June through August, we are ambitiously striving to raise $10,000.  We would be enduringly grateful to anyone who helps us reach that goal—or even just to reach towards it.  As a not-for-profit organization, we rely on the generous donations of supporters like yourself.  

Reclaiming Wisdom

Support the Lyceum Institute in providing access to perennial truths for the digital age and fostering a love and pursuit of wisdom through a community dedicated to bettering our philosophical habits.

Wednesday Happy Hour [16 February 2022]

Every Wednesday of 2022, the Lyceum Institute hosts an online Philosophical Happy Hour from 5:45-7:15pm ET (or later)—open to the public—where we discuss topics ranging far and wide in conversations civil, thoughtful, and conducted with an effort to understand better not only one another but the truth. Drinks optional: coffee, tea, wine, whiskey, beer, water, or naught at all. Only requirement is that you bring a philosophical attitude! If you are interested in participating, use the form below and an invitation link will be sent to you around 5:45pm. You are free to drop in any time until 7:15pm.

Today (16 February 2022) we’ll be discussing the topic of Thomas Aquinas, his thought, person, life—and perhaps scholasticism in general. Other topics may come up as well!

[Note: if you have already requested an invite to Happy Hours past, you’re already on the list!]

Wednesday Happy Hour

Every Wednesday of 2022, the Lyceum Institute hosts an online Philosophical Happy Hour from 5:45-7:15pm ET (or later)—open to the public—where we discuss topics ranging far and wide in conversations civil, thoughtful, and conducted with an effort to understand better not only one another but the truth. Drinks optional: coffee, tea, wine, whiskey, beer, water, or naught at all. Only requirement is that you bring a philosophical attitude! If you are interested in participating, use the form below and an invitation link will be sent to you around 5:45pm. You are free to drop in any time until 7:15pm.

Today (9 February 2022) we’ll be discussing the topic of What does it mean to be human? This will concern not only the definition and defining attributes of being human, but how our humanity ought to shape our actions.

Latin Courses Start Soon

Beginning 18 January 2022 at 6-7pm ET, the Lyceum Institute will be offering live instruction in Elementary Latin. Materials for the class are already available on the Teams platform, including PDF/PowerPoint class notes (with audio), textbooks, vocabulary aids, homework assignments, and various other aids for study. Students are expected to have read through the text on their own prior to live sessions, which will focus on establishing a reading and translational fluency.

This course introduces the basic elements of Classical Latin, with an emphasis on correct pronunciation, essential vocabulary, and fundamental grammar. In terms of grammar, attention is placed on the mastery of forms, such as: declension of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives; comparison of adjectives and adverbs; and the present indicative system for all verb conjugations. All these elements are presented and reinforce through weekly practice in pronunciation, reading, and translation.

Although this course trains participants in all four language arts – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – an emphasis is placed on the participants’ ability to read and translate Latin.

Elementary Latin Syllabus

More advanced students may sign up for the Intermediate Latin course, beginning 13 January 2022 at 6-7pm ET. Entrance into this course requires either completion of the Elementary course or passing a placement test conducted by the instructor. Read the syllabus below for more details.

Enroll

Latin courses are included in every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute. See enrollment options here.