Hope in a Nihilist World

Often, we speak of despair as something not that we do but something which seizes us, as a force outside of ourselves.  We conceive of despair as a blackness, a void, an emptiness into which we fall, into which we are dragged.  The more we find ourselves to experience something missing in our lives, no matter what we do or in what we place our hopes, the more we incline to despair.  And thus, despite the love of the true and the good rooted in our deepest natural yearnings, we submerge ourselves in a black meaninglessness.

So how are we, today, to find hope–that of which despair is a rejection and a loss?

This is the first lecture in the Ethics: Good Life seminar, posted in full:

Ethics: The Good Life – Against the Nihilist Noise

If you would like to attend the rest of the seminar — discussion sessions begin on 1/16 — you can sign up here. This seminar is being offered for as little as $20 for the full eight weeks, so it’s quite a steal.

2021 Seminar Catalogue

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.

Winter

Metaphysics: The Discovery of Ens inquantum Ens

Brian Kemple

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

Brian Kemple

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.

Spring

Politics: Postmodern Culture and Principles

Francisco Plaza

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

Brian Kemple

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.

Summer

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

Brian Kemple

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.

Thomistic Psychology: Environing World and the Passions

Brian Kemple

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.

Fall

Thomism, Artisanship, and Art

Matthew Minerd

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: The Meaning of Evil

Kirk Kanzelberger

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.

Metaphysics: God

Brian Kemple

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.

[Winter 2021] 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 those in the tradition of the ancients and medievals who construe happiness as an inward possession whereby the human person acts outwardly for the sake of attaining real goods meaningful in themselves.


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Happiness, as we will see, requires not only a development of virtue but a right-orientation of the self in relation to the world in which one lives: a discovery of the relations of fittingness through which we may receive from the world, but by which we may also extend the goodness we possess into the world: a realization of not only moral rectitude but delight, and joy, through leisure and contemplation.

In this seminar, lasting 8 weeks (see here for more information on all Lyceum Institute seminars), we will discuss a range of texts which speak to how we might conduct ourselves for the sake of having a good life. This is an entry-level seminar suitable for any who have had some exposure to philosophical thinking.

WHEN: Saturdays from 16 January through 6 March 2021, from 3:00-4:00pm Eastern Time US.

A SECOND session will be scheduled at 9:15-10:15am Eastern Time US if there is sufficient interest.

WHERE: on the Lyceum Institute platform run through Microsoft Teams.

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principal of financial subsidiarity. This seminar in particular has only two recommended levels of cost: $20 for those under the age of 30, and $50 for those over. Pay what you can, based on where you are in life–if you can afford $50, this will help pay for those who cannot. Lyceum Institute members will have free access to this seminar.

Registration is closed.

[Winter 2021] Metaphysics: The Discovery of Ens inquantum Ens

There are few topics which seem more unsuited to the 21st century than that of metaphysics: that is, the study of “being as being.”  The subject is impossibly vague; the claims it makes seem inescapably representative of opinion rather than fact; it is an impractical field of study, advancing no discernable good for those that undertake its study.  At best, it is seen as facilitating an ability for critical thinking or deconstructive analysis of arguments; but metaphysics as a science—as a real, substantive, revelatory process of human inquiry—is a mere pipe dream of religious academicians or would-be gnostic know-it-alls.  Metaphysics is impractical.  Metaphysics serves no purpose.  Studying metaphysics will not move you one iota closer to a better job, to a more diversified skillset, to a higher earning potential.


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One might go beyond that and ask: “Why study philosophy at all?”  For while there are many schools of philosophical thought which strive to make it applicable to contemporary life, most of these schools do so only by aping the methods and goals of modern day empiriometric sciences (which interpret the world through quantification of things insofar as they can be observed by the senses) or by turning philosophy into a kind of self-help program.  Oftentimes, the contemporary university has attempted to relegate philosophical study to the category of “mental training”—it makes one better at critical thinking, at reasoning, at arguing, but does not actually teach anything; it trains you to think, but does not give you any answers.

Such thinking, of course, betrays the greatest ignorance and the weakest understanding of truth. For no study has a greater necessity—and correspondingly, a lesser utility—than that of metaphysics: for it, and it alone among all the pursuits open to human beings by nature alone, orients our minds to the highest principles whereby all things are ordered. The worldview possessed today by the many is fragmentary, incomplete, and thus often results in ways of existing which are incompatible with one another and destructive to the attainment of true human good.

In this seminar, lasting 8 weeks (see here for more information on all Lyceum Institute seminars), we seek to open the doors to a genuine metaphysics which gives the needed view of the whole of being, ens inquantum ens. In the course of this study, we will examine the meaning of the term “being”, the nature of it as a science, the . This is an advanced seminar which provides a serious challenge to all participants.

WHEN: Saturdays from 16 January through 6 March 2021, from 1:15-2:15pm Eastern Time US.

WHERE: on the Lyceum Institute platform run through Microsoft Teams.

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principal of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, with discounts for those who are professors and clergy (whose continuing education is not sufficiently prioritized by their institutions) and for students (who are already taxed excessively by the educational system). However, if you are part of the working world and wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the “standard” rate, it is acceptable to sign up at one of these discounted prices. 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).

Registration is closed.

[Fall 2020] Thomistic Psychology: Cognitive Life

Among all things observed in the universe, human beings alone ask about things other than themselves: they ask what, how, why–and so on. This singularity, downplayed by those who would make us malleable to the worst of all moral inclinations, demands a careful and rigorous inquiry–one which seeks to understand not only the precise nature but also the full import of this distinctiveness.


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Put otherwise, we human beings today seldom truly understand ourselves. If we look to the traditions of modern philosophy or its ultramodern derivations, we will continue failing to attain such understanding: for all such traditions mistaken introduce one or another division between the nature of the human being and the being of humans. We must look either to postmodernity or to premodernity–and the only genuine postmodern traditions heretofore being those that retrieve the premodern–in order to affect a righted understanding of the human cognitive life.

In this seminar, lasting 8 weeks (see here for more information on all Lyceum Institute seminars), we will strive to affect a genuine postmodern retrieve of the Thomistic understanding of the singular human distinctiveness through grasping the nature and development of our intentionally-cognitive lives. In the course of this retrieve, we will study the specifically intellectual nature of the human soul, the operations of intellectual discovery, the formation and development of concepts, and the integral union of intellectual and perceptual faculties in the human person. This is an advanced seminar which provides a serious challenge to all participants.

WHEN: Saturdays from 17 October through 12 December 2020 (no session on 28 November), from 1:30-2:30pm Eastern Time US.

WHERE: on the Lyceum Institute platform run through Microsoft Teams.

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principal of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, with discounts for those who are professors and clergy (whose continuing education is not sufficiently prioritized by their institutions) and for students (who are already taxed excessively by the educational system). However, if you are part of the working world and wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the “standard” rate, it is acceptable to sign up at one of these discounted prices. 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).

REGISTRATION IS CLOSED.

[Fall 2020] Semiotics: John Deely

Semiotics–toward which human beings took their first explicit steps in the beginning of the Latin Age of philosophy, in the work of St. Augustine of Hippo–is that by which we begin in a true postmodernism. This is one of the key and perhaps surprising claims of John Deely (1942–2017). That is, often today what is called “postmodernism” is nothing more, in fact, than an ultramodernism: a fragmentary, distorted view of the world grown out of the errors of modern philosophical thinking, run toward its natural, incoherent conclusions.


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In contrast, consider this description Deely gives in his 1994: New Beginnings (18 and 19):

In a word, postmodernism is the opening of a passageway from the age of classical modern philosophy to an epoch as distinct from the modern age as the modern age was from Latin times, or Latin times from the ancient Greek period. The opposition of modernity to Latin (and Greek) times eventually took the form of the opposition of idealism to realism in philosophy. Postmodern thought begins, properly speaking, not so much by rejecting this opposition as by transcending it, for in experience integrally taken, mind-dependent and mind-independent being assert themselves equally–not “equally” in the quantitative sense, but “equally” in the sense of components both asserting themselves in different ways at different times and in different proportions throughout the course of human life, both together making up the one fabric of our lives we call “experience”.

What was needed for philosophy to mature [to postmodernism] was not so much a shift as an expansion, an expansion of the notion of reality–and with it, being–to include the whole experience as the prior ground out of which human understanding arises and on which it throughout depends. From the start, being should have been an inclusive, not an exclusive and oppositional notion. Being is not only “that which can only be said in many ways” (Aristotle), but that out of which the division between what is and what is not independent of the mind arises (Aquinas), and not in any finally fixed way, but differently according to the time and circumstances of the one experiencing such a contrast among objects.

To understand and affect this maturation into postmodernity, we will turn our attention in this seminar to the major contributions to semiotics given by Deely: the proto-semiotic history, an expanded doctrine of causality,  the retrieved and clarified notion of relation, the concept of physiosemiosis, the continuity of culture and nature, the notion of purely objective reality, and the real interdisciplinarity which semiotics fosters. This is an advanced seminar which provides a serious challenge to all participants.

WHEN: Saturdays from 17 October through 12 December 2020 (no session on 28 November), from 3:00-4:00pm Eastern Time US.

WHERE: on the Lyceum Institute platform run through Microsoft Teams.

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principal of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, with discounts for those who are professors and clergy (whose continuing education is not sufficiently prioritized by their institutions) and for students (who are already taxed excessively by the educational system). However, if you are part of the working world and wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the “standard” rate, it is acceptable to sign up at one of these discounted prices. 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).

REGISTRATION IS CLOSED.