The Lyceum Institute Colloquium Series
These colloquia, comprising a pre-recorded lecture and a live question and answer session, invite respected academics and intellectuals to challenge our thinking through their own hard-earned expertise, reflections, and insights. We try to schedule as many per year as we can, depending upon availability and interest.
This series aims, year-by-year, to build the offerings of the Lyceum Institute and to expose its members to thinking they might not encounter otherwise, as well as to provide yet another opportunity to practice that fundamental habit of inquirere—of asking good, thoughtful questions. Further, these lectures and discussion sessions, being recorded, are retained indefinitely in the Lyceum Institute archives, being accessible to revisit by present and future members with a few clicks of a mouse (or taps of a phone screen).
Colloquia lectures will be released to the public and posted both here and on YouTube one calendar year after they have been presented. Question and answer sessions are available only through the Lyceum Institute.
Colloquium Series Volume 1 (2020)
Defending and Meditating on First Principles: Wisdom and Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
Dr. Matthew Minerd
From an Aristotelian perspective, domains of discursive knowledge which are called “science,” or epistêmê, are concerned above all with the drawing of per se conclusions in light of first principles. Though such knowledge is concerned with its first principles, its bent is turned toward the conclusions that those principles illuminate. By contrast, wisdom, sophia, sapientia, takes up a loftier task still: defending and meditating upon its very principles, as well as all other things in light of those principles. This lecture will briefly present this theme in the work of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., discussing how sapiential meditation on first principles undergirded much of his philosophical and theological work, imbuing it with a deceptive simplicity which, in fact, is quite illuminating.
On Predestination and the Doctrine of Sufficient and Efficacious Grace in St. Thomas Aquinas
Dr. Taylor Patrick O’Neill
In this lecture, Taylor Patrick O’Neill gives a brief introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of predestination with a special focus on how it relates to human freedom. Principles of a Thomistic understanding of providence provide a necessary backdrop for understanding election and reprobation while principles of a Thomistic understanding of grace provide a foundation for exploring the differences between election and reprobation, as well as a defense of contingency and authentic human freedom.
Additional attention is paid to the distinction of sufficient and efficacious grace in the Thomistic tradition.
The Breakdown of Secular Democracy and the Need for a Christian Order
Dr. Francisco Plaza
The question has been raised as to whether or not secular liberalism can sustain itself, especially as it seems to be breaking down in our present time, both from the perspective of anti-modernists who uphold tradition, but also from modernists themselves who have fallen into totalitarian ideologies, Marxism being the most common among them.
In this lecture, we shall begin by addressing the current state of culture, considering the nature of modernity and its crisis of meaning. For our purposes, we shall focus mostly on its political dimension. After providing a summary account of modernism and its crisis, we shall consider two responses from Catholic political thought that look to creating a truly post-modern order. The first of these is that of integralism, a revivalist type movement that looks to the past before modernity as the way beyond the modern problem. We shall consider the integralist response to modern politics, then consider where it is correct and where it may fall short. Finally, we shall conclude by considering Maritain’s defense of a “Christian Democracy” and “integral humanism” as the true way beyond modernity.
Aristotelian-Thomistic Philosophy and the Form of Health
Michel Accad, MD
In the fourth of the Lyceum Institute Colloquia, we present Dr. Michel Accad, MD, a cardiologist and practitioner of internal medicine (see Dr. Accad’s site here), who presents for us some of his thoughts on the insights that Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy brings to an understanding of health and the practice of medicine. This lecture lights upon the history of philosophy and the human body and challenges the commonly-accepted mechanicist and reductionistic views of the human body as a mere machine–grown out of a Cartesian view–in contrast to the classical Hippocratic theory, which encourages an approach to the body as a whole.
How to be a Contemporary Thomist: The Case of Marshall McLuhan
Dr. Adam Pugen
In the fifth of the Lyceum Institute Colloquia, we present our own Adam Pugen, PhD, who brings us a discussion of Marshall McLuhan–who, despite his popularity as a “media guru”, was more fundamentally and consciously a Thomist–a discussion ranging through the influences of Chesterton, New Criticism, Jacques Maritain, analogy and metaphor, the Trivium (especially the deepening and expansion of grammar), and all this aimed at the meaning of what it is to truly be a Thomist in our own times. Not merely incidental but integral to true contemporary Thomism is the wrestling with our techno-media environments–and conversely, to understand in depth McLuhan’s own “medium is the message”, we must understand the Thomistic roots of his thinking.
Mending the Cartesian Rift: Walker Percy on Being Human
Dr. Kirk Kanzelberger
“Our view of the world, which we get consciously or unconsciously from modern science, is radically incoherent,” argues Walker Percy in “The Fateful Rift: The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind.” The dualism of Descartes — the rift between man as psyche and man as organism — continues to pervade our inherited view of the world and scientific practice. And yet it was a century ago and more that Charles Sanders Peirce indicated the road to a more coherent anthropology based upon the crucial datum of the triadic sign-relation that unites “mental” and “physical” in one single natural event.
This lecture explores Percy’s argument and its background in the thought of Descartes and Peirce, and provides an assessment of this final public articulation by Percy concerning the issues that preoccupied him as a writer: the contemporary predicament of the human being, lost in the cosmos that it understands more and more, while understanding itself less and less.
Support the Lyceum Institute
Enjoyed this lecture? The Lyceum Institute provides an environment that spurs creative and interesting thought like that which you just heard. Consider supporting us, either by enrolling in the program or making a tax-deductible financial contribution.
Colloquium Series Volume 2 (2022)
The Practice of Philosophy in a Time of Loneliness
Brian Jones, PhD Candidate
ABSTRACT: The COVID-19 pandemic and the destructive mitigation responses to it have certainly placed a heavy existential weight on democratic citizens. The social, political, and economic chaos of the past two years has profoundly disorienting. In the midst of such an unprecedented response, we are right to wonder about the very endurance of our modern liberal democratic regimes. The current crisis, however, is not the result of the pandemic. Rather, the general Western response to the pandemic has exacerbated certain social and political conditions present prior to the arrival of the virus. The pandemic has merely escalated an already existing form of disintegration. While there are many features of this present crisis, one that is most acutely felt and witnessed is a cultural condition which tends to incline citizens towards thoughtlessness.
The Problem of Christian Philosophy
Dr. James Capehart
ABSTRACT: What is “Christian Philosophy”? Is there such a thing? What does it mean? These questions have been considered by thinkers like Étienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, and Pope Saint John Paul II amidst controversies in the 20th century, as well as occasioning various debates in the Christian Middle Ages. How is this a problem—and why? Does the verbiage introduce a specific difference and thereby make it theological, or sectarian? Dr. Jim Capehart will guide us in asking, and answering, these questions.
How in fact is Christian philosophy a problem? The wording itself has proven to be the most problematic. Can there be a philosophy that is truly Christian? Does “Christian” specifically differentiate “philosophy”? Does that turn it into a theology? Given the existence of numerous volumes of Christian works of theology, can we say that any of their contents should be called philosophical? Is any of that content unique to Christian thinkers?
Signs of Meaning: The Need for Semiotics
Dr. Brian Kemple
ABSTRACT: It is difficult to give an introduction to semiotics of any length for two reasons. The first, and perhaps more obvious reason, is that few people know what it really is, despite the wide diffusion of the term throughout academia over the last century. I suspect that, like many terms, it is adopted precisely because few people know what it really is: this ambiguity hides many sins of incoherent use. The second reason for our difficulty, 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. It brings us face to face with something unknown and yet nevertheless deeply familiar; and perhaps, even, unknown because it is so familiar.
And so, although the temptation in a presentation such as this 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—I will spend relatively little time re-treading those already well-worn steps. Rather, I wish to head in a different direction, and I hope that you all will walk this perhaps even-more meandering path alongside me.
How Truthful is the “Proof of the Truthful”? Avicenna and Averroes on the Existence of God
Dr. Catherine Peters
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.