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.
1:15pm ET (World times)
|Study Topics &|
|Week 1: Governance of the Universe|
Lecture: Humility in the Pursuit of Wisdom
» Aquinas – Expositio in Symbolorum Apostolorum, preface & c.1.
|Week 2: Vision of Creation|
Lecture: Aquinas contra Nihilism
» Aquinas – Summa contra Gentiles Book II (SCG.II), c.15-24.
|Week 3: Necessity in Creation|
Lecture: The Proportionality of Creation
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.25-31.
|Week 4: Limits of Reason|
Lecture: The Eternal and the Temporal
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.32-38.
|Week 5: Distinction of Being|
Lecture: Diversity of Beings
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.39-45.
|Week 6: Intellect in the Cosmos|
Lecture: The Audience of Creation
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.46-55.
|Week 7: Goodness and Perfection|
Lecture: The Constitution of Goodness
» Aquinas – Summa Theologiae (ST) Ia, q.4-5.
|Week 8: Perfection and its Relations|
Lecture: Threefold Relationality of Perfection
» Aquinas – ST Ia, q.6, a.3-4 and q.45, a.7-8.
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).
[2023W] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision – Benefactor
Recommended for those with fulltime employment in well-paying professions and sufficient resources to provide a little more.
[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).
[2023W] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision – Participant
Recommended for those who are currently students or with part-time employment.