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[Fall 2022] Semiotics: Peirce and the Modern Spirit

“The last of the moderns,” writes John Deely of Charles Sanders Peirce, “and the first of the postmoderns.” Why this switch, this flip, between modernity and postmodernity? The question of postmodernity’s meaning and definition is altogether another issue: but one which we can understand only inasmuch as we first understand rightly what modernity is, or was. As Deely goes on:

View the syllabus!

Charles Sanders Peirce (1389–1914) was the man who fully introduced into the great conversation of philosophy the unconsidered assumption which had made the way of ideas seem viable to the moderns, the assumption, to wit, that the direct objects of experience are wholly produced by the mind itself. In philosophy, he was raised on The Critique of Pure Reason. He claimed to know it by heart. When he said “No!” to Kant, it meant something.

Now why did he say no?

John Deely 2001: Four Ages of Understanding, 611-12.

The answer to this question—why did Peirce say “no” to Immanuel Kant—as Kirk Kanzelberger will show us in this seminar, is the answer “no” to all modern philosophy. To demonstrate this severe criticism, we will read across a selection of texts from Peirce’s career, spanning from 1868–1908 (all available in the two volumes of the Essential Peirce: Volume I, Volume II, which are inexpensive in paperback and very inexpensive in Kindle formats). These readings will demonstrate an insight into Peirce’s own theory of cognition, in stark contrast to that held by the moderns, as well as his insight into the coherence of this thinking with the universe at large.

Discussion Sessions
10:00am ET

(World times)
Study Topics &

Week 1: Introduction
Lecture: “Descartes and the Modern Spirit”
Required Readings:
» Renee Descartes, Discourse on Method (selection)
» Renee Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (selection)
» Walker Percy, “The Fateful Rift: The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind”

Recommended Listening:
» Kanzelberger, K., “Mending the Cartesian Rift: Walker Percy on Being Human” (2020 Lyceum Institute Colloquium lecture audio recording)
Week 2: “All Thought is in Signs”
Lecture: From Intuitionism to Semiosis
Required Readings:
» Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man (EP vol. 1, item 2)
» Some Consequences of Four Incapacities (EP vol. 1, item 2) (selections TBD)
Week 3: “Beliefs… Caused by Nothing Human”
Lecture:  From Rationalism to the Pragmatic Maxim
Required Readings:
» The Fixation of Belief (EP vol. 1, item 7)
» How to Make Our Ideas Clear (EP vol. 1, item 8)
Week 4: “Tychism”
Lecture: Guessing the Riddle (Part I)
Required Readings:
» The Architecture of Theories (EP vol. 1, item 21)
» The Doctrine of Necessity Examined (EP vol. 1, item 22)
Optional Reading:
» “A Reply to the Necessitarians” (Collected Papers, vol. 6, 588-618)

Week 5: “Synechism; Agapism”
Lecture: Guessing the Riddle (Part II)
Required Readings:
» The Law of Mind (EP vol. 1, item 23)
» Man’s Glassy Essence (EP vol. 1, item 24)
» Evolutionary Love (EP vol. 1, item 25)
Week 6: “If There is Any Goddess of Nonsense, This Must Be Her Haunt”
Lecture: Peirce on the Denial of Final Causality
Required Readings:
» On Science and Natural Classes (EP vol. 2, item 9)
Week 7: “Signs and States of Mind”
Lecture: The Science of Signs (Part I)
Required Readings:
» What Is a Sign? (EP vol. 2, item 2)
» Of Reasoning in General (EP vol. 2, item 3)
 Week 8: “Signs and the Three Universal Categories”
Lecture: The Science of Signs (Part II)
Required Readings:
» Sundry Logical Conceptions (EP vol. 2, item 20)
» Excerpts from Letters to William James (EP vol. 2, item 33)

This seminar is open to all participants, regardless of prior experience. View the syllabus here and learn more about Lyceum Institute seminars here.

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).

One payment covers all 8 weeks.

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