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On Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

Beginning in August, the Lyceum Institute will hold a three-week Symposium discussion titled “A Dilemma of Ideology and Faith”, on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. This symposium is open to all enrolled members but we are also accepting applications (see below) for a limited number of spots available to the public.

We strongly recommend the use of Constance Garnett’s excellent translation. It is readily available from many online booksellers.

About Crime and Punishment

Published in 1866, Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment—composed after spending ten years in Siberian exile—is often regarded as the first great novel of his career. At the heart of the story is a tension between a theory of greatness (or of the indomitable supremacy of the human will) and the realities of love, faith, and the reality of being human. The protagonist, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, struggles with the beliefs conveyed through higher education (a strange confluence of ideologies which converged in the St. Petersburg of the 1860s) and the deeper roots of his relations to other persons.

Thus, we find the “ideological intoxication” of utilitarianism, nihilism, socialist utopianism, and mechanistic materialism clashing against the ecstatic love of self-sacrifice and true fortitude. We encounter the madness of ideas and the torment of conscience; the conflict of evil, apathy, and good; and at the center, the drama of the human heart, torn by convictions, seeking its true rest.

Dostoevsky’s prose (in Garnett’s translation) reads quick, at times frantic—evocative and catching—and, at other times, dwells upon details, drawing us into the significance of the mundane, exaggerating nuance to emphasize the extraordinary truths of what we so often obscure to ourselves. But the heart of his writing unfolds in the dialogues of his characters. Just as his descriptive prose unveils the world we obscure to ourselves through an aesthetic inattentiveness, his dialogue penetrates into the heart of thought and feeling to which we, in our worldly ways, all too often allow ourselves to grow numb.

We hope you will join us!

Reading Schedule

Our discussion sessions will meet for three consecutive weeks, at 4pm Eastern Time on Sunday afternoons. We may add a secondary time if there is sufficient interest and ability to host. Our schedule is as follows:

8/13 – Parts I & II
8/20 – Parts III & IV
8/27 – Parts V & VI

If this endeavor is successful, we will host more literature reading groups in the future. Discussion sessions will be recorded, but only enrolled Lyceum members will have access to them.

Public Application

We are offering limited spots to the public! We will evaluate each application and notify those accepted by 6 August 2023. Please fill out the form below.

[2022 Spring] Introduction to a Living Thomism

What is Thomism?  What does it mean, to be a Thomist?  Étienne Gilson once wrote in private correspondence to John Deely, in a letter written in the summer of 1968 that:

‘A thomist’ of whatever brand should find it superfluous to develop a question which Thomas was content to pass over with a few words… [because] it is very difficult to develop such a question with any certitude of doing so along the very line he himself would have followed, had he developed it.  If we develop it in the wrong way, we engage his doctrine in some [new] thoroughfare, instead of keeping it on the threshold his own thought has refused to cross, and which, to him, was still an assured truth.

Étienne Gilson, 28 August 1968 (quoted in Deely 1994: New Beginnings, 36).

This attitude toward being a Thomist, it seems to me, runs directly contrary to the spirit of Thomas Aquinas himself.  There are many problems, difficulties, and issues in our lives to which Thomas’ “few words” provide no guidance in our own endeavors, and yet the resolution of which stands of paramount importance for our intellectual, moral, and cultural well-being.

At the same time, however, Gilson did promote what he and his 20th century contemporary Thomist, Jacques Maritain, called a “Living Thomism” (cf. Gilson 1964: The Spirit of Thomism, 84ff).  In Maritain’s words:

Thomism is not a museum piece.  No doubt, like other systems of medieval philosophy, indeed, philosophic systems of all ages, it must be studied historically… But Thomism [triumphs over time] so more completely than any other [philosophy] since it harmonises and exceeds them all, in a synthesis which transcends all its components.  It is relevant to every epoch.  It answers modern problems, both theoretical and practical.  In face of contemporary aspirations and perplexities, it displays a power to fashion and emancipate the mind.

1934: Preface to Metaphysics, 1.

This emancipative power is not one which resolves the contemporary perplexities by mere repetition of already-stated answers, but one which, in the dialectical manner exemplified by Aquinas himself, weighs and measures the diverse efforts of its time and discerns through or against them what is true in itself.  In this, we see Thomism exhibit a systematic approach to thinking-through honest inquiry while never confining itself to a determinate or closed system of thought.  In this seminar, we will undertake to follow in authentic repetition the Thomistic thinking, in discovering the principles which guide all the inquiries he undertook himself—thereby enabling us not only to follow St. Thomas to his own conclusions, but to seek out conclusions to problems which he himself never had to face.

April 2—28 May
Saturdays, 1:15-2:15pm ET /
5:15-6:15pm UTC

(Additional discussion sessions may be added depending on interest.)

Lyceum Institute digital platform run on Microsoft Teams

In this seminar, lasting 8 weeks (with a break at the halfway point—see here for more information on all Lyceum Institute seminars), we will investigate what the principles of Thomistic thinking and how they apply perennially in all ages and to all questions. The instructor for this seminar is Brian Kemple, PhD, Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute. You can read more about Dr. Kemple 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.

[2022Sp] Introduction to a Living Thomism – Participant

Recommended for those who are currently students or with part-time employment.


[2022Sp] Introduction to a Living Thomism – 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)


[2022Sp] Introduction to a Living Thomism – Benefactor

Recommended for those with fulltime employment in well-paying professions and sufficient resources to provide a little more.


Pricing Comparison

Standard priceBasic Lyceum
Advanced Lyceum EnrollmentPremium Lyceum Enrollment
Benefactor$200 per seminar$903 seminars included
$90 after
8 seminars included
$90 after
Patron$135 per seminar$653 seminars included
$65 after
8 seminars included
$65 after
Participant$80 per seminar$403 seminars included
$40 after
8 seminars included
$40 after