Traditional philosophical disciplines crystallized over time into a list that goes something like this: logic, cosmology, phil. anthropology, metaphysics, ethics, political philosophy and aesthetics—and, in the modern age, the hybrid and rather imperialistic enquiry known as epistemology. Still, additional attention was demanded by issues lying both between or beyond these well-defined areas. Thus was generated a long list of “philosophies of…” (for instance: science, religion, history, art, mind, language, education, culture, law, social science, technology, etc.). Until quite recently, philosophy claimed a purview that had, at the very least, something to say about literally everything. However, as the 19th century gave way to the 20th and then the 21st, some suspected Lady Philosophy may have stretched herself so thin as to no longer be about anything at all.
Many analytic philosophers maintained that there was no terrain left for philosophy as such, and that she had better learn to just arbitrate among the real sciences as technical specialists in conceptual and argumentative clarification. Others still tried to show how one domain of old philosophy (logic, ethics, or philosophy of language, for instance) could gain purchase on the whole of the enterprise, turning over all else to the new specialists.
But philosophers have always had something meaningful to say about “the world,” although they have also needed to mark off their cognitive claims as not, on the one hand, replacing (or overlooking) what poetry and the arts, and even mythology, might have to say, as well as, on the other, what today’s physicists, astronomers, chemists and geologists teach from their university chairs. And today they have a brand new task. They must show themselves adroit at identifying what happened when the world turned modern, and be able to point out the causes and consequences of this unprecedented shift.
As we survey the horizons of these human activities and questions which the philosopher inevitably faces, but cannot by rights command, we can roughly enumerate seven such domains: 1) the so-called humanities (especially history, human geography, language and literature), 2) the world of “production” (not only the fine arts, but also the servile and liberal arts), 3) the physical sciences, 4) the life sciences, 5) the new and still disputed social sciences, 6) the world of religion and theology, and 7) the very “problem of modernity.”
A person who has nothing “synoptic” and coherent to say about such matters—but without necessarily claiming expertise in any of them—is still only half a philosopher. The wise, Aquinas reminds us, are the ones who judge all things. They do this, however, not necessarily as specialists, but as those whose cognitive patience and contemplative leisure favor a posture of open enquiry, allowing the mind to slowly spot principles, which, in turn give birth to insights. Within the light of this gradually embracing intellectual gaze, all the multiple and oft recalcitrant things in the world—both around us and within us—finally begin to share in an epiphany that slowly discloses how they all “hang together.”
The present seminar will begin with a metaphilosophical discussion of how philosophy has defined itself historically, and then how it can and should define itself today. This will be followed by discussion of its obligatory interface with each of the seven problematics mentioned above. Peirce’s, and especially Deely’s, understanding of philosophy as “cenoscopic science” will serve as a useful key in bringing clarity to these relations, as will their new understanding of semiosis. After all, one way we can sum up the synoptic scope of philosophical insight would be simply to acknowledge: everything is significant.
June 4—30 July
Saturdays, 10:00-11:00am ET /
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 learn what philosophy is in relation to the other human pursuits of knowledge as a cenoscopic science. The instructor for this seminar is Fr. Scott Randall Paine, PhD, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Brasilia and Faculty Fellow of the Lyceum Institute. You can read more about Prof. Dr. Paine here.