[2022 Winter] Semiotics: Cultural World of the Sign

How can semiotics help us to understand culture? Simply put: through understanding the causality of the sign in conjunction with the reality of the specifically-human world. This demands, of course, that we understand what we mean by reality. Is it just those things that exist independently of our minds? Or does it have a broader, more complex, more difficult to ascertain being? Does the sign not merely operate within or alongside the reality of the world–but as constitutive of it? Is this constitutive activity of the sign–presuming it can be identified–limited to cognition-independent signification; or is such fundamentally a misnomer?

This study will focus on the contributions of semioticians—especially Yuri Lotman and John Deely—in establishing and understanding the importance of cultural reality.  We will therefore undertake to understand the Umwelt and Lebenswelt, the Bildendwelt, the influence of the future on the past, diachrony and synchrony, textuality, codes, and the relation between self and culture.

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 discover the world-constituting and world-dependent causality of the sign. The instructor for this seminar is Brian Kemple, PhD, Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute. You can read more about Dr. Kemple here.

DISCUSSIONS:
January 15–12 March
Saturdays, 10:00-11:00am ET /
3:00-4:00pm UTC

WHERE:
Lyceum Institute digital platform run on Microsoft Teams

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principle of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, with discounts for those who are professors and clergy (whose continuing education is not sufficiently prioritized by their institutions) and for students (who are already taxed excessively by the educational system). However, if you are part of the working world and wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the “standard” rate, it is acceptable to sign up at one of these discounted prices. 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).

Registration is closed.

Announcing 2022 Seminar Catalog

While these are all subject to change as to quarters and descriptions, here they are!  I hope many of you will take interest in these.  There are four repeats but also six new–and if I do say so myself, repetition isn’t always a bad thing.  Looking forward to this lineup and the wonderful contributions from our Faculty Fellows throughout 2022. Be sure to take note of the revised pricing structure for seminars in 2022:

Standard priceBasic Lyceum
Enrollment
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

Winter

Introduction to Philosophical Thinking

Brian Kemple

What is philosophy?  Is it something we study—as subject, like biology or literature?  Is it something each of us has, individually—as in, “my personal philosophy”?  Is it a relic of history?  An intellectual curiosity?  A means to impress at cocktail parties and on social media?

Or perhaps—as this seminar will attempt to demonstrate—philosophy is a way of thinking relatively easy to identify but very difficult to practice.  Mere description of the practice does not suffice for understanding it; one must, rather, engage in the practice itself.  This engagement requires discipline of the mind and the consistent willingness to pursue philosophy not merely as a hobby, but as a habit.  For those who have the will, this seminar will provide the means: namely through a schedule of carefully-selected readings and persistent dialogue.  This incipient practice of philosophy will not make you a philosopher; but it will engender in those who seize it the germ of a true philosophical habit.

Semiotics: Cultural World of the Sign

Brian Kemple

We today witness a struggle over the meaning of “reality” which is exhibited most profoundly, though perhaps least conscientiously, at the level of culture: in the existence of institutions, laws, communities, in the questions concerning words and ideas.   Where does the work of art exist?  Is a tradition a mere patterned performance of actions, or does it consist in something more?  In this seminar, we will undertake to understand the nature of these cultural realities: for although they are existentially relative and cognition-dependent, cultural beings nonetheless are real, and have an importance—psychological, moral, even spiritual—founded upon but irreducible to natural and existentially substantial cognition-independent entities.

This study will therefore focus on the contributions of semioticians—especially Juri Lotman and John Deely—in establishing and understanding the importance of cultural reality.

Spring

Introduction to a Living Thomism

Brian Kemple

Veritatem meditabitur guttur meum, et labia mea detestabuntur impium” – “truth shall be mediated by my mouth, and impiety detested by my lips.”  These words—from Proverbs 8:7—begin Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles and from them he elucidates the twofold office of the wise: first, to contemplate and speak the divine truth, which we may simply call “truth”, and, second, to refute the errors opposed to the truth.

This office was one Aquinas himself carried out diligently over the course of his teaching and writing career.  Though he lived a mere 49 years—from 1225 until 1274—he composed works preserved today totaling over 8 million words (without a computer or typewriter or even electric light to help).  Comprised within those 8 million words, one finds an incredible breadth of topics, often treated with similarly incredible insight and brevity.  In those brief insights are contained a perennial wisdom, fruitfully mined again and again over the centuries, and to which we in this seminar will diligently turn our own attention: seeking to understand not only the doctrines of the Angelic Doctor, but to engage his thinking as a living tradition.

Thomistic Psychology: Retrieval

Brian Kemple

Two momentous intellectual events occurred in 1879: Wilhelm Wundt founded the first formal laboratory for psychological research at the University of Leipzig, and Pope Saint Leo XIII released the encyclical Aeterni Patris, which exhorted the retrieval and teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Catholic universities.  The first, while a legitimate and necessary approach to understanding the human psyche, needs a more robust follow-through on the second; that is, the scientific understanding of the human psyche needs a philosophical understanding, and no philosopher has provided as strong an understanding of the human psyche as Thomas Aquinas.  Thus, we seek to retrieve this understanding in a way conducive to an overall deepening of our psychological insight. 

At the center of this retrieval is a threefold recovery and clarification: 1) of the understanding of the ψυχή, anima, or soul; 2) of the faculties by means of which the soul operates; and 3), of the notion of habits as structuring both these faculties individually and the entire soul.  These recoveries and clarifications will help us understand personhood.

Summer

Philosophizing in Faith: The Philosophical Thought of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Matthew Minerd

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, styled by certain parties as the “Sacred Monster of Thomism,” taught at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the “Angelicum”) in Rome for a long career of over fifty years.  Although he is normally understood to be a conservative Roman theologian of his period, an honest assessment of his work shows that, while being integrated deeply into the Dominican schola Thomae, he was an active thinker, synthesizing, with a particular strength in pedagogy, Thomistic thought on many topics in theology and philosophy. This seminar will primarily consider his philosophical thought, tracing his treatment of topics pertaining to the philosophy of knowledge, metaphysics, moral philosophy, politics, with a bit of logic as well; it will end with a consideration of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange’s presentation of the boundaries between faith and reason.  

Throughout the seminar, emphasis will be placed on his organic connection with the Thomistic tradition as well as with the ongoing development of Thomistic thought in the many figures he influenced over the course of years of teaching and writing.

Politics: On the Philosophy of Culture

Francisco Plaza

In this seminar, we shall introduce the philosophy of culture, defining what culture is and where the study of culture fits into philosophy. We will then explore how there exists a speculative dimension to the philosophy of culture (i.e., explaining how culture exists in reality through human subjectivity and how it is determined by human nature), as well as a practical dimension (i.e., cultural values). After establishing the principles of this study, we will then look to its application to Western culture, in particular, the transition between the three major epochs of antiquity, the middle ages, and modernity. We will then analyze modern culture in particular with an eye toward its trajectory into the next age. Finally, we shall conclude with a practical examination of what the philosophy of culture (as we have studied throughout the course) tells us about the present age and our expectations in this life.

The Interfaces of Philosophy

Fr. Scott Randall Paine

A consideration of how philosophy — understood as the acquired intellectual habit of pondering reality in the light of the highest available theoretical, moral and artistic principles — stands “over against” all other forms of human knowledge and activity. Respecting philosophy’s “synoptic” aspirations, she must have something to say (however “basic”) about the other ways of knowing and acting that are not specifically hers.  This seminar will consider the nature and limits of philosophy, and its interfaces with the humanities, liberal arts, fine arts, music, physics, biology, social sciences, and religion and theology.

Semiotics: Thought and Contributions of John Deely

Brian Kemple

At the center of John Deely’s philosophical insight was what it means to have “postmodernism” in philosophy: not the post-structuralist movement of the 20th century, but rather a moving-past modernity which is affected principally by a retrieval of scholasticism, and especially the late scholastic work of John Poinsot, also known as John of St. Thomas.

Crucial to this retrieval, and crucial to the understanding of semiotics, is the notion of relation.  Too long ignored or mistaken as to its nature, a successful retrieval and advance of our knowledge of relation is necessary to understanding the action of signs.  For, by relation, the action of signs scales across the whole universe and unites nature and culture—or, at least, shows the possibility of such coherence.  Thus, the major contributions to semiotics given by Deely, which will be covered in this seminar, are the proto-semiotic history, an expanded doctrine of causality,  the retrieved and clarified notion of relation, the concept of physiosemiosis, the continuity of culture and nature, the notion of purely objective reality, and the real interdisciplinarity which semiotics fosters.

Fall

Metaphysics: Early Thomistic Tradition

Brian Kemple

Often ignored—both by modernity and even by many Thomists of the 20th century—much was accomplished in the tradition of Latin Thomism, beginning with Jean Capréolus (1380—1444) and ending with João Poinsot (John of St. Thomas – 1589—1644).  Among these accomplishments was a deepened consideration of metaphysics based upon a genuine effort to understand St. Thomas himself.  Key to this effort were the inquiries into what precisely is meant by certain terms—terms, sadly, often used by many across the scholastic landscape with ambiguity: terms such as being (ens), essence (essentia), to be (esse) or existence (existentia).  In this seminar, with selections from Jean Capréolus, Tommaso de Vio Cajetan, Domingo Bañes, João Poinsot—and perhaps others—we will attempt to bring some clarity to these same terms through following their dialectic inquiries.

Semiotics: Peirce and the Modern Spirit

Kirk Kanzelberger

Beginning with the early papers of his “Cognition Series” (1868-1869) attacking the spirit of Cartesianism, Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) remained a severe critic of modern philosophy throughout his life.  His critique was a radical one, reaching to fundamental categories of being and experience and heavily informed by his reading of the history of philosophy and the Latin scholastics.  Peirce was not only a philosopher but also a working scientist of note, a unique figure whose thought brings together pre-modern metaphysical insights, the progress of positive sciences freed from the narrowness of modern presuppositions, and the promise of a new, postmodern age of human understanding founded upon “treasures both old and new”, including the re-founded discipline of semiotics, the “science of signs”.

This seminar is intended as a (partial!) introduction to the figure and thought of Peirce for those who are unfamiliar with him.  It will be organized largely around the connected pillars of modern thought that Peirce criticized and to which his own thought is a reply, including universal skepticism, rationalism, individualism, nominalism, and phenomenalism.

Science: The Faults of Modern Philosophy

Daniel Wagner, John Boyer, and Brian Kemple

Do we yet think, today, with minds shaped by philosophical modernity?  Yes, and often without awareness of it: from the divisions between nature and culture, to our conception of the self, and everything in between, modernity slips its way into our conversations, questions, and thinking at every opportunity.  To free ourselves from these yet-constraining shackles, we must discover the principles upon which modern philosophy was founded, and in that discovery, recognize their flaws and faults.  This inquiry—guided itself by certain Aristotelian-Thomistic principles—aims not merely at a historical survey of thinkers, ranging from René Descartes (1596—1650) to W.V. Quine (1908—2000), but at a philosophical critique of their errors.

Interview with Farouk Y. Seif

The second preliminary event of the 2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) was held yesterday, as the first stage of the Systematic Module: De-Sign or Semiotics in Relation, with an interview of Dr. Farouk Y. Seif, Professor Emeritus at Antioch University Seattle, former President and Executive Director of the Semiotic Society of America, a Fellow of the International Communicology Institute, a registered architect, and an artist. His main interests are design for social and cultural change, paradoxes, transdisciplinarity, and transmodernity. He has taught in universities and lectured at conferences worldwide. He was the recipient of the 2010 Fulbright Specialists Program at University of Sofia, Bulgaria. His book ‘De-Sign in the Transmodern World’ is a state-of-the-art integration of design and semiotics.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics

A Tribute to John Deely on the Fifth Anniversary of His Passing

Announcing the 2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) to all friends of the Lyceum Institute!

The occurrence of this seminar over the calendar year 2022 also marks the 80th anniversary of Deely’s arrival. Although Deely would most certainly instruct us not to focus on celebrating his life, but instead on developing the Way of Signs, there seems to be no downside to accomplishing both of these tasks simultaneously. Hence, this seminar seeks to render homage to his genius and further develop his work. Deely spent a lifetime studying semiotics and fostering a network of semioticians from around the planet. Hopefully, his mission is here dutifully echoed, as we attempt to congregate a number of distinguished experts in the field of semiotics in a shared enterprise to provide a formative environment openly accessible to the general audience through a series of presentations on semiotics and its history, with particular care for Deely’s historical perspective and the challenges presented to semiotics in the world today. In doing so, chances are that we match Deely’s aspiration for future generations to acknowledge the core significance of semiotics and its history for the evolution of human understanding.

On 13 October 2021, at 9:30am ET, a live interview will be held with Dr. Brian Kemple, Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute, discussing the legacy and influence of Dr. John Deely, the preeminent philosophical mind of his lifetime (1942-2017) and the thinker most responsible for developing semiotics into the 21st century. You can watch the interview here.

The 2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics is presented by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

[Fall 2020] Semiotics: John Deely

Semiotics–toward which human beings took their first explicit steps in the beginning of the Latin Age of philosophy, in the work of St. Augustine of Hippo–is that by which we begin in a true postmodernism. This is one of the key and perhaps surprising claims of John Deely (1942–2017). That is, often today what is called “postmodernism” is nothing more, in fact, than an ultramodernism: a fragmentary, distorted view of the world grown out of the errors of modern philosophical thinking, run toward its natural, incoherent conclusions.


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In contrast, consider this description Deely gives in his 1994: New Beginnings (18 and 19):

In a word, postmodernism is the opening of a passageway from the age of classical modern philosophy to an epoch as distinct from the modern age as the modern age was from Latin times, or Latin times from the ancient Greek period. The opposition of modernity to Latin (and Greek) times eventually took the form of the opposition of idealism to realism in philosophy. Postmodern thought begins, properly speaking, not so much by rejecting this opposition as by transcending it, for in experience integrally taken, mind-dependent and mind-independent being assert themselves equally–not “equally” in the quantitative sense, but “equally” in the sense of components both asserting themselves in different ways at different times and in different proportions throughout the course of human life, both together making up the one fabric of our lives we call “experience”.

What was needed for philosophy to mature [to postmodernism] was not so much a shift as an expansion, an expansion of the notion of reality–and with it, being–to include the whole experience as the prior ground out of which human understanding arises and on which it throughout depends. From the start, being should have been an inclusive, not an exclusive and oppositional notion. Being is not only “that which can only be said in many ways” (Aristotle), but that out of which the division between what is and what is not independent of the mind arises (Aquinas), and not in any finally fixed way, but differently according to the time and circumstances of the one experiencing such a contrast among objects.

To understand and affect this maturation into postmodernity, we will turn our attention in this seminar to the major contributions to semiotics given by Deely: the proto-semiotic history, an expanded doctrine of causality,  the retrieved and clarified notion of relation, the concept of physiosemiosis, the continuity of culture and nature, the notion of purely objective reality, and the real interdisciplinarity which semiotics fosters. This is an advanced seminar which provides a serious challenge to all participants.

WHEN: Saturdays from 17 October through 12 December 2020 (no session on 28 November), from 3:00-4:00pm Eastern Time US.

WHERE: on the Lyceum Institute platform run through Microsoft Teams.

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principal of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, with discounts for those who are professors and clergy (whose continuing education is not sufficiently prioritized by their institutions) and for students (who are already taxed excessively by the educational system). However, if you are part of the working world and wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the “standard” rate, it is acceptable to sign up at one of these discounted prices. 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).

REGISTRATION IS CLOSED.