“In long Indian file, as when herons take wing, the white birds were now all flying towards Ahab’s boat; and when within a few yards began fluttering over the water there, wheeling round and round, with joyous, expectant cries. Their vision was keener than man’s; Ahab could perceive no sign in the sea. But suddenly…
This is not a seminar about modernity, but about modern philosophy—and, specifically, about the fundamental flaws (or faults) which characterize modern philosophy’s thinking. These flaws, once recognized, show their effects everywhere today: in the endless fragmentation of world, mind, self; in the intransigence of political discourse, the widening cultural divides, the polarization of extremes, and…
“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…
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:
Basic Lyceum Enrollment
Advanced Lyceum Enrollment
Premium Lyceum Enrollment
$200 per seminar
3 seminars included
8 seminars included
$135 per seminar
3 seminars included
8 seminars included
$80 per seminar
3 seminars included
8 seminars included
Introduction to Philosophical Thinking
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
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.
Introduction to a Living Thomism
“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
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.
Philosophizing in Faith: The Philosophical Thought of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange
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
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
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.
Metaphysics: Early Thomistic Tradition
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
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.