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[2023 Winter] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision

All of us, it seems, today bear a heavy burden of being. Increasingly, we may find it difficult to rise from our beds and confront the day: indeed, even for those who persevere, it is a perseverance, it is a confrontation. The world challenges our fortitude. But why?

We might assign, and justly, many different causes for the increased burden: politics, news, the increased saturation of our lives by notes of strife and conflict; the ubiquitous screens which threaten our hold on reality. But behind these many immediate causes of fragmentation lies a deeper darkness. For our burden is caused not by the what of our lives, but by the why. More truly, it is the absence of a why. Put in other words, even those who have a strong sense of purpose as individuals suffer from the broader cultural nihilism. We are not pure individuals, after all. We cannot but be affected by our friends, family, even our casual acquaintances.

Thus, our burden comes from what we might call a nihilistic background cosmological image: the widespread belief that the universe is inherently meaningless, and that any meaning assigned to things, relationships, or events, is the product of human invention. The universe looms dark and empty. The earth is small and fragile, and we human beings even more so.

In stark contrast to such nihilistic presuppositions—which have leached into the fabric of our late-modern culture—shines the cosmological vision of St. Thomas Aquinas. Many might disregard, out of hand, the cosmology of someone living still under belief in a geocentric model. Indeed, the particulars of St. Thomas’ background image were inaccurate. But, despite the particular shortcomings, we can, by examining how he arrived at his understanding of the universe, that the vision still today applies to our own cosmology. Rather than a dark, empty void, bereft of meaning and purpose, we can discover the cosmos yet retains a meaningful structure: and in this, I believe, we discover hope—and a lightening of our burden.

This is an introductory seminar. View the syllabus here and learn more about Lyceum Institute seminars here. Participants will be challenged but need no prior experience. Digital copies of all readings will be provided.

Schedule

Discussion Sessions
1:15pm ET
(World times)
Study Topics &
Readings

January
14
Week 1: Governance of the Universe
Lecture: Humility in the Pursuit of Wisdom
Readings:
» Aquinas – Expositio in Symbolorum Apostolorum, preface & c.1.
January
21
Week 2: Vision of Creation
Lecture: Aquinas contra Nihilism
Reading:
» Aquinas – Summa contra Gentiles Book II (SCG.II), c.15-24.
January
28
Week 3: Necessity in Creation
Lecture: The Proportionality of Creation
Reading:
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.25-31.
February
4
Week 4: Limits of Reason
Lecture: The Eternal and the Temporal
Reading:
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.32-38.
February
11

BREAK
February
18
Week 5: Distinction of Being
Lecture: Diversity of Beings
Reading:
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.39-45.
February
 25
Week 6: Intellect in the Cosmos
Lecture: The Audience of Creation
Reading:
» Aquinas – SCG.II, c.46-55.
March
4
Week 7: Goodness and Perfection
Lecture: The Constitution of Goodness
Readings:
» Aquinas – Summa Theologiae (ST) Ia, q.4-5.
March
11
Week 8: Perfection and its Relations
Lecture: Threefold Relationality of Perfection
Readings
» Aquinas – ST Ia, q.6, a.3-4 and q.45, a.7-8.

Registration

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).

Aquinas Cosmological Vision

[2023W] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision – Benefactor

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

$200.00

Aquinas Cosmological Vision

[2023W] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision – 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).

$135.00

Aquinas Cosmological Vision

[2023W] Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision – Participant

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

$60.00

[2023 Winter] Ethics: Virtue

What does it mean to be good as a human being? Modernity, all too often, has treated this as a problem to be solved. That is, we tend to view moral failings as simply in need of the right solution, the right education, the right program. Morality, however, is something that belongs to the individual. It is a matter of internal habit, not a matter of an external system.

Put in other words, we might say that the ethically-righteous course of action consists in how we hold ourselves. There is no checklist. There are no solutions. Actions of moral consequence are all unique, unrepeatable. No one is confronted with the same moral difficulty twice. In order to deal with them rightly, we must ourselves be good.

It is precisely this—being good—that Aristotle pursues in his Nicomachean Ethics. This great masterwork, which will be read in its entirety across this 8 week seminar, develops the concept of virtue (that is, in this context, human excellence) through understanding the characteristic activity which is proper to the human being. We will pursue Aristotle in this course with some supplemental readings, expository and provocative lectures, and weekly discussions.

The Aristotelian approach to the question of moral righteousness stands in contrast to many of the presuppositions of today. This seminar will challenge many of our preconceived notions about what it means to be good and how this is achieved.

This is an introductory seminar. View the syllabus here and learn more about Lyceum Institute seminars here. Participants will be challenged but need no prior experience. Participants are required to use a copy of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Preferred translations: Bartlett and Collins or Joe Sachs.

Schedule

Discussion Sessions
10:15am ET
(World times)
Study Topics &
Readings

January
14
Week 1: Happiness and the Good
Lecture: The Work of a Human Being
Readings:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1.
January
21
Week 2: The Nature of Virtue
Lecture: Action and Affection
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 2—Book 3, c.5.
» “On Moral Philosophy”, Yves Simon.
January
28
Week 3: The Moral Virtues
Lecture: Moral Greatness
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 3, c.6—Book 4.
» “The Virtue of Courage”, R.E. Houser.
» “The Virtue of Temperance”, Diana Fritz Cates.
February
4
Week 4: Justice
Lecture: Due Proportionality
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 5.
» “The Virtue of Justice”, Jean Porter.
February
11

BREAK
February
18
Week 5: Intellectual Virtue
Lecture: Prudence and the Unity of Virtue
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 6.
» “The Intellectual Virtues”, Gregory M. Reichberg.
» “The Virtue of Prudence”, James F. Keenan, S.J.
February
 25
Week 6: The Struggle for Virtue
Lecture: Striving for a Coherent Life
Reading:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 7.
March
4
Week 7: The Good of Friendship
Lecture: Hierarchy of Friendships
Readings:
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 8—Book 9, c.6.
March
11
Week 8: The Hierarchy of Happiness
Lecture: Unitive Goods of Human Life
Readings
» Nicomachean Ethics, Book 9, c.7—Book 10.

Registration

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).

Ethics: Virtue

[2023W] Ethics: Virtue – Benefactor

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

$200.00

Ethics: Virtue

[2023W] Ethics: Virtue – 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).

$135.00

Ethics: Virtue

[2023W] Ethics: Virtue – Participant

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

$60.00

Hope in a Nihilist World

Often, we speak of despair as something not that we do but something which seizes us, as a force outside of ourselves.  We conceive of despair as a blackness, a void, an emptiness into which we fall, into which we are dragged.  The more we find ourselves to experience something missing in our lives, no matter what we do or in what we place our hopes, the more we incline to despair.  And thus, despite the love of the true and the good rooted in our deepest natural yearnings, we submerge ourselves in a black meaninglessness.

So how are we, today, to find hope–that of which despair is a rejection and a loss?

This is the first lecture in the Ethics: Good Life seminar, posted in full:

Ethics: The Good Life – Against the Nihilist Noise

If you would like to attend the rest of the seminar — discussion sessions begin on 1/16 — you can sign up here. This seminar is being offered for as little as $20 for the full eight weeks, so it’s quite a steal.