Signs of Meaning: The Need for Semiotics

In this first public Colloquium hosted by the Lyceum Institute, we ask: why is semiotics important? Why do we need it?

Join the live Q&A here
Thursday 7 July 2022 6:00pm ET

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Lecture Below

“Allow me to begin with a prefatory comment: it is difficult to give a presentation on semiotics for two reasons. The first, and perhaps more obvious reason, is that few people know what it really is. It is an unusual word—a word that may sound somehow exciting, but also mysterious. The second, very much related to the first, is that semiotics is at once a relatively new doctrine and yet it subsumes and incorporates and even elevates disciplines very ancient. Its explicit recognition has been rare, but its implicit influence ubiquitous in time and place. Moreover, semiotics brings us face to face with something unknown and yet nevertheless deeply familiar; and perhaps, even, unknown because it is so familiar: namely, signs.

“And so, although the temptation in a presentation such as this—this presentation serving as a certain kind of introduction to semiotics—the temptation is to pass a considerable amount of time traversing the meandering inquiry of what semiotics is—wending through the particularities of its doctrines, its terminologies, its histories—despite this temptation, I will spend relatively little time re-treading those already well-worn steps. There are many books, papers, and presentations already extant which cover the doctrinal, terminological, and historical grounds. Despite these introductions, semiotics remains somewhat mysterious to many. And so I wish today to head in a different direction, and I hope that you all will walk this perhaps even-more meandering path alongside me, for I believe it will give a kind of circumspective view of that well-tread ground, and thereby dispel some of the enigma.”


Brian Kemple holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas, in Houston TX, where he wrote his dissertation under the inimitable John Deely. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute. He has published two scholarly books—Ens Primum Cognitum in Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition (Brill: 2017) and The Intersections of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue (De Gruyter: 2019), as well as a number of scholarly articles, popular articles, and his own Introduction to Philosophical Principles: Logic, Physics, and the Human Person (2019) and the forthcoming Linguistic Signification: A Classical Course in Grammar and Composition (2021).

Philosophy, Faith, and Signs

The Lyceum Institute brings two more seminars available to the general public, each taught by a uniquely qualified professor: Dr. Matthew Kenneth Minerd, translator of many, many works of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, will teach us the philosophical thought of the “Sacred Monster” of Thomism; Dr. Brian Kemple, the only student ever to complete a doctoral dissertation under John Deely offers insight into the semiotic thought and contributions of a man once rightly called the “most important living American philosopher”. Listen to previews and sign up below. Discussion sessions for the seminars begin on July 2nd.

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Philosophizing in Faith – What is final causality?

Deely’s Contributions to Semiotics – A new postmodern era?

Formal sign in Coimbra | by Hélène Leblanc

June 16, 2022 / 4pm (CEST), 3pm (UTC+1h)

This event is part of the activities of the 2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics: a Tribute to John Deely on the Fifth Anniversary of His Passing, cooperatively 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, the International Center for Semiotics and Intercultural Dialogue, Moscow State Academic University for the Humanities 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.

Hélène Leblanc is a historian of philosophy and of semiotics, working mostly on the Late Scholasticism of the 16th and 17th centuries, and on the Austro-German tradition, involving authors such as B. Bolzano, F. Brentano, E. Husserl, A. Marty, A. Meinong, and L. Wittgenstein. She has strong interests in philosophy of language and mind.

In 2015, she earned her PhD on semiotic theories in Early Modern Philosophy, under the supervision of Philippe Hamou (Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense) and Giulia Belgioioso (Università del Salento – Lecce).

Her major scientific achievement is her monograph on semiotic theories in the seventeenth century, titled Théories sémiotiques à l’âge classique (Vrin, 2021). She has also written several articles especially 1) on Scholastic and Early Modern philosophy and 2) on the Austro-German tradition.

She collaborates with the ARC Schol’Art at the GEMCA, UCLouvain. This project, at the crossroad of History of art, French literature, and Neo-Latin literature, aims at highlighting the scholastic background of these fields.

She is also a founding member of Inbegriff – Geneva Seminar for Austro-German Philosophy and she is a Co-editor of Studia Philosophica, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Philosophie, (with Janette Friedrich and Michael Festl).

Maria da Conceição Camps (born in Lisbon);

⚘ holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Porto (2012), thesis entitled «From the visible to the invisible – The theory of vision in the Commentary on the three books on the soul of the Coimbra Jesuit Course (1598)»;

⚘ a Master’s in Medieval Philosophy from the University of Porto (2000), thesis entitled «The influence of João de Salisbury’s Policraticus in the Chronicle of D. João I by Fernão Lopes, legal-political perspective»;

⚘ a degree in Humanities from the Faculty of Philosophy of the Catholic University of Portugal (1997);

⚘ a degree in Law from the Faculty of Law of Lisbon (1982).

She is a researcher at the Centre of Philosophy of the University of Lisbon (CFUL); at the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the University of Coimbra (IEF); and in the Open University’s Chair of Global Studies (CEG-UAb);

⚘ mainly dedicated to the study and translation of philosophical texts from the so-called late scholasticism, having published several articles and books on the subject; a translator from latin to portuguese of the Coimbra Jesuit Course. See bibliography and full Curriculum in CienciaVitae, Science ID 8E18-F7EA-C593.

Join the Zoom Meeting to Participate in the Q&A

The Semiotics of John of St. Thomas | by Anabela Gradim

This event is part of the activities of the 2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics: a Tribute to John Deely on the Fifth Anniversary of His Passing, cooperatively 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, the International Center for Semiotics and Intercultural Dialogue, Moscow State Academic University for the Humanities 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.

Anabela Gradim graduated in Philosophy at the University of Porto. She holds a Masters Degree, a PhD and a DsC (Título de Agregação, in Portuguese) in Communication Sciences from the University of Beira Interior (UBI). Her PhD was obtained in 2004 with the dissertation “The communicational dimension of Peirce’s semiotics” (A dimensão comunicacional da semiótica de Peirce). She teaches Journalism, Communication and Methodology at the Faculty of Arts and Letters of the UBI. She is the scientific Coordinator of the Research & Development Unit Labcom – Communication and Arts, and Director of the PhD Program in Communication Sciences at UBI. Her research interests revolve around Journalism, Science Communication, Semiotics, Rhetoric and the interface between these disciplines and the digital media plus Cyberculture. She has coordinated and been involved as a researcher in ten research projects, has authored numerous books, book chapters and scientific papers in the fields of journalism, semiotics and science communication.

Brian Kemple holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas, in Houston TX, where he wrote his dissertation under the inimitable John Deely. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute. Philosophical interests and areas of study include: Thomas Aquinas, John Poinsot, Charles Peirce, Martin Heidegger, the history and importance of semiotics, scholasticism, phenomenology; as well as ancillary interests in the liberal arts, technology, and education as a moral habit. He has published two scholarly books—Ens Primum Cognitum in Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition (Brill: 2017) and The Intersections of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue (De Gruyter: 2019), as well as a number of scholarly articles, popular articles, and his own Introduction to Philosophical Principles: Logic, Physics, and the Human Person (2019) and the forthcoming Linguistic Signification: A Classical Course in Grammar and Composition (2021). In addition to being the Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute, he is the Executive Editor of Reality: a Journal for Philosophical Discourse.

June 10, 2022 / 1pm (EDT), 6pm (UTC+1h)
Lecturer: Anabela Gradim

Commentator: Brian Kemple

Chair: William Passarini

Zoom Link to Meeting

Education and Digital Life

The Founding Declaration of the Lyceum Institute, Education and Digital Life, has now been published in paperback, along with a series of related essays written by Faculty and Board Members of the Institute. This slim volume (117 pages) outlines the why for the Lyceum Institute’s existence as well as the manner in which it pursues its goals for education.

Here is an excerpt from the Declaration itself:

“All human beings, by nature, long for knowledge.”[1]  Composing the opening line of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, these are words familiar to many, and have rightfully inspired reflection for millennia: reflections on human nature and operations, as well as the good at which we, commonly human, are aimed.  To long for knowledge: this is not merely to want knowledge for some ulterior motive—making money, gaining power, defeating your enemies—but for its own sake.  We want to know because knowledge fulfills us, because it satisfies a need we experience, a need we suffer in every encounter with our own ignorance.  This longing is what Aristotle meant, and this fulfillment by knowledge, indeed, is what we long for by nature.

Many, both in the present and in decades and ages past, have suffered a diverting and anesthetizing of this longing by the proliferation of easier and lesser pleasures: why read, when you can watch a documentary; and why watch a documentary, when you can watch a comedy?  In the ubiquity of immersive entertainment media—radio giving way to television, to the internet, to streaming shows and movies seeping through every device in our homes—the slide into the ease of unthinking pleasure appears obvious.  But the diversion of our natures from their proper good occurs not only through our entertainments and pleasures, but is further fostered today even by the supposed institutions of learning—even, or perhaps especially, the most vaunted—which have themselves departed the path along which knowledge is sought, and instead flung themselves down the slippery slope of merely conveying standardized sets of information, or, far worse, disguising social activism in the garb of intellectual enrichment (the latter being merely the logical conclusion of abandoning, among other truths, the centrality of classical logic).  Rather than learning to discover what is through their own efforts, therefore, students are taught to receive and retain pre-packaged information about what is (or what is purported to be—no matter how discordant those claims from the cognition-independent reality), so that they might serve as functionaries for how we want ‘what is’ to be: information discovered, interpreted, and arranged by others, to the occlusion of—and thereby depriving us the freedom to ask—that most-human of questions, “What is that?”

Is this knowledge?  Is it learning?  We desire to know; but is that the same as receiving information, pre-determined, pre-packaged for us?  The currently common view of the universe—a reductionist view that posits the most-elemental parts of matter to be the truest reality, such that all other phenomena are merely various configurations thereof—holds that knowledge amounts indeed to nothing more than an organization of information; that our ability to know consists in the right configuration of parts in our minds, or even more reductionistically, our brains; and that what we signify by “information” is only a certain abstract descriptor of this configuration…

Is the mind “what the brain, body, and world around us” collectively do?  Perhaps that is true, in some way; but it is not very helpful for understanding what the mind really is, especially as something distinguished from the brain, body, and world.

No.  No thinking person can accept this flattening, this levelling out of what we know from our own experience to be different.  The mind is manifestly something more than any of its contributory sources or its necessary, integral parts, and—rather than by an enumeration or description of its materially-constitutive parts—we know any object of our inquiry best by discerning its characteristic action.

The action of the mind consists fundamentally in the seeking and understanding of the world in the light of knowledge; and knowledge subsists as a relation to the intelligible truth of objects themselves—the relation whereby is grasped the articulable reality of what is.  This seeking unfolds through observation and a questioning after what is observed: that is, observation and questioning which begets recognition that the things observed have explanations, causes, beyond what the observations themselves entail; and the subsequent attempt to discover those causes to better explain the observed effects.  The phenomena of our experience, in other words, are not self-explanatory, and what we mean by “knowledge” is just such explanation: the grasp of the causes, not merely inchoate, but in a manner that both the causes themselves and the grasp of them can be verbally expressed.  These explanations must be worked out with trial and error, with continued recursion to certain principles—which themselves must be discovered with some difficulty—with experimentation, reflection, and most of all a habit of inquiry; to continue questioning, again and again, seeking always to better understand what we have revealed, always seeking better to grasp the relation between cause and effect.

It is this knowledge, which grows into wisdom, that all human beings desire.

[1] i.348-30bc: Μετά τα Φυσικά, 980a21.
[2] Steven Pinker 1997: How the Mind Works, 21.

Education and Digital Life – purchase your copy today!

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How Truthful is the “Proof of the Truthful”?

In the third Lyceum Institute Colloquium of the year, we present Dr. Catherine Peters, who takes up a controversy between the Islamic philosophers Avicenna and Averroes concerning the “proof of the truthful”:

ABSTRACT: The “Proof of the Truthful” is Avicenna’s most famous argument for the existence of God. Beginning with the essential possibility of creatures, he argues that there must be a first, necessary, cause: God. This argument came to be known as the “Proof of the Truthful” because it proposes an argument which is, in theory, accessible to any rational being (not just to the “wise” or religiously affiliated). In this way, it is the “most truthful.” Though compelling, Avicenna’s proof has not escaped criticism, most notably from Averroes, who rejected Avicenna’s conception of “possibility” and “necessity.” Rejecting these concepts can have far-reaching consequences, not only for the cogency of Avicennian metaphysics, but for any natural theology that seeks to employ these concepts. The present study, therefore, will first defends “necessary” and “possible” as formulated in the metaphysics of Avicenna. It will then show how these concepts serve as premises in the “Proof of the Truthful.” Third, it will address and refute Averroes’ criticisms.

Dr. Peters’ paper is now available at the Lyceum Institute. The live Question & Answer session will be held on 16 June 2022 (Thursday) at 6:00pm ET.

Enroll

Colloquia are available at every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute — starting as low as $10.50/month.

See enrollment options here.

Illusory signs as frustrated expectations: Descartes’ overblown response | by Marc Champagne

Dr. Marc Champagne is the Chair of the Department of Philosophy at KPU – Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Canada, where he also teaches occasional courses in the Policy Studies program. Before coming to KPU, he taught at York University and Trent University. He has a PhD in Philosophy from York University, a PhD in Semiotics from the UQAM – University of Quebec in Montreal, and did his Post-Doc at the University of Helsinki.

Olteanu holds a PhD in philosophy of education from London’s University of Roehampton and had postdoctoral grants at Kaunas University of Technology and the University of Tartu, among other academic positions.

June 4, 2022 / 2pm (PDT), 10pm (UTC+1h) – View event times around the world.

This session will not be streamed on YouTube nor will it be recorded, meaning that it will be accessible only to those present in the meeting room.

Lecturer: Marc Champagne

Commentator: Alin Olteanu

Chair: William Passarini

Meeting Link: Join the Zoom Meeting to Listen and Participate

Wisdom & Culture

Too few are the hours dedicated in our day to the pursuit of contemplation: not only the fruits of genuine meditative insight, but also the practice whereby it becomes possible. Yet the philosophical desire sits in all our hearts, realized or not. Join us in either or both of these wonderful seminars to weave philosophical reflection—not mere abstract metaphysics—into the practice of your daily life.

Seven Interfaces of Philosophy – What is knowledge?

Introduction to the Philosophy of Culture – How do we think about culture?

Reclaiming Wisdom – Summer Fundraising Campaign

Reclaiming Wisdom – Perennial Truths for the Digital Age

Once the center of Western culture, the University has lost its way.  For centuries, it was a force both stabilizing and civilizing, training young minds to discover the perennial truths by which they were elevated above the merely material concerns of our baser nature.  The University was a center of wisdom, guiding us to the principles by which we ought all to live. 

Today, however, we observe a culture in decay, and the root cause is the University itself… [read more]

The universities have abandoned the pursuit of wisdom for that of skills, for profits, for worldly success, for the latest ideological fashions.  What they have abandoned, we will reclaim.

The past two years have seen the Lyceum Institute continue to grow, develop, and has resulted in excellent work being done by our Faculty Fellows.  As our members and friends alike know, the Lyceum has not only already accomplished a great deal, but has the potential to do much more.  While money makes nothing happen of itself, it does help to remove some impediments for those striving to realize that potential.

And so, this summer, from June through August, we are ambitiously striving to raise $10,000.  We would be enduringly grateful to anyone who helps us reach that goal—or even just to reach towards it.  As a not-for-profit organization, we rely on the generous donations of supporters like yourself.  

Reclaiming Wisdom

Support the Lyceum Institute in providing access to perennial truths for the digital age and fostering a love and pursuit of wisdom through a community dedicated to bettering our philosophical habits.

The Role of the Cenoscopic/Idioscopic Distinction in Peirce and Deely | by Scott Randall Paine

On May 28th at 5:00 PM UTC+1hr IEF Instituto de Estudos Filosóficos will be featuring a lecture given by Fr. Scott Randall Paine. This event is part of the activities of the 2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics: a Tribute to John Deely on the Fifth Anniversary of His Passing, cooperatively 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, the International Center for Semiotics and Intercultural Dialogue, Moscow State Academic University for the Humanities 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.

Fr. Scott Randall Paine is a priest of the Archdiocese of Brasilia, Brazil, and professor of medieval philosophy and Eastern thought at the University of Brasília. Since 1974, he has lived, studied, and taught in Europe, Asia and South America, taking his doctorate in philosophy in Rome in 1988. His recent works include an edition of the essays of Bernard Kelly, A Catholic Mind Awake (2017); a study of the thought of G.K. Chesterton, The Universe and Mr. Chesterton (2nd ed., 2019); and, most recently, The Other World We Live In (2021). Paine has published widely in Portuguese and English, and his current writing and podcasts can be followed on the website: 3wisdoms.com.

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