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A Vision of the Good

The following is a summary of key points raised in our weekly Philosophical Happy Hour discussion of 9 November 2022 during which we discussed the lacking vision of the good in our contemporary society.

Ideologies and False Idols

Why do left-leaning progressive politics seem ascendant in the Western world? One does not need to dig deep into the past to answer the question. Simply stated: progressive ideology presents a credible, albeit vague, image of the good. It is motivated by a final cause, and therefore provides a purpose for its adherents. By nature, material comforts and pleasures attract us. So, too, does the idea of self-determination seize us: the ideal of pursuing freely whatever goods we find desirable. Even as it touts values like diversity, equity, and inclusion—and authoritarian means to their realization—progressive ideology uses these words to paint a utopian image.

Conversely, those identifying themselves as “conservative” appear as uninspired, motivated by no vision of the good but, at best, ideals of governmental non-interference. At worst, they appear as reactionaries—in possession of no reasoned belief, but stimulated by threats against their comforts. In the short-term, this may gain adherents and even stoke enthusiasm. But it does not produce an enduring image and results in only a brief movement. (One can see this, I believe, in the “MAGA” phenomenon.) Others may point to God or the afterlife, but—more often than not—such beliefs seem divorced from the real world.

Ideologies—whether enduring, as on the progressive side, or transitory, as on the conservative—draw adherents who lack integral habits of purposive living. This lack of purposive life makes itself felt most keenly in the experience of loneliness. As our ability to communicate declines, so too do our relationships with others. Increasingly, conditions of isolation envelope the Western individual (and perhaps especially the American). Simple ideological mantras, which do not require careful thinking, allow groups to feel united without having to communicate. Numbers of close friends decline; ideologies sweep up the lonely.

Discovering the Good in Speech

What can we do? There is no magic bullet. There is no easy solution. What we face is not a technological shortcoming, but an essentially human difficulty. Loneliness is not new. Arguably, everyone experiences it at some time, and in some degree. What resolves loneliness is being-with others in a properly human manner. This manner requires conversation: listening to one another, speaking to one another; writing to one another, reading one another. Real conversation attends to more than just the words, even as the words make it properly human. It attends to the person.

In our digital age, we must learn new habits for attending to persons. The screen reduces the reality of the other to a two-dimensional abstraction. We talk at one another, instead of with. Anything truly good is a good to be shared. It requires community. Atrophied linguistic abilities undermine our ability to form community, and therefore to discover the good. Think: when you receive good news, your first impulse is, most likely, to share it with others. If you cannot find anyone with whom that news can be shared, disappointment follows.

We at the Lyceum Institute talk often of community. While most of us possess some meaningful associations—family, religion, perhaps a few close friends—in close geographical proximity, we nonetheless recognize that we benefit from one another’s presence (even digitally). This benefit consists in our real conversation. We share ideas, humor, beliefs, struggles, and—most of all—a desire to grow in knowledge, understanding, and the love of wisdom.

It’s not perfect. But it is good.

POSTPONED ⚘ Anthroposemiosis, Augustine, Poinsot, Peirce and Deely | Javier Clavere

Dear all,

Due to unforeseen yet gratifying work commitments, Professor Doctor Javier Clavere requested a postponement of the lecture entitled “Anthroposemiosis, Augustine, Poinsot, Peirce and Deely and the Production of Human Knowledge and Experience”, the date of which shall be made public as soon as possible.

To all of you we beg for understanding, and please be tuned to the Auditorium on our website (https://www.uc.pt/fluc/uidief/act/io2s/auditorium/) as well as our email announcements, especially but not only if you intended to participate in today’s session.

To you all, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for what is proving to be a breathtakingly rewarding year of joint learning on semiotics and celebrating the memory of John Deely.

Godspeed, semioticians.

On 12 November 2022 at 11am ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Javier Clavere will present on “Anthroposemiosis, Augustine, Poinsot, Peirce, and Deely”. Dr. Clavier holds the Mary W. McGaw Endowed Chair in Music at Berea College, and is an award-winning performer and scholar that crosses over the worlds of keyboard performance, music theory, music technology, sacred music, and semiotics. As a polymath, his research interests include semiotics, systems theory, entrepreneurship and the arts, semioethics, Stoicism and Christianity, sacred music and signs, popular music and semiotics, Foucault studies, semiotics and globalization, multi-modality, and the semiotics of educational processes. As an artist, Javier has performed in many prestigious concert series across the United States, South America and Europe performing with orchestras, in solo recitals and chamber music.

His research in educational leadership includes peace and conflict resolution-transformation through the arts, as well as leadership in systemic change, diversity and inclusion, higher education administration, assessment in higher education, and strategic program design. He is a member of the Diversity Scholars Network (DSN) and the National Center for Institutional Diversity (NCID), as well as a fellow at the University of Michigan, the New Leadership Academy, the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education, and the Salzburg Global Seminar’s “Culture, Arts and Society programs”, (Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace-building and the Arts), Salzburg, Austria.

In 2019, the government of his hometown, Rosario, Argentina, along with the state senate, recognized his professional accomplishments with a lifetime achievement award as a “Distinguished Musician.” The legislature, in an official governmental motion, ratified the award by vote and awarded Clavere at the Espacio Cultural Universitario of the National University of Rosario, Argentina.

Commentary will be provided by António Manuel Martins, Full Professor at the University of Coimbra and a member of both the Institute for Philosophical Studies and the Institut International de Philosophie. His main area of activity is Philosophy. His main research interests are: theories of justice; Ancient Philosophy; ethics; and epistemology. Expertise in: Philosophical Systems; Greek Philosophy; and Theory of Justice. Presently he is working on: Hellenistic Philosophies; Aristotle; Causality; and Categories. His book Logic and Ontology in Pedro da Fonseca (in Portuguese), jointly published in 1994 by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the now dissolved National Board for Scientific and Technological Research (Junta Nacional de Investigação Científica e Tecnológica), remains a seminal source for the latest studies on the Coimbra philosophical tradition.

Join the Live Q&A here.

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.

⚘ Philosophy as expressed in urban space: the case of ancient Greece | Alexandros Ph. Lagopoulos

On 29 October 2022 at 11am ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Alexandros Ph. Lagopoulos will present on “Philosophy as expressed in urban space: the case of ancient Greece”. Commentary will be provided by Olga Lavrenova.

Alexandros Lagopoulos is Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and Corresponding Member of the Academy of Athens. He holds a postgraduate diploma from the Centre de Recherche d’Urbanisme, Paris. He has a doctorate in Engineering and a post-doctoral academic title (Habilitation) in Urban and Regional Planning from the National Technical University of Athens, a doctorate in Social Anthropology from the Sorbonne and an honorary doctorate in Semiotics from the New Bulgarian University of Sofia. He has been vice-president of the International Association for Semiotic Studies and is honorary president of the Hellenic Semiotic Society and the International Association for the Semiotics of Space+Time. He is the author of many books and articles in Greek, English, and French, as well as some in German, Russian, and Bulgarian.

Olga Lavrenova (1969), is a Russian geographer, philosopher, historian. She is a leading researcher of the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences (INION RAN, in Russian), professor at the National University of Science and Technology (MISiS) and at the GITR Film and Television School. She is also Deputy Director for Science at the Nicholas Roerich Museum of the International Centre of the Roerichs, President of the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time (IASSp+T, Switzerland), and Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Arts. Recipient of a Fulbright (2021) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Texas at Austin. Author of over 180 publications, including the monograph: Spaces and Meanings: Semantics of the Cultural Landscape (Springer, 2019) and is involved in many other notable projects.

Join the Live Q&A here.

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.

Why “Epistemology” is not a Science

In a certain way, writing this title and essay pains me: I first fell in love with philosophy in an undergraduate course titled “epistemology”. It was a difficult course to take in my sophomore year. We spent the first half of it reading Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, on which we had to write an essay answering the question, “How does Kant say synthetic a priori judgments are possible?” Myself and several other students spent many hours puzzling over this question. I recall the moment I put it all together, and, using a classroom whiteboard, frenetically drew out a diagram as a means for trying to explain it. I turned around to befuddled looks. Fortunately, another student—with a better mind for drawing diagrams—converted my mess into something neatly organized.

The second half of the course was spent not only in refuting Kant’s theory, but in demonstrating the Thomistic approach to the question of human understanding. This latter part of the course was much more edifying. But it was the process of puzzling out the Kantian schema that the habit of philosophical inquiry hooked itself into my soul, never to let go.

The “Problem” of Epistemology

In that Thomistic portion of the course, we were assigned to read—in addition to the works of Aquinas—a wonderful book by Louis-Marie Régis, with the unfortunate title of Epistemology. In the preface to this richly-poetic work of philosophy, Régis has this to say about his titular concern:

The history of philosophy is often compared to a great cemetery in which tombstones succeed each other in awful continuity and with their Hic jacet [here lies], write the many chapters of a sad encyclopedia—an encyclopedia of man’s repeated but always insufficient efforts to attain truth. Instead of this pessimistic simile, I prefer that of a maternity ward wherein the intellect, always in gestation, is periodically delivered of a theory which to all which to all outer appearances is newborn, but whose internal structure reveals a heredity that makes it contemporaneous with the very origins of philosophical speculation. That is why the history of philosophy is much more a history of birth and rebirth than one of death—a genealogy more than a necrology. Our intellect needs time in which to progress, and time, bearer of old age and death to material life, becomes an agent of rejuvenation to the life of the mind.

The problem that we are now about to tackle is a brilliant confirmation of the thesis just stated. Officially, its birth is dated 1637, at the printing shop of Jean Maire in Leyden; its father is René Descartes, who gave it the name Discourse on Method and assigned it a very definite vocation—to teach man “to reason well and to seek for truth in the sciences.” Unofficially, our problem is much older than the published date of its birth would lead us to suspect, and the baptismal name given it by Descartes is only one of the many terms applied to it by thinkers of all ages. We might even say its name is Legion and that the history of its pseudonyms would furnish material for a large volume. Not only is its name legion, but so are the guises under which it appears; its art of camouflage, of being visible or invisible, of revealing itself or escaping notice, would fill the wiliest chameleon with envy.

Louis-Marie Régis 1958: Epistemology, 3-4.

Indeed, the problem Descartes seized did not begin with Descartes. The problem was known to him only because of Montaigne, the Parisian Ockhamists, and the Jesuits at La Flèche: the problem knowledge. As Régis goes on to detail in later pages, the context of skepticism grounded both Descartes’ Discourse and Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. So, too, the modern thinkers made consensus a driver of truth and disunity a demonstration of falsehood. Finally, each struggles with apparently contradictory accounts being given in one and the same mind: as sense and intellect may seem to contravene one another.

The “epistemological problem” truly is a problem. But, as stated, it long antedates Descartes. Moreover, the moderns fundamentally misstate the nature of the problem from the very beginning. It is not a problem of certainty or clarity. It is not a problem of “transcendence”, that is, of the mind reaching the extra-mental world. Nor is it a problem of consensus. Rather, it is a problem of impediments to resolution—most of which impediments, today, were built by the moderns themselves.

The Problem of “Epistemology”

What is a “problem”? It is something to be solved. A solution, applied to a problem, removes the problem. Can we remove the problems of knowing? Is there a solution which will dissolve our difficulties? Or do these difficulties—myriad in name and guise—spring up from our very nature as human beings?

Science always springs from the inquiry made by human minds. It has, therefore, an artificial character to it: we model its structure, its procedures, its conclusions. But even when we create sciences of man-made objects—even objects that exist only by the activity of human minds, pure objects we might say—these sciences are fulfilled only by making known intelligible realities independent of our thought. We attain knowledge by resolving our understanding to these realities. A science, to be fruitful as knowledge, must have some resolution to nature; even if it is specifically the nature of the human intellect capable of producing artificial things and objects.

Thus, at the foundation of every science is its “subject”, the intelligible rationale within which all its objects are investigated and to which they must be resolved. There must, in consequence, be lines of demarcation at which point something begins and something ends. The science of philosophical physics, or “natural philosophy” as many call it, concerns itself with the subject matter of mobile being, ens mobile: being insofar as it is capable of motion. The science of biology concerns itself with mobile being insofar as it is alive, i.e., insofar as it has an active potency of motion from within itself. The science of metaphysics concerns itself with being insofar as it is being, that is, in the widest possible extension with an eye specifically towards the principles whereby beings exist.

What is the subject for the science of epistemology? Knowledge, one might say, or the processes of human knowing. But where do these processes begin and end? Is knowledge a something in the mind? Are we concerned with knowledge as an accident residing in an individual human substance? But even as such an accident, it is—we may posit and not here defend—intrinsically and necessarily intentional: ordered towards making known its object, that is. We might say, therefore, that the accident of knowledge is always a relative accident. Knowledge is what it is by the relation which the concept provenates in order to make known its object. But which relations constitute knowledge? Only intellectual ones? Or do we know anything, in fact, without perceptual relations also? Do we need to include sense relations? Or the physical relations which enable sensation to occur?

Put in other words, there is no point of demarcation for a “science” of “knowledge”. Any theory of “epistemology” intrinsically and explicitly includes doctrines of “ontology”—and vice versa. I would challenge everyone to think about this term, “epistemology”, and whether it misleads us.

Perhaps I will follow this up with further posts in the future. In the meantime, I would suggest the word “noetic” as an alternative suitable in most cases where one would use the term “epistemology” to discuss the doctrines concerning knowledge.


Anyone interested in this point should also read John Deely’s Intentionality and Semiotics (where he mentions this point several places, as can be found in the index).

Marshall McLuhan on the History of the Trivium

…the history of the trivium is largely a history of the rivalry among them for ascendancy.  Ancient grammar was at odds with the dialectics of Plato and, especially, of Aristotle, as the art of interpreting phenomena.  As the method of patristic theology, grammar enjoyed uninterrupted ascendancy until the revival of dialectics by Gerbert, Roscellinus, and Abelard in the eleventh and twelfth centuries.  With the decadence of dialectical or scholastic theology in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries both grammarians and rhetoricians surge forward again, finally triumphing in the work and influence of Erasmus, the restorer of patristic theology and of the grammatical humanistic discipline on which it rests.  On the other hand, the war between the dialecticians and rhetoricians began as soon as the Sophists attempted to make dialectics subordinate to the art of persuasion.  Plato and Aristotle were the greatest enemies of the rhetoricians, not so much in rejecting rhetoric, as in asserting that as an art it had no power to control dialectics.  The Stoics, however, are the main defenders of dialectics against rhetoric after Aristotle.

Marshall McLuhan, 1943: The Classical Trivium, 42.

A point which will be focused on in the present unnamed Lyceum trivium project (being constituted by a series of lectures and discussion sessions which will result either in a video, text, or other public-facing production: see more on our approach to the Trivium here), the conflict of “ascendancy” among the arts of the trivium is a subtle point to which few have drawn attention as well as McLuhan. One difficulty I see emergent from the history of their rivalry is a certain blindness to their unity. What makes something one? An indication hinted at here—whether intentionally or not—is the point of “decadence” in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries among the scholastics. This decadence itself is a point in need of exploration and exposition, for, certainly, while those under the influence of Ockham and other nominalistic theories were undoubtedly decadent in their dialectical practice, given that they had abandoned the essential principle of unity between thought and things, it is also true that other scholastics were not so decadent, though they may have been quite elaborate in their use of dialectic nonetheless. (See, for instance, the great work being done on the thought of the Conimbricenses.)

The opposition of grammar, dialectics, and rhetoric, that is, has never rendered robust intellectual fruit when one attempts entirely the suppression of the others. Each must be understood as an integral part of a whole. What remains a question—which we will explore explicitly in the second of our lectures and discussions—is how these parts are united and oriented as a whole. This question requires also, antecedently, a consideration of what the trivium aims at; for every unity is governed, in some way or another, by the end for the sake of which it exists. This question was the focus of our first session, wherein it was discussed that the arts of the trivium, as tools of reflection upon thought, are tools whereby we manifest in language what is true. This truth is not merely factual (i.e., of the literal and measurable), but revelatory of being.

And so the question becomes: through which of the arts do we best orient ourselves towards what is true, without leaving behind the others?

Musings on Extrinsic Formal Causality and Practical Signs

This is not quite how I envisioned this first blog post turning out… Originally, I had considered writing something on the issue of the political common good, focusing on the plurality of common goods in relation to the political exercise of social justice in its original and true sense (namely, the right ordering of various goods within a social whole).  Oh well… That will be my next posting.

I am in the midst of working on a monograph devoted to a topic dear to my heart, concerned with (broadly speaking) the being of culture, exposited in line with a rigorous Thomistic metaphysic.  I am at a point of writing where I need to discuss the topic of extrinsic formal causality.  Therefore, I thought it might be helpful to write a blog post that teases out some of the ideas that will eventually enter into that particular chapter of my work.

The Platonic and Neo-Platonic universe is one that is dominated by the notion of extrinsic formal causality.  According to a kind of somewhat pedestrian, “kitchen table” Platonism, which philosophy professors often teach their undergraduate students, the world would be a kind of imitation of the transcend realm of the Forms or Ideas.  However, as any astute reader of Plato himself knows, many seeds for Aristotle’s own thought are found all throughout the written expression of the master’s thought, from which he drank for so many years.  Thus, in the Timaeus, we find the need to posit (by way of myth) a “receptacle” into which the form would be reflected (thus inserting material causality into the Platonic metaphysic), as well as the famous “Craftsman” (or “Demiurge”), who looks at the Forms and places them into the matter-receptacle(s), thereby making mutable copies of the immutable ideal realities (thus inserting efficient causality into the metaphysic).  Although Neo-Platonism would more clearly articulate the role of a kind of cosmic teleology, with all things going forth from the One and magnetized to return thereto (to the degree that this is possible), Plato’s conception of the Idea of the Good no doubt is the seed for such reflection on universal metaphysical gravitation.  (Think of how powerfully such teleology is expressed in Aristotle’s own account of the particular causality exercised by the First Cause when he discusses this not in the Physics but, rather, in the Metaphysics.)

But, with all of that being said, the most powerful of causes that operates on the Platonic and Neo-Platonic mind is extrinsic formal causality: the “really real” is to be found in the Ideas, with everything else being a copy thereof.  Thus, the world is full of copies and images, derivative realities whose intelligibility points to an external source upon whose model they were fashioned.  The Christian mind would readily develop this Platonic insight into the philosophical-theological metaphysics of the “Divine Ideas.”

It is, however, all too tempting for Christian philosophers to rush to the heights like this.  It comes from a laudable and pious sentiment.  But, the bright light of theological concern can tend to bleach out the importance of more quotidian realities.  Thus, among scholastics, one will most often speak of the “artistic idea” by which an artist fashions his or her work.  But such discussions are a kind of quick scaffolding for the sake of accomplishing the real construction: just enough elaboration so that one can then move on to the “truly important topic” concerning the Divine Ideas, the artistic exemplars of all created beings.

However, let us consider phenomena that are far more down to earth.  As I sit here typing, I see all sorts of things in my office.  A mug of coffee sits at my right.  Pens sit next to papers.  Slightly behind me, alongside the wall, there is a piano with a music book open, instructing me on the harmonization of a Bach chorale.

The last example is instructive (and, of course, purposely chosen).  Note the verb in the final clause: the book is instructing me.  Obviously, the sense of this verb is not the same as when it is used in its proper sense, referring to the activity of a teacher in relation to his or her students.  The act of instruction involves a kind of efficient causality.  But, for all that, is the transfer a mere metaphorical rhapsody?  No, for the most essential aspect of teaching is the act of presenting ideas before the mind of another, the “presentation of the object” to be known.  And this is something that the music text does to the person who has eyes to see.

Let us presume that I have never seen this harmonization of the “Darmstadt” melody before.  As someone who can somewhat plunk away at a piano, I have the agentive capacity to interpret music so as to then “transfer” its “message” to the tips of my fingers.  But, I cannot so transfer the “Darmstadt” melody until I know it.  In other words, my playing this melody depends, for its very being, upon the details intelligibly arranged on the paper.  And what is dependence in being?  It is a relationship of effect to cause.  My performance of this melody today must be “formed” by the message of the music pages.  My agency receives its form from outside of me—it is influenced by a causality that is, at once, extrinsic and formal.

In its merely “natural” being, the book of chorales is of use for starting a bonfire.  If civilization were to collapse, and if all modern Western music notation were to be forgotten, these properties would remain.  But, to the eyes of cognitional human agents, with a certain cultural and habituated ability to actualize the intelligibility that has been placed in these signs, the book is a window on the soul of a particular kind of music.  It pulls the musician into its orbit and expresses an intelligibility that is there in the paper—but in alio modo esse, according to another manner of existence.  It provides the “measure”, the right proportioning (at least in general terms), for my music playing.

And if one has eyes to see, one will realize that even blank paper itself also exercises this sort of causality.  In a literate culture in which writing upon paper is a possibility, a blank piece of paper is seen for the artifact that it is.  It is a practical sign of a kind of activity.  When viewed within the particular cultural context of sign interpretation, it is a kind of invitation to activity, it specifies a kind of activity: qua paper, this is something to be written on.  Sure, it can specify other activities too: make paper airplane from this, or cut out shapes from this, etc.  But the point remains, insofar as it brings into our minds the possibility of a practical activity—that is, insofar as this artifact is part of the relation-complex that leads my mind beyond the paper to a given kind of activity—the paper, precisely in this relational structure, becomes a sign, a practical sign.

We are surrounded by practical signs directing our action—they are everywhere.  They perfuse the world.  And although this kind of causality is exercised most clearly in human agency, where choice intervenes so as to constitute new forms of intelligibility, there is a real sense in which such extrinsic formal causality perfuses lower forms of activity as well.  When several trees interact with their environment so as to “communicate” with each other through their root systems, the various fungi and elements that take part in these processes have intelligibility as part of a kind of organic communication system only if one takes into consideration the life pattern of the trees in question.  In other words, the intelligibility of this system of activity, precisely as a unified system of activity, derives its intelligibility from the particular organic capacities of the plant life in question.  Even here, there is a kind of “extrinsic information” which gives an intelligibility that is not merely present in the uncoordinated activity of the parts of this now-active plant communication system.

But, I have gone on too long already.  I merely wanted to tease about on this topic to get a feeling for where the mind might go when writing on it.  Hopefully, though, this musing begins to get you thinking.  You’ll never look at the world the same again: the edge of the road is a practical sign (exercising extrinsic formal causality) telling you not to drive over it; the dashes between lanes indicate to you a kind of legal driving pattern; a driveway is an invitation to drive there and not on a lawn; a door handle is an invitation to turn and open a door; and in just the right context, a steep and open snowy hill begs you to ski down it.             

Extrinsic formal causality is everywhere, for the world is perfused with signs, both speculative and practical.  Let him who has eyes to see see.

⚘ Logic as a Liberal Art | Christopher S. Morrissey

On 1 October 2022 at 2pm ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Dr. Christopher S. Morrissey will present on “Logic as a Liberal Art.” Dr. Morrissey studied Ancient Greek and Latin at the University of British Columbia and have also taught classical mythology, ancient history, and ancient languages at Simon Fraser University, where he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on hominization and the mimetic theory of René Girard: “Mirror of Princes: René Girard, Aristotle, and the Rebirth of Tragedy”. At the University of British Columbia, the M.A. thesis “Studies in Aristotle’s Physics” inaugurated a series of subsequent philosophical inquiries into the philosophy of nature. Other teaching has included Greek and Latin language courses for the Faculty of Philosophy at the Seminary of Christ the King located at the Benedictine monastery of Westminster Abbey in Mission, British Columbia. Major publications include the books Hesiod: Theogony / Works and Days (Talonbooks, 2012) and The Way of Logic (Nanjing Normal University Press, 2018).

Join the Live Q&A here.

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.

⚘ Semiotics and Dark Web Memes | Robert W. Gehl

On 30 September 2022 at 3pm ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Dr. Robert W. Gehl will present on “Semiotics and Dark Web Memes”. Dr. Gehl is a Fulbright scholar and award-winning author whose research focuses on contemporary communication technologies. He is currently the F. Jay Endowed Research Chair of Communication at Louisiana Tech University. He has published over two dozens articles in journals such as New Media & Society, Communication Theory, Social Media + Society, and Media, Culture and Society. His books include Reverse Engineering Social Media, which won the Nancy Baym Book Award from the Association of Internet Researchers, and Weaving the Dark Web, published by the MIT Press in 2018, and Social Engineering, forthcoming from MIT Press in 2022.

Join the Live Q&A here.

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.

⚘ The Semiosis of Boethius’s Prosimetric Style in “De consolatione philosophiae” | Wesley C. Yu

On 24 September 2022 at 2pm ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here) Wesley Chihyung Yu will present on “The Semiosi of Boethius’s Prosimetric Style in De consolatione philosophiae“. Wesley Chihyung Yu is Associate Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. His interdisciplinary research on medieval poetics concentrates on literature’s relationship to the medieval language arts. Yu has focused in particular on rhetoric and logic, through which he considers medieval poetry’s place within the scope of intellectual history. He has written on early treatments of allegory and on literary uses of argumentation in the Middle Ages. Aside from teaching regular courses on medieval literary genres and authors, he writes and teaches on medieval perception and epistemology, poetic traditions, and reasoning in Old and Middle English literature.

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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.

A Reflection on Loneliness

In the weekly Philosophical Happy Hour of the Lyceum Institute this past Wednesday (9/21), the topic of conversation turned to friendship and loneliness. It seems today that many in this twilight of modernity have been struck with loneliness. This should never be confused with merely “being alone”. Loneliness, rather, is the lack of true personal relation. Loneliness is not the mere absence of present relations: it is the wound of relations lost, or never grasped, relations through which two persons become somehow as one. Loneliness is the wound made by an absence of friendship.

But what is friendship? We often hear tell of “real” friendship, in contrast to mere acquaintance, or casual friendship, or something of the like. Often, this adjective “real” is drawn upon a discussion of friendship found in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, in which friendly relations are classed according to what we might call the utilitarian, the pleasurable, and the true. Utilitarian friendships are those that ease our being with others by virtue of pleasant and friendly dispositions: as when one makes small-talk with the cashier or the barista, or one’s casual co-workers; being friendly makes one’s exchanges with others go more smoothly, and so it is useful to be friendly in such cases. Pleasurable friendships are those wherein the basis of the relation is some third thing that both persons enjoy: bowling, a sport, a certain television show, a band, a video game, a football team, etc. Where the utilitarian friendship focuses mostly on the good that oneself receives by being pleasant to the other, the pleasurable friendship consists in the unity of the two persons which is affected by that common object.

True friendships, by contrast, are held to be those in which each person takes the good of the other as though it is his or her own. It is not in some third thing, nor in oneself, that the goodness of the friendship is found, but in that which is of genuine benefit or good for the other. This should not be confused with a “pure altruism” or any other—for the good of the other does not demand an absent consideration of the self, and, indeed (as I hope we will discuss some other day), altruism presupposes an individualism that would have been quite alien to Aristotle—for it is fundamentally a relational unity with the other. But I think it a mistake to denominate this true friendship alone as “real” friendship.

The word “real”, that is, receives a great deal of abuse, being conflated very commonly with both “true” and “actual” as to its significance. Something is “real” to the degree that it can have an effect on something other. The object of an irrational fear, for instance, may not be “real” in and of itself—there is no “real monster” in the closet—and yet its effect of making the child scared undoubtedly is real. Likewise, someone may not really be a friend, in the sense that he does not have in himself a care for your own good, and you may even know this explicitly, and yet you would be sad to lose the relationship with him, say, because he quits playing the game or the sport which you have in common.

Moreover, the third thing through which we bond with others in such a manner may become, as it were, a transparent lens through which the other appears. A bowling buddy may become a best friend. But we are more likely to form true bonds when the object of our attention itself is something that reflects deeply upon ourselves and our nature. A casual pursuit does little to impact our being; one does not likely develop in human personhood through rolling a ball down the lanes, and though much is gained from competitive team sports—the ability to work together, discipline, etc.—these remain largely at the surface of who we are. Most importantly, whatever the common objects of our social interaction, they must be approached thoughtfully if we are to get beyond the veil and see the other.