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Lifelong Intellectual Development

The Lyceum Institute is dedicated to nurturing the habits of lifelong intellectual development through the use of digital technology, making high-quality education accessible to a meaningfully diverse community of like-intentioned persons. As a non-profit institution, we rely on the generosity of our supporters to continue providing exceptional learning experiences that foster genuine thinking and self-improvement. How do we provide this education and how can you help?

Higher Education

All of our programs are structured and conducted with the intent of building key habits of intellectual virtue: studiousness, diligence, orderliness, focus, knowledge, insight, and the humility to recognize, respect, and adhere to wisdom. These habits are cultivated in an atmosphere that emphasizes forming and asking questions—questions asked of others, of the tradition, of the present world, and most of all, of oneself. We cannot improve without knowing what we lack, and we cannot discover answers if we do not know the questions.

Traditional institutions of higher education remain invaluable, but insufficiently meet our current needs. Students must overcome obstacles of time, place, and considerable financial expense to attend such programs. Moreover, wars of ideological opposition, serving only to distract from an honest pursuit of the truth, have decimated the courses and curricula of many universities. By contrast, the digital environment of the Lyceum is flexible, affordable, and concerned with the inquiry into and discovery of what is true, regardless of its provenance or associations.

Members and Studies

Members of the Lyceum Institute come from a wide range of backgrounds and with a diversity of experience: factory workers and truck drivers, PhDs and medical doctors, students and retirees, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim; with backgrounds in the humanities and the sciences, with decades of study or just beginning—we all seek the same good and are bound by the common desire to know. Humility before true wisdom, possessed by none but loved by all, provides the foundation for our community.

Thus we commonly engage in studies of philosophy, literature and the arts, the classical trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric (though continually revising our understanding in light of the new technological paradigm), languages (with an emphasis on Latin), and keep open our doors for new thoughts.

Together we are building a new way of learning: one not constrained to a course of months or years, but which integrates itself into the whole of human life.

Since joining [the Lyceum Institute], I feel that I have found a place in the digital wasteland to call home: a home where I learn and discuss more about philosophy, the classics, art, theology and psychology; a home where my interests are taken seriously and given room to grow; a home where I find others living consciously, respectful of the thoughtfulness of others, motivated by the wisdom of the past, and wrestling with the answers for the future.

-Mark [see more testimonials here].

Broader Community

At the core of this new way of learning stands a principle of financial subsidiarity. Put simply, we do not want financial barriers to stand in the way of individuals serious about integrating their love of wisdom into daily life. Thus, we encourage all of our members who can to pay more, so that those who cannot, may still participate. But we also rely upon donations from the broader community to supplement this model of subsidiarity.

Every member that we gain is another light in the dark—brightening not only our own digital community, but bringing that light to friends and family and their local communities. Every donation we receive is fuel for those flames.

Even if membership is not right for you, you can help us to brighten the world. Donate to our Spring Fundraiser by 8 June 2023, Better Self-Critics, to help us reach our quarterly goal, or set up a recurring donation here.

On Architecture and Order

What is architecture? How can we define it? As a human art, it seems that we cannot conceive of what it is fully or properly without efficient and final causes: certainly it is by human beings, and somehow for human beings. But for human beings to do… what? What benefit does the architect render human beings in the production of his buildings? It seems that we need a good definition—a more precise definition—if we are to say whether the products of architecture are good or bad themselves.

Integral to architecture conception seems the broader notion of order. The work of the architect, that is, seems nothing if not the making of what has order. But where, and in what, does order germinate? Allow here a quotation of the architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander (4 October 1935—2022 March 17):

Excerpts from The Nature of Order:

The activity we call building creates the physical order of the world, constantly, unendingly, day after day. In the last five millennia, human beings have created millions upon millions of cubic yards of building, and millions of buildings, house, roads, and cities—entire worlds. Our world is dominated by the order we create.

But although we are responsible for the creation of order on this enormous scale, we hardly even know what the word “order” means. Our present idea of “order” is obscure. Although the word is often used informally by artists and biologists and physicians—usually to stand for some deep regularity we cannot quite define—we need a better understanding of the deep geometric reality of order. If we are honest we must admit we hardly even know what kind of phenomenon it is. Yet we build the world, producing its order, day by day. Thus we go on, willy-nilly creating order int he world, without knowing what it is, why we are doing it, what its significance might be.

In the 20th century we have passed through a unique period, one in which architecture as a discipline has been in a state that is almost unimaginably bad. Sometimes I think of it as a mass psychosis of unprecedented dimension, in which the people of earth—in large numbers and in almost all contemporary societies—have created a form of architecture which is against life, insane, image-ridden, hollow. The ugliness which has been created in the cities of the world, and the banality and pretentiousness of many 20th-century buildings, streets, and parking lots have overwhelmed the earth. Much of this construction is caused by developers, hosing authorities, owners of hotels, motels, airport authorities. In that sense architects might be considered blameless, since in some degree the ugliness of what has been created is caused by new relations between time, money, labor, and materials and by a set of conditions in which the real thing—authentic architecture that has deep feeling and true worth—is almost impossible.

But architects are not blameless. For the most part, architects have stood by, content to play their role s part of the 20th-century machine. They gild the lily of commercial development with pretentiousness. Many architects have raised the designer-conscious fashion of building to new levels, have invented absurd ways of thinking about architecture, have altogether poisoned the earth with an abundance of terrible and senseless designs which have few redeeming features.

I believe that we have in us a residue of a world-picture which is essentially mechanical in nature—what we might call the mechanist-rationalist world-picture. Whether or not we believe that we are subscribing to this picture, whether or not we are aware of the impact of its residue in us, even when we consider ourselves moved by spiritual or ecological concerns, most of us are still—I believe—to a greater or lesser extent in the grip of some residue of this mechanical world-picture. Like an infection, it has entered us, it affects our actions, it affects our morals, it affects our sense of beauty. It controls the way we think when we try to make buildings and—in my view—it has made the making of beautiful buildings all but impossible.

Selections from Christopher Alexander 1980–2002: The Nature of Order: An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe, Book One: The Phenomenon of Life.

This topic—the nature of architecture—cannot in fact be divorced from the question of the human soul, and, specifically, its development of habits. We live in a built-environment. The built-environment informs our perceptual behavior: how our eyes and ears are attuned, how we relate to the phenomena of places, distances; echoes and reverberations, how we are enveloped by air, by sound and silence, by light and shadow. Buildings envelope us every day, from waking to sleeping. We practice our daily behaviors at home or in offices, in coffee shops and grocery stores. Our religious cathexis depends in no small measure on the structure of our houses of worship. The weight of law finds its reflection in the gravitas of the courtroom and the houses of legislation.

Do we think enough about how these buildings come to be—and whether they are fitting to our being?

Philosophical Happy Hour

Interior from Havana, Cuba, free public domain CC0 image.

If you’d like to join us for a discussion of architecture and order in the built-environment, we would be happy to have you! Our happy hours are held (almost) every Wednesday from 5:45–7:15pm ET and are (almost always) open to the public. You can join the weekly mailing list by using the contact form here, or join directly by using the link on the right side of the screen here.

“The deepest and most important teaching of Classical Architecture concerns the human soul: before any other work it is necessary to forge your own soul, making it a temple of virtue and knowledge. Those who do not know how to build themselves, will never be able to build anything beautiful and noble.” 

Vitruvian man, from the edition of De Architectura of Giovan Battista Caporali, 1536

Catherine Project – Commonplace

Our friends at the Catherine Project have launched a new journal, Commonplace! As they describe it:

Commonplace is a journal maintained by volunteers from the Catherine Project’s community of learners under the supervision of the executive director. It’s purpose is twofold:

  1. To serve the Catherine Project community as an organ of communication and means of sharing writing informed or inspired by the Project’s core activity of reading and discussing great books.
  2. To serve as a means of advertising the existence and activities of the Catherine Project and inviting readers who are unfamiliar with the the Project to join our community of learning.

The journal is titled Commonplace because that’s what it is: a place or space we have in common. The word “commonplace” might also be used to describe the activity of our community: what we’re doing is rare these days, but it’s not original. Human beings throughout history have gathered informally to read, think, and learn together. We think learning for learning’s sake should be ordinary and shared among people of different ages, occupations, and educational backgrounds.

We aim to publish Commonplace twice a year, depending on volunteer availability. If you would like to join the editorial team that maintains the journal, write to volunteer@catherineproject.org.

We look forward to reading the first issue, already published!

How and Why We Study Logic

Excerpted from the lectures given to the Lyceum Institute Trivium: Art of Logic Course.

“What more can be said about logic?”  I am acutely aware, as I pen these words that I pen them not to be read (even if someone other than myself might and does indeed read them), but to be spoken; to be given in a lecture, that is—a lecture for the Lyceum Institute, a lecture belonging to a course, and a course belonging to a holistic study of all three arts constituting the Trivium.  Though logic may be studied on its own, both as an art and as science, its greatest fruit comes when studied integrally with the other arts of the Trivium.  This sentiment—or rather, the mixed sentiments of hope, humility, and no small amount of trepidation, since I am myself well aware of my woeful inadequacy as a teacher, especially of logic—this sentiment finds itself grounded by the well-wrought intellectual insights of far wiser men: men such as R.E. Houser, John Deely, and John Poinsot, all of whom I consider my own teachers in this most difficult of subjects.  My failings, however, are not a reflection of their abilities: for I have learned logic through their printed works, rather than in-person instruction, and thus have not benefitted from direct correction.

The purpose of these lectures, indeed, is not to say anything new or novel about logic at all.  That does not mean there is nothing new to be said about logic, only that I am not here intending to say it.  Rather, these lectures aim—as is more broadly the goal of this course as a whole and of our first course of study of the Trivium in the Lyceum Institute—these lectures aim at displaying and explicating the art for a living audience.  They form part of a multi-party dialogue: between myself, as the instructor, and you, as the audience; between us, as a class, and the texts, which we read; and between the shared knowledge we gain and the knowledge we yet seek.  Between instructor and audience, there is formed a whole; between that whole, the class, and the texts, there is formed a second whole, that shared knowledge.  But knowledge, always and invariably, prompts new questions, an inquiry beyond itself.  These lectures are merely my own contribution… and rather a minor contribution, at that, in the grand scheme of this dialogue.

Our world—by which I mean not merely the physical environment of earth (though inclusive of it) but rather, more primarily, the specifically human environment of linguistically-perfused culture—suffers a problem of meaning.  I have addressed this problem in many other places.  We may redress this problem of meaning, however, only through language, and only if we conceive of language in the right way: not merely as an abstract system of arbitrarily-stipulated symbolic communications, ordered principally toward pragmatic ends and for the sake of manipulating that world to our ends (such manipulative bearing being one of, if not the, principal causes of our meaning problem), but rather as the way in which the true meaning of things comes to light in the first place.  For developing a facility with language so-conceived, we must study all three arts of the Trivium.  In the Art of Logic, in particular, we attend specifically to the illative relation, whereby we discover how language leads thinking through inference to truths not immediately evident—to truths obscured by malfeasant rhetoric or the will-to-power, to truths hidden by those who wish only to bend the world to their wills, instead of standing themselves humbly open to the real.

Sign up for the Lyceum Institute and join us in the study of Logic this Spring! Lectures begin 1 May 2023 and discussions on 8 May 2023. All members are welcome to take the Art of Logic course, at every level of enrollment.

On Definition and Language

“Nothing properly signifies itself.”

To signify: this is to convey something other, to something other. Signification thereby contrasts with representation by their respective extensions, which can be either “other-representation” or “self-representation”. When you see a portrait, this represents something other than itself, namely, the person portrayed. When you see that person herself, her visible being represents her very self. The good portrait accurately captures something of what is found in the self-representation. We measure portraits by their iconic sameness with their objects.

By contrast, when we read or hear words, an iconic sameness does not enter into their fittingness of other-representation. The word “sadness”, whether spoken or written, has nothing within its own being that corresponds to the emotion which it signifies. How then, does it signify that emotion? Some—deconstructionists—have opined that all such signification consists essentially in a willful imposition of the individual speaker; such that any auditor can willfully impose to the contrary. Were this true, it would be a disaster for human beings, for all solid meaning would disappear from our use of language. Definitions would be always ephemeral, always fragile. Thankfully, we do not need to fear the deconstructionists. We can, in fact, meaningfully define words. But we have to recognize that these definitions, though meaningful, are not absolute, nor do they possess an absolute fixity.

The Structure of Definition

John Poinsot—or John of St. Thomas—gives a definition of definition itself in his elementary logical texts. Here, I will ask some indulgence, for this is dry… but it also gives much-wanted precision. He writes:

Definition is “a linguistic expression explaining the nature of a thing or the signification of a term”. As for instance, if I say: “The human being is a rational animal”, I explain the nature of the human being, which is not explicated in the term “human”. And if I say: “White is having whiteness”, I do not explain the nature of “white”, but the signification of the noun, because this is the same as if I were to say: “‘White’ is a verbal signification of that which has whiteness”. The definition corresponds with the defined as its object, with which it is itself converted.

1631: Cursus Philosophicus, Artis Logicae Prima Pars, Summulae Lib.2, c.3 (R.I.19a 6–18): “Definitio est « oratio naturam rei aut termini significationem exponens ». Sicut cum dico: « Homo est animal rationale », naturam hominis epxlico, quae in illo termino ‘homo’ non explicabatur. Et cum dico: « Album est habens albedinem », non explico naturam albi, sed significationem nominis, quia idem est ac si dicam: « Album est vox significans id, quod habet albedinem ». Definitioni correspondet definitum tamquam obiectum eius, quod cum ipsa convertitur.”

In itself, this may not seem useful. But subsequently, Poinsot explains the conditions required for a good definition; the conditions required in order that something be defined; and finally, the divisions of definition into different kinds.

The three conditions for a good definition are: first, 1) that it proceed through genus and difference. Second, 2) that it be clearer than that which is being defined. And third, 3) that it should be neither redundant nor explain anything lesser in extension than the object defined.

The three conditions for something to be defined are: first, 1) that the object be one through itself, i.e., that it have a singular intelligible essence. Second 2), that it be universal and not include any conditions of individuality. Third, 3) that it be of a specific formal entity contained under some broader genus.

Finally, the divisions of definition fall into two categories, the second of which further subdivides into three. First, 1) there are nominal definitions. This is the kind of definition with which we are most familiar, for they are ubiquitous in our modern dictionaries. These definitions, like that given of “white” above, explain the signification of a term. Nominal definitions prove very useful: they help us to triangulate the meaning of words. And as Poinsot adds, etymology serves us greatly in producing good nominal definitions. But as he also writes, “often we are not able to explain the signification of a name except by making clear the thing itself.”

Thus, second 2), we have definitions of what things are (“quid rei”). These definitions divide into three categories: essential, descriptive, and causal. Essential definitions identify the intrinsic causal parts of a being: form and matter (also genus and species). Descriptive definitions orient toward what the essential being by identifying its proper accidents. Causal definitions specify extrinsic causal constitution: efficient and final causes.

Beyond the Structure of Definition

Merely stating the conditions and divisions of definition, however, gives us only the grounds for considering what makes definitions truly good. Many, for instance, might object to Poinsot’s conditions as being stuck in an antiquated cosmology of fixed and determinate biological species. Others might say, particularly given this apparent unfixity of the material cosmos, that our definitions never signify things, but only our ideas or concepts of them. Can we, that is, truly produce definitions that are essential? Can we have any definitions that are “real”—of things as they are in themselves? Or are all our definitions merely nominal—merely subjective?

Many today despair of being able to attain truth. The use of language appears as a pragmatic tool for communicating wants and needs, and painfully often, for manipulation of the audience. Artificial languages—those constituted by pure stipulation to signify with mathematic or programmatic precision—seem exemplary as means of such pragmatic and manipulative communication. But perhaps this despair springs not from the fallibility of our definitions, but our misunderstanding of definition itself. Perhaps, we ought to argue, a recovery of definition may be the only means to a recovery of truth.

Philosophical Happy Hour

If you would like to join us for a discussion of definitions, we would be happy to have you! Our happy hours are held (almost) every Wednesday from 5:45–7:15pm ET and are (almost always) open to the public. You can join the weekly mailing list by using the contact form here, or join directly by using the link on the right side of the screen here.

John Deely on the “Practical Value” of Logic

Peirce rightly speaks of the practice of boasting of the utility of this or that science as a “nauseating custom” (1898a, alt. ver. : CP 1.667). This is because the practice in question almost invariably is indulged in for purposes quite unrelated to the true character of the science in question or to the advance of scientific inquiry as such. Nonetheless, there is a legitimate general sense in which all the sciences, logic and ethics included, may be said to have a practical value, inasmuch as, in the light of understanding gained from any given inquiry, application of that understanding may be made to meliorate some state of affairs or other. It is essential, however, to notice that this general “practical value” is a consequence of theoretical understanding, and not something separate from or independent of a properly scientific—that is to say, thematic and systematized—study of, for example, the symbolic structures of thought, on the one hand (in the case of logic) and action, its motives and consequences, on the other (in the case of ethics). No doubt our practice of discourse will be influenced by a study of logic, and, if the study is sound, improved. But to aim at this improvement directly and from the outset is a fundamental blunder. It is no wonder that many courses in “critical thinking” amount to little more than an elaborate spelling out of the steps to go through m choosing the best refrigerator to buy for your home, or a hopelessly superficial skill in identifying and labeling “fallacies”. For this reason, one of the most notable students of logic (Joseph 1916: 10) went so far as to recommend that we abandon speaking of logic as an art, in order to make plain what is in fact the case: that any properly human practical value of logic is in consequence of its theoretical study, and not an end that can be attained directly. In this sense, any scientific study has a “practical value”.

But, while any scientific study has practical value in an indirect sense, the practical value of logic, even if indirect, goes beyond that of the other special sciences, and precisely for this reason logic is commonly viewed not just as a “general education” requirement, but as a “core requirement”—that is to say, as one of the foundations of liberal arts education even from the days when science in our modern sense had not yet been established or envisioned as part of the curriculum of schooling at any level. In other words, uniquely in the case of the science of logic, we are quite justified in speaking of its utility or “practical value” for reasons that are related both to the nature of logic as a science and to the advance of logic as a scientific inquiry.

The exceptional extent of logic’s indirect practicality becomes apparent in Joseph’s spelling out (ibid: 11) of the threefold rationale for the practical value of logic. Of the three elements he identifies in this rationale, the first logic shares with any science, as we have taken note. The remaining two, however, distinguish logic’s foundational character as permeating the humanities and the sciences alike—that is to say, the whole of our discourse.

The first practical value of logic in general education, the one it shares with any exact science, is that it demands a careful, systematic and precise treatment of its own subject matter, which tends to produce a habit resulting from an appreciative understanding of the need and importance of carefulness in the study of any subject.

The second practical value of logic, however, lies in an effect which the study of a special science like chemistry, physics, or biology, is not equally calculated to produce. This effect is a better realization of what general forms are latent in the language we habitually use (especially where it is a question of our natural language, hut also in specialized and “artificial” circumstances of discourses which… inevitably interface with and influence the prejacent natural language, ensuring its continual evolution, in fact, and expansion into new scientific fields), through becoming familiar with the task of examining our reasonings precisely to see whether their form is conclusive in itself in its contrast with the factual content.

The third practical value of logic is likewise commensurate with our discourse in its totality, whether everyday or scientific, theoretically or practically oriented: logic requires us to deal directly with what knowing is, insofar as there are standards implicit in thought itself by which it is possible to separate knowledge from opinion and also to distinguish levels or grades of both, thereby making us more alive and sensitive to, as well as more careful about, shortcomings in our own opinions and those others try to persuade us of.

I think we need not go as far as Joseph recommended in abandoning all talk of logic as an art in order to appreciate the difference between logica docens and logica utens and to appreciate the essential dependency of the latter on the former as far as it concerns an educational context beyond the exercise of practical reason. It is true that the theoretical study of logic not only can be but, in recent years, has been entirely divorced from the context of actual discourse in common experience. But this need not he the case (nor is it wholly new), and may even be regarded, in many instances, as a pedagogical aberration. Nor does the late modern artificialization of the context of logical study change the fact that there are indirect consequences of logical study for everyday discourse when the foundations of such study are properly established (a project toward which this book is mainly aimed). These consequences are nonetheless real, and become direct from the side of the theoretical understanding once acquired. There is nothing wrong with pursuing the theoretical study in such a way as to facilitate that indirect consequence, that overflow, as it were, into practical reasonings, and much to recommend such a pursuit, however much late modernity chose to eschew it. Indeed, what has always distinguished logic as a liberal art from logic developed as a science in its own right, without any regard for its connections with daily discourse, is just this way of pursuing properly logical study.

John Deely 1985–2015: Logic as a Liberal Art, 12–15 (not to be confused with Houser’s Logic as a Liberal Art).

Sign up for the Lyceum Institute before May 8 and you can join us in our study of Logic! Open to all members. Enroll here.

Trivium: The Art of Logic 2023

On 1 May 2023, we will begin our second Trivium course of the year: The Art of Logic. Our first discussion session will take place on 8 May 2023 at 6:00pm ET. This course is open to all enrolled Lyceum Institute members; having taken Grammar is not a prerequisite. If you would like to sign-up and take this course, enroll here. You can find out more about our approach to studying logic here.

In brief, however: is there right reasoning concerning reasoning itself? Can we reason rightly about other things if we are misled as to the nature of reasoning itself? Of course we can; but incidentally, rather than properly, and in a manner not precisely under our own control. Without having successfully undergone training in logic, we are much more likely to go awry in the formation of our beliefs—holding things untrue or unfitting to reason, that is—than otherwise. Thus, even though it is quite difficult, Thomas Aquinas rightly says that we ought to begin our learning from logic:

And for this reason it is necessary in learning to begin from logic, not because it is easier than the other sciences—indeed, it has the greatest difficulty, since it concerns second intentions—but because the other sciences depend upon it, insofar as it teaches the mode of proceeding in all the other sciences.

c.1257-59: In de trin., q.6, a.1, p.2, ad.3: “Et hac ratione oportet in addiscendo a logica incipere, non quia ipsa sit facilior ceteris scientiis, habet enim maximam difficultatem, cum sit de secundo intellectis, sed quia alia scientiae ab ipsa dependent, in quantum ipsa docet modum procedendi in omnibus scientiis.”

In our course, we will concern ourselves not only with learning to analyze propositions and syllogisms of both categorical and hypothetical structure, to parse prose writing for its logical structure (and errors therein), and to illuminate the illative relation which ties together all our reasoning, but also situate logic both historically and as it fits within the broader tradition of the Trivium.

Again, this seminar is open to all Lyceum Institute members, at every level of enrollment. Our primary (required) textbook is R.E. Houser’s Logic as a Liberal Art.

What is Music?

Few, if any of us, go very long without hearing music. We have available to us more hours of streaming than ever we could hear in several lifetimes. It sits available through every device; it attends nearly every commercial, every television show. The quality of a movie may be greatly enhanced, or perhaps even ruined, by the accompanying score. But what is music? We may define it narrowly, that is, with respect to its form as such: some articulation of sound as organized with pitch or rhythm for the purpose of being heard… and find this dissatisfying.

Antiquity’s Approach to Music

As with many questions, we have much to learn from antiquity. Saints Augustine of Hippo and Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius both wrote treatises on music, and for both—as for Plato—music formed an integral part of education. Within its doctrines were contained not only vocal and instrumental performance but also lyrical meter for poetry. And perhaps much more important, and much more telling, was the intrinsic connection of the musical to the moral.

…since there happen to be four mathematical disciplines, the other three share with music the task of searching for truth; but music is associated not only with speculation but with morality as well. For nothing is more characteristic of human nature than to be soothed by pleasant modes or disturbed by their opposites. This is not peculiar to people in particular endeavors or of particular ages. Indeed, music extends to every endeavor; moreover, youths, as well as the aged are so naturally attuned to musical modes by a kind of voluntary affection that no age at all is excluded from the charm of sweet song. What Plato rightfully said can likewise be understood: the soul of the universe was joined together according to musical concord. For when we hear what is properly and harmoniously united in sound in conjunction with that which is harmoniously coupled and joined together within us and are attracted to it, then we recognize that we ourselves are put together in its likeness. For likeness attracts, whereas unlikeness disgusts and repels.

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius c.505 AD: De institutione Musica, lib.1, c.1, in the translation by Calvin M. Bower, p.2.

Perhaps, if we wish to understand what music is, we should recover and re-examine these classical sources. But perhaps we can draw on some other sources, as well.

The Poles of Feeling and Intellectuality

One such source, and far from the only contemporary thinker deserving of consideration with regard to this question, is the late John Deely, who once offered a definition that may provoke an interesting conversation. He wrote:

An idealized system of prospective audial experiences which will evoke, sustain, or counter within an Innenwelt basic elements of mood, emotion, or feeling. Within this prospective, in fact, there is an analog range between the asymptotic poles of sheer feeling vs. sheer intellectuality, along which the system can be formalized in an endless variety of relational patterns, according to emphasis within which definite types or styles can be conventionally constituted (“classical”, “folk” “Indian”, “African”, etc.).

Definition of John Deely provided in a handwritten note to Eero Tarasti and his wife [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqUldV0D5DU @ 15:30]

As a quick explanatory note, the Innenwelt is “like a cognitive map that relates the self to the world of objects” (in the words of Kalevi Kull). To have asymptotic poles of feeling vs. intellectuality as evoked, sustained, or countered within the Innenwelt is to have one’s thoughts and feelings able infinitely to approach one another but never fully coalesce into a perfect unity; and conversely, to be repelled by one another, but never to be fully separated.

This definition hardly stands as definitive—and even in what it provides, there remains much to be clarified. But it is provocative nonetheless. As such, we would invite you to join us this evening for our Philosophical Happy Hour (from 5:45–7:15pm ET) to engage in a conversation about music: its nature, purpose, structure, value, and function in our human lives, from the mundane to the sacred and everything in between. Use the form below.

Request an Invite

Trauma, Sorrow, and Beauty: Maritain and Rouault on Art

On 13 April 2023 at 7pm ET, Dr. Thomas Hibbs (see event times around the world) will present the Annual John Deely / Jacques Maritain Lecture for the Deely Project at Saint Vincent College, in Latrobe, PA: “Trauma, Sorrow, and Beauty: Maritain and Rouault on Art” (Zoom link).

In his work on the crisis of the visible in contemporary culture, the philosopher Jean-Luc Marion argues that images typically operate as idols rather than icons. The images we encounter are “proportionate to the expectation of desire.” Such a culture excludes images that would engage us so as to transform our desires and lead us out of ourselves to transcendence. We need more than simply a reorientation of our vision. The new pedagogy of images cannot be straightforward or initially affirmative, since it must make us aware of our disorders, sorrows, and traumas. It will offer hope not through facile transcendence but through otherwise hidden paths at the margins of mainstream civilization. In the philosophy of art of Jacques Maritain and the art of his friend Georges Rouault, images take on the evils and afflictions of this world, its manifold traumas and sorrows, and trace a path toward beauty, gratitude, and joy.

Abstract of the Presentation

Thomas Hibbs is currently the J. Newton Rayzor Sr. Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University, where he is also Dean Emeritus. Hibbs has published more than 30 scholarly articles and seven scholarly books, including three on the thought of Thomas Aquinas. He has also published two books on film and co-authored a book, Soliloquies, with the Japanese-American artist, Makoto Fujimura. A new book, Theology of Creation, is set to be published in August of 2023 by Notre Dame Press. He also has a book on Justice as Solidarity under contract with Word on Fire publications. Hibbs has published widely in the popular press, with more than 100 reviews and discussion articles on film, theater, art, and higher education in a variety of publications including First Things, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The New Atlantis, The Wall Street Journal, and National Review. He writes regularly for The Dallas Morning News.

About the John Deely / Jacques Maritain Lecture

The Annual John Deely / Jacques Maritain Lecture strives to make better known the work of these two great thinkers in the Poinsot-inspired tradition of Thomistic philosophy. Jacques Maritain wrote many insightful works on art. Indeed, I am reminded (as Dr. Minerd quoted from it recently) of this fascinating passage from “Sign and Symbol”:

in a work of art are found the speculative sign (the work makes manifest something other than it is) and the practical sign (it communicates a stimulation, an appeal); not that the work of art is formally a practical sign; it is rather a speculative sign which by superabundance is virtually practical… In the work of art… we meet with what can be called the direct sign (indicating an object) and the reverse sign (making manifest the subject).

Maritain 1937: “Sign and Symbol” in Ransoming the Time, 253.

Two things catch my attention here. First, the superabundance of the work of art that makes it virtually practical. Second, the notion of the reverse sign, which manifests the subject. I believe one sees this latter clearly in the work of Rouault. Trauma and sorrow appear in his faces. He shows beauty in a certain simplicity. This should be a fascinating lecture and Q&A!

For all those unable to attend in person, the session can be watched live on Zoom: “Trauma, Sorrow, and Beauty: Maritain and Rouault on Art”.