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Hidden Hours

This post presents a quick reflection on rediscovering the hidden hours—the hours that we lose in each day. Who among us has not found him- or herself wishing for an extra hour or two in the day? For many, there seems so much to get done, and so little time in which to do it. Indeed, for many this will always be the case. I know myself that I will die long before I can read all the books. But the more-to-do than can-be-done should not dissuade us from doing. If anything, it should give us motivation to do more yet.

As Catholic readers will know, we are now in the liturgical season of Lent. In observation of this season, one takes on small mortifications, penances, and attempts to increase one’s charitable relation to others: in time, goods, services, etc. It is not uncommon to focus on the small mortifications, usually some pleasure which one gives up for these 40 days. It has been, in my own life, a usual consequence of such sacrifices that I discover new goods. This year I am fasting both from social media and from word games on my phone (the NYT Crossword and another game I regularly play on the app). Suddenly, I find myself not only with a greater amount of clock time each day—taking out all those little moments of distraction—but with a greater sense of command over how I move myself throughout the day. Other things move me less, and thus I am more in possession of myself.

(Quite coincidentally I started playing chess on my phone—the Lyceum has started a chess club. This quickly started eating back into the time. Subsequently I have limited the app to work between only the hours of 6:00—11:00pm.)

True Convenience

The conveniences of our modern technology often result in an inconvenient way of life. I suspect this appears true without explanation. But to elaborate, briefly: the word “convenient” comes from the Latin verb convenire, meaning, “to come together”. Often, Latin scholastics use the participial form, conveniens, to mean “fitting”, and even to describe a kind of argument—the argument from “fittingness”. It is good that my phone allows me to play chess with a real human being despite not having a known nearby willing opponent. But it is not fitting that I be able to play with multiple opponents all at the same time, all day long.

Two or three minutes spent on one’s phone here and there throughout the day does more than add up to hours. Rather, it knocks one out of the natural rhythm of the day. In other words, our days have fitting and unfitting rhythms. Phones are not the only devices, of course, which do this. The computer has many ways to distract us also. Truly, it is death by a thousand cuts.

This point deserves more than I can give it now. Doubtless it will play a prominent role in our planned 2024 seminar on Technology (a frequent topic for the Lyceum). But suffice it here to say that—if our technology is not to distort our lives, if our conveniences for this or that particular activity are not to destroy the convenientia of our whole lives—we must reflect more thoughtfully on what our lives are ordered towards and how those technologies distort that ordering.

Using our Time Wisely

I rather dislike the notion of “using” or “spending” time. The phrase is useful; but it, too, is unfitting. For time is not a resource. If one cannot store it, one cannot spend it. We misconstrue what time is by thinking of it this way. If we make “good use” of time, it is by the motions which we direct ourselves to perform. But, in truth, we can only “spend” our time wisely if we orient ourselves to goods that are timeless. Truth and love do not wane with the passage of minutes or hours, years, decades, or even centuries. Steadfastly holding ourselves to them, we, too, will find that our days contain hidden hours, retrieved not by better “time management” but by a fittingness of our thought.

On the Authority of Media

While researching a variety of topics at conveniently-intersecting purposes, I came across this wonderful article from Elliot Gaines (author of 2011: Media Literacy and Semiotics), in which he explains how we need media criticism in order to avoid having our opinions settled for us by means contrary to reason in fact, even if many deem them preeminently reasonable in appearance—namely, that media gains its authority in dubious fashion.

The technologies of the media make it possible to represent symbolic systems while overcoming the natural restrictions of time and space and making communication appear immediate and intimate when received.

The notion of immediacy refers to a sense of being present at an event even though the media only represent it after the fact and from far away from its original location. Thus the power of mass media is not just in their capacities to deliver ideas and information, but also in their ability to exploit the verisimilitude of representations that are received with a sense of intimacy and immediacy. In addition, the third-person effect hypothesis suggests that people generally believe that media affects others while they themselves are immune to being manipulated or persuaded unknowingly (Rojas, Shah, and Faber 1996: 193). Audiences need to recognize that media affect every user because attention is drawn to intended meanings and inferences of consequences. Media are ubiquitous and enter personal space with a sense of immediacy that gives contemporary mass communications and opinion leaders great power and access to people. Without critical thinking and media literacy, it is easy to assume a great deal about the media and the world of objects, ideas, and situations they represent.

The goal of media is to attract attention in order to successfully profit and sustain themselves. Secondarily, media deliver information about issues and events, entertainment products that suggest social norms, attract attention to products, and influence the ethos of society. IT’s the audience, engaged in social discourse, which learns the codes and negotiates the veracity of representations intended to communicate a particular point-of-view.

The problems of media and “settling opinion”

The representational qualities of media phenomena are reasonable because they are logically developed from older, familiar signs that are continuous with established ideas. Media project a tacit authority to provide knowledge and expertise, but the credibility of media draws from its repetitive and persistent presence that simulates the continuity of signs necessary to logical reasoning. However, this is an illusion of veracity generated by the media that cannot substitute for verification. Part of the illusion is self-referential; media referring to (indexing) other media products or spokespersons only demonstrates social discourse but does not provide evidence of any particular argument. In order to understand authentic verification, it is necessary to look at the methods of proposing opinions about the meanings of things.

Gaines 2008: “Media Criticism and Settling Opinion” in Semiotics 2008: p.245–46 (245–251).

I highlight one key point in this last-quoted paragraph: namely, that media projects authority through repetition and persistent presence, through which it simulates the progression by which we advance logically from initial observations to inferred conclusions. Put in other words, we form habits of presupposition by allowing media’s immediacy to overwhelm our own capacity for thinking and dissecting the objects presented to us “immediately and intimately”.

The increase of personalized media experiences through digital networks has exacerbated this influence, precisely through the increased intimacy achieved by that personalization. As Gaines writes, we believe ourselves unaffected while others suffer. But, in truth, this only masks more deeply our own deceit. Is this turn of the digital inevitable? Or can we do better? Are we hapless victims of tyrannical media authority—or do we have means to free ourselves?

Hearing the Word of God: A Kierkegaardian Phenomenology of Conscience

ABSTRACT: “Husserl insisted that I should study Kierkegaard.” So recounts the Russian existential philosopher, Lev Shestov, in his posthumously published 1939 essay, “In Memory of a Great Philosopher: Edmund Husserl.” Why would Husserl have said such a thing? As soon as one begins attempting to trace the conceptual lineage of phenomenology back to Kierkegaard, a number of philosophical connections worthy of attention emerge. Above all, it is the phenomenon of conscience that constitutes the cornerstone of such an analysis. For, just as conscience lies at the heart of the human experience, so too it lies at the heart of the attempt to exhibit that experience in philosophical thought. By emphasizing that life (and thought) is lived before God, a Kierkegaardian phenomenology of conscience illuminates what is most at stake, both methodologically and existentially, in doing phenomenology, and realizes phenomenology’s longstanding ambition to make sense of what it means to be the kind of beings we are, or, as Kierkegaard would put the matter, to be a single individual. Focusing on the phenomenon of conscience, this lecture develops an account of doing phenomenology in a Kierkegaardian way, that is, doing phenomenology before God.

Presenting our first Colloquium for 2023: Dr. Steven DeLay (Tutorial Fellow, Ambrose College, Woolf University; Research Fellow, Global Centre for Advanced Studies College Dublin, and an accomplished researcher and author) gives us a lecture and Q&A on “Hearing the Word of God: A Kierkegaardian Phenomenology of Conscience”. This lecture investigates the question of whether phenomenological method is congenial to the discussion of God, or whether it necessarily brackets or excludes God from its inquiries, through the question of conscience.

Dr. DeLay undertakes this investigation through tracing the lineage of phenomenological inquiry expressed in Edmund Husserl’s life and thoughts into Kierkegaard’s understanding of “being a single individual”, and in contrast with the phenomenological approach and consideration of Martin Heidegger. Thereby are raised the questions of language’s meaningfulness and our responsibility for it, both in our speaking and in our hearing. Listeners will be challenged to reconsider the purposiveness of life’s experience as reflected in his or her consciousness of being one who has a conscience.

Lyceum Institute members may listen to the lecture now and participate in the Live Q&A on 16 February 2023 at 6:00pm ET (event times around the world here).

⚘ John Deely on the Role of Signs in Human Knowing | Banzelão Teixeira & IO2S Closing Ceremony

On 7 January 2023 (today!) at 11:30am ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Banzelão Teixeira will present, “A Semiotic Perspective of Cognition: John Deely on the Role of Signs in Human Knowing”. Teixeira obtained a Master’s degree in philosophy in 2001 from Divyadaan: Salesian Institute of Philosophy, Nashik, India. In 2016, he completed his doctorate in philosophy from the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome, on the topic “The Tractatus de Signis of John Poinsot and the New Realism: A Study of John Deely’s Proposal.” Presently he is the Director of Divyadaan: Salesian Institute of Philosophy where he holds the chair of Philosophy of Communication. He is also the editor of Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education. He is interested in hermeneutics, communication, semiotics and ecology. His recent publications in the field of semiotics include: “The Notion of Sign in Augustine, Aquinas, Poinsot,” (2016); “Semiotic Revolution in the 4th Century: Assessing Augustine’s Contribution to the Ancient Discussion on the Sign,” (2017); 21st Century Realism: John Deely’s Recovery of Poinsot’s Doctrine of Signs (2018); “The Supra-subjective Nature of Relation: John Deely’s ‘Semiotic’ Response to the Modern Impasse,” (2018); “The Semiotic Proposal of John Poinsot: A Brief Overview of Tractatus de Signis,” (2018); and “The Role of Signs within Cognition: A Semiotic View of the Process of Knowing,” (2020).

Commentary will be provided by Cristina Greco, Assistant Professor of Semiotics and Communication, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, and Head of the Communication Research Unit (CRU) at the Jeddah College of AdvertisingUniversity of Business and Technology (KSA), and John Hittinger, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas and the Director of John Paul II Studies.

Guests speaking as part of the closing ceremonies include, Brian Kemple, Brooke Williams Deely, Donald Favareau, Farouk Y. Seif, Hamid Malekzadeh, Inna Merkulova, Joseph DeChicchis, Mário Santiago de Carvalho, Br. Norman Hipps, O.S.B., Olga Lavrenova, Paul Cobley, William Passarini.

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.

Seminar Catalog for 2023

The year 2022 saw the Lyceum offer a spate of diverse and fascinating seminars. so how can we top this wonderful past year of seminars? Why, with a new year of wonderful seminars, of course! We are covering a broad range of thinkers and ideas this year: Aristotle, Aquinas, John Henry Newman, John Poinsot, Yves Simon, Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein, Martin Heidegger, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy—and more. Introducing our seminar catalog for 2023:

2023 Seminar Catalog

W I N T E R (JANUARY—APRIL)Instructors
» Ethics: Virtue» Dr. Brian Kemple
» Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision» Dr. Brian Kemple
» Quaestiones disputatae de Veritate – Part I» Dr. Kirk Kanzelberger
» John Henry Newman in Four Books» Dr. Scott Randall Paine
» Semiotics: The Tractatus de Signis of John Poinsot» Dr. Brian Kemple
» Phenomenology: an Introduction» Drs. Daniel Wagner and Brian Kemple
» Politics: A Thomistic Defense of Democracy» Dr. Francisco Plaza
» Ethics: The Moral Noetic of the Natural Law» Dr. Matthew Minerd
» Quaestiones disputatae de Veritate – Part II» Dr. Kirk Kanzelberger
» Thomistic Psychology: Habits and World» Dr. Brian Kemple
» Phenomenology: The Contribution of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy» Dr. Scott Randall Paine
» Phenomenology: Heidegger’s Method – Part I» Dr. Brian Kemple

These seminars are open to the public, but enrolled members of the Lyceum Institute are offered discounted fees. Each lasts 8 weeks and includes the opportunity for an in-depth engagement with important philosophical questions. Anyone with a serious commitment to the truth is welcome. Our instructors are among the very best and bring decades of insight, wisdom, and experience in teaching. Download the Seminar Catalog for full descriptions of each seminar.

Details (dates, times, syllabi, required books, and in-depth descriptions) and registration for each seminar will be posted approximately one month before they begin. Keep your eyes here for news about Ethics: Virtue and Aquinas’ Cosmological Vision this weekend—and consider enrolling!

Standard priceBasic Lyceum
Advanced Lyceum EnrollmentPremium Lyceum Enrollment
Benefactor$200 per seminar$903 seminars included
$90 after
8 seminars included
$90 after
Patron$135 per seminar$653 seminars included
$65 after
8 seminars included
$65 after
Participant$80 per seminar$403 seminars included
$40 after
8 seminars included
$40 after

On the Value of Rhetoric

An excerpt from Edward P.J. Corbett’s Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student on the value of rhetoric as needed in the modern age, accompanied by a brief commentary.

Selection from the Text:

Grammar, logic, and rhetoric are the three arts of language. Skill in the language arts is more important today than it used to be. Technological improvements in communication and transportation have brought us into more frequent and crucial converse with the inhabitants of our own country and with the peoples of other nations. It is important to our welfare that we learn how to ingratiate ourselves with others, how to express our thoughts and desires, how to allay their fears, and how to conciliate our differences. Rhetoric can help here… It behooves us now to withhold [violent means] of settling the tensions that exist in the world and exploit the possibilities of settling those tensions by the use of the powerful weapons of words. Rhetoric is the art that shows us how to hone that weapon and to wield it most effectively…

The road to eloquence is a hard road and a lonely road, and the journey is not for the faint-hearted. But if, as we are told, the ability to use words to communicate thoughts and feelings is man’s most distinctively human accomplishment, there can be few satisfactions in life that can match the pride a man feels when he has attained mastery over words. As Quintilian said, “Therefore let us seek wholeheartedly that true mastery of expression, the fairest gift of God to man, without which all things are struck dumb and robbed both of present glory and the immortal acclaim of posterity; and let us press on to whatever is best, because, if we do this, we shall either reach the summit or at least see many others far beneath us.”

Corbett 1965: Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 31 and 33.


While Corbett handles rhetoric much better than most who have written on it since these words were first published, I nevertheless have a bone or three to pick here. The first, and least consequential, is his use of the term “language arts”, particularly in close conjunction with the word “skill”. My objection, simply stated, is that these words seem to muddy the waters. Is logic a “skill”? Grammar? Rhetoric, perhaps, at least entails practices that we could call skillful: diction, timing, theatricality—but these seem rather incidental to what rhetoric is in itself. Certainly, the three parts of the Trivium are arts—and perhaps it is the cheapened experience of my own public school education—but the phrase “language arts” seems somehow inadequate; especially if the command of those arts is equated to skill.

My second objection concerns his claim that the road to eloquence is lonely. It may be counter-cultural, today. But it is not, and never should be, a lonely endeavor. Eloquence—the virtue of rhetoric—is relational. I cannot be eloquent except to someone else. Moreover, I could never judge my own eloquence without an audience that reacts to my words.

My third objection concerns the manner in which he characterizes the importance of rhetoric. It is true that rhetoric helps us ingratiate ourselves with others, express our thoughts, allay others’ fears, and conciliate our differences. It is also true that it may dissuade violence and war. But all this is rather utilitarian. It says what we may gain from rhetoric as a tool. It says nothing of what we may gain from rhetoric as a habit.

Thus, while we use Corbett’s book in our own Rhetoric course, for he gives an accessible insight to the ideas of classic authors, I believe he misses the spirit of antiquity. Rhetoric, that is, should be seen as part of the integral habituation of a whole human life. Gaining mastery over persuasion changes how I relate to others, to be sure. But more fundamentally, it is—or ought to be—a perfection of my own faculties. Good character antecedes being a good rhetorician, as Quintilian argues extensively. But being a good rhetorician ought also to reinforce one’s character.

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.

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).

Fall Seminar Previews


“In long Indian file, as when herons take wing, the white birds were now all flying towards Ahab’s boat; and when within a few yards began fluttering over the water there, wheeling round and round, with joyous, expectant cries.  Their vision was keener than man’s; Ahab could perceive no sign in the sea.  But suddenly…

Metaphysics: The Depths of Act & Potency


This is not a seminar about modernity, but about modern philosophy—and, specifically, about the fundamental flaws (or faults) which characterize modern philosophy’s thinking.  These flaws, once recognized, show their effects everywhere today: in the endless fragmentation of world, mind, self; in the intransigence of political discourse, the widening cultural divides, the polarization of extremes, and…

Science: The Faults of Modern Philosophy


“The last of the moderns,” writes John Deely of Charles Sanders Peirce, “and the first of the postmoderns.” Why this switch, this flip, between modernity and postmodernity? The question of postmodernity’s meaning and definition is altogether another issue: but one which we can understand only inasmuch as we first understand rightly what modernity is, or…

Semiotics: Peirce and the Modern Spirit

Introduction to Philosophical Principles

Introduction to Philosophical Principles: Logic, Physics, and the Human Person

What good is living? I know a man we’ll call “James”—successful, secure in his career, his family, his hobbies, his religious belief—who claimed not that he was depressed at this stage of his life, but that he found himself nevertheless asking frequently: “Is this all there is?” Then he discovered philosophy. It was not an immediate love; indeed, it was discovered as a requirement for his graduate business program. But, seeking out help, he found more and more to read. More and deeper questions arose. He found his philosophical inquiries were not simply aligned with success in the course, but sprung up from his own life experiences, his own encounters with the world. He became philosophically curious. He wanted to know. To understand. A deeper reality opened up for him; one of inexhaustible meaning.

Philosophy—real, true philosophy—is transformative. It will not make you successful in the world, but it will answer a question that all the success and security never can: what is the good of being alive?

In the nihilistic, “post-truth” context of late modernity, we might despair of finding an answer to that question. The odds seem against us, especially in the absence of success and security. But even the faintest glimmer of the answer—the dimmest light—gives us something that cannot be taken away by the worst the world has to offer.

I first met James at a coffee shop in 2016 to help him with the graduate course. We have since met almost every week for six years—sometimes two or three times in the span of a few days—to discuss philosophy. Our talks have ranged over the distinctions of Plato and Aristotle, of Descartes and Locke, the neglect of scholasticism, the influence of Islamic thought, the value of the Conimbricenses, the genius of João Poinsot and Charles Sanders Peirce, the breadth of Thomas Aquinas, the nature of culture and society, the threats to truth, and much more besides. These conversations, deep though many of them are, have opened more inquiries than we will be able to explore in a lifetime.

This book, now in a second and much expanded edition (with over 100 pages of new material) does not mirror my conversations with James. But it does mirror the endless joy of discovering meaning, a condensed breadth of philosophical learning, and the desire to understand, to answer the question: what is the point of living?

I hope you will read it. I hope you will enjoy it. I hope it will spark a similar philosophical curiosity in you. The text is divided into three main parts: Logic, Physics, and the Person. Each presents what I think are the essential principles for gaining a habit of philosophical reflection. These three parts are supplemented by an extensive series of Glosses, which provide deeper questions and connections to the historical traditions of philosophy from which the ideas in the main text were composed. These glosses serve as suggestions of other places to look for questions about topics such as time, motion, knowledge, causality, signs, and more.

Maybe you don’t think it’s a book for you. I could try to convince you otherwise, but either you have a hunger to ask the question or you don’t. But even if you don’t think it’s for you, I bet you can think of someone in your life who does have that hunger. [Link to book]