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⚘ Poinsot: The Essence of the Sign | Brian Kemple

On 26 November 2022 at 11am ET (see event times around the world here and join the live Q&A here), Dr. Brian Kemple will present on “Poinsot: The Essence of the Sign”. Dr. Kemple holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas, in Houston TX, where he wrote his dissertation under the inimitable John Deely. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute.

Philosophical interests and areas of study include: Thomas Aquinas, John Poinsot, Charles Peirce, Martin Heidegger, the history and importance of semiotics, scholasticism, phenomenology; as well as ancillary interests in the liberal arts, technology, and education as a moral habit. He has published two scholarly books—Ens Primum Cognitum in Thomas Aquinas and the Tradition (Brill: 2017) and The Intersections of Semiotics and Phenomenology: Peirce and Heidegger in Dialogue (De Gruyter: 2019), as well as a number of scholarly articles, popular articles, and his own Introduction to Philosophical Principles: Logic, Physics, and the Human Person (2019; 2nd edition 2022) and the forthcoming Linguistic Signification: A Classical Course in Grammar and Composition (2021).

In addition to being the Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute, he is the Executive Editor of Reality: a Journal for Philosophical Discourse.

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).

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.

[Fall 2022] Semiotics: Peirce and the Modern Spirit

“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 was. As Deely goes on:

View the syllabus!

Charles Sanders Peirce (1389–1914) was the man who fully introduced into the great conversation of philosophy the unconsidered assumption which had made the way of ideas seem viable to the moderns, the assumption, to wit, that the direct objects of experience are wholly produced by the mind itself. In philosophy, he was raised on The Critique of Pure Reason. He claimed to know it by heart. When he said “No!” to Kant, it meant something.

Now why did he say no?

John Deely 2001: Four Ages of Understanding, 611-12.

The answer to this question—why did Peirce say “no” to Immanuel Kant—as Kirk Kanzelberger will show us in this seminar, is the answer “no” to all modern philosophy. To demonstrate this severe criticism, we will read across a selection of texts from Peirce’s career, spanning from 1868–1908 (all available in the two volumes of the Essential Peirce: Volume I, Volume II, which are inexpensive in paperback and very inexpensive in Kindle formats). These readings will demonstrate an insight into Peirce’s own theory of cognition, in stark contrast to that held by the moderns, as well as his insight into the coherence of this thinking with the universe at large.

Discussion Sessions
10:00am ET

(World times)
Study Topics &
Readings

September
24
Week 1: Introduction
Lecture: “Descartes and the Modern Spirit”
Required Readings:
» Renee Descartes, Discourse on Method (selection)
» Renee Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy (selection)
» Walker Percy, “The Fateful Rift: The San Andreas Fault in the Modern Mind”

Recommended Listening:
» Kanzelberger, K., “Mending the Cartesian Rift: Walker Percy on Being Human” (2020 Lyceum Institute Colloquium lecture audio recording)
October
1
Week 2: “All Thought is in Signs”
Lecture: From Intuitionism to Semiosis
Required Readings:
» Questions Concerning Certain Faculties Claimed for Man (EP vol. 1, item 2)
» Some Consequences of Four Incapacities (EP vol. 1, item 2) (selections TBD)
October
8
Week 3: “Beliefs… Caused by Nothing Human”
Lecture:  From Rationalism to the Pragmatic Maxim
Required Readings:
» The Fixation of Belief (EP vol. 1, item 7)
» How to Make Our Ideas Clear (EP vol. 1, item 8)
October
15
Week 4: “Tychism”
Lecture: Guessing the Riddle (Part I)
Required Readings:
» The Architecture of Theories (EP vol. 1, item 21)
» The Doctrine of Necessity Examined (EP vol. 1, item 22)
Optional Reading:
» “A Reply to the Necessitarians” (Collected Papers, vol. 6, 588-618)
October
22

BREAK
October
29
Week 5: “Synechism; Agapism”
Lecture: Guessing the Riddle (Part II)
Required Readings:
» The Law of Mind (EP vol. 1, item 23)
» Man’s Glassy Essence (EP vol. 1, item 24)
» Evolutionary Love (EP vol. 1, item 25)
November
5
Week 6: “If There is Any Goddess of Nonsense, This Must Be Her Haunt”
Lecture: Peirce on the Denial of Final Causality
Required Readings:
» On Science and Natural Classes (EP vol. 2, item 9)
November
12
Week 7: “Signs and States of Mind”
Lecture: The Science of Signs (Part I)
Required Readings:
» What Is a Sign? (EP vol. 2, item 2)
» Of Reasoning in General (EP vol. 2, item 3)
November
19
 Week 8: “Signs and the Three Universal Categories”
Lecture: The Science of Signs (Part II)
Required Readings:
» Sundry Logical Conceptions (EP vol. 2, item 20)
» Excerpts from Letters to William James (EP vol. 2, item 33)

This seminar is open to all participants, regardless of prior experience. View the syllabus here and learn more about Lyceum Institute seminars here.

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principle of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, priced according to likely levels of income. If you wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the suggested rate, it is acceptable to sign up at a less-expensive level. The idea is: pay what you can. Those who can pay more, should, so that those who cannot pay as much, need not. Lyceum Institute members receive a further discount (see here for details).

Registration is closed.

Peirce on proper names | by Francesco Bellucci

This event is part of the activities of the 2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics: a Tribute to John Deely on the Fifth Anniversary of His Passing, cooperatively organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies, the International Center for Semiotics and Intercultural Dialogue, Moscow State Academic University for the Humanities and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

Francesco Bellucci holds a PhD in Semiotics (Università di Siena, 2012) and is currently Associate Professor at the Department of the Arts of the University of Bologna in Italy. He has worked at the Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia (2013–2017) and was visiting researcher at the Peirce Edition Project, IUPUI, Indianapolis (2016). His research interests focus on Peirce’s logic, the theory and the history of semiotics, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of notation. He is the author of Peirce’s Speculative Grammar (Routledge, 2017).

Vincent Colapietro is Liberal Arts Research Professor Emeritus at the Pennsylvania State University. He is presently at the Center for the Humanities (University of Rhode Island). One of his main areas of research is pragmatism, with emphasis on Peirce. Though devoted to developing a semiotic perspective rooted in Peirce’s seminal work, Colapietro draws upon a number of other authors and perspectives (including Bakhtin, Jakobson, and Bourdieu as well as such movements as phenomenology, hermeneutics, and deconstruction). He is the author of Peirce’s Approach to the Self (1989), A Glossary of Semiotics (1993), Fateful Shapes of Human Freedom (2003), and Acción, sociabilidad y drama: Un retrato pragmatista del animal humano (2020) as well as numerous essays. He has written on a wide range of topics, from music (especially jazz) and cinema to psychoanalysis and deconstruction, from art and literature to ontology and phenomenology. He has served as President of the Charles S. Peirce Society, the Metaphysical Society of America, and the Semiotic Society of America.

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.

Signs of Meaning: The Need for Semiotics

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

Recording of the Live Q&A available to Lyceum Institute Members
Thursday 7 July 2022 6:00pm ET
Lecture Below

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

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


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

Philosophy, Faith, and Signs

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

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Philosophizing in Faith – What is final causality?

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

Wisdom & Culture

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

Seven Interfaces of Philosophy – What is knowledge?

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

[Summer 2022] Semiotics: Thought and Contributions of John Deely

Semiotics—toward which human beings took their first explicit steps in the beginning of the Latin Age of philosophy, in the work of St. Augustine of Hippo (350–430AD), an age that culminated in the thinking of John Poinsot (1589–1644)—is that by which we begin in a true postmodernism. This is one of the key and perhaps surprising claims of John Deely (1942–2017). That is, often today what is called “postmodernism” is nothing more, in fact, than an ultramodernism: a fragmentary, distorted view of the world grown out of the errors of modern philosophical thinking, run toward its natural, incoherent conclusions.

Listen to a preview here

Preview – Semiotics as origin of genuine post-modernism.

In contrast, consider this description Deely gives:

In a word, postmodernism is the opening of a passageway from the age of classical modern philosophy to an epoch as distinct from the modern age as the modern age was from Latin times, or Latin times from the ancient Greek period. The opposition of modernity to Latin (and Greek) times eventually took the form of the opposition of idealism to realism in philosophy. Postmodern thought begins, properly speaking, not so much by rejecting this opposition as by transcending it, for in experience integrally taken, mind-dependent and mind-independent being assert themselves equally—not “equally” in the quantitative sense, but “equally” in the sense of components both asserting themselves in different ways at different times and in different proportions throughout the course of human life, both together making up the one fabric of our lives we call “experience”.

What was needed for philosophy to mature [to postmodernism] was not so much a shift as an expansion, an expansion of the notion of reality—and with it, being—to include the whole experience as the prior ground out of which human understanding arises and on which it throughout depends. From the start, being should have been an inclusive, not an exclusive and oppositional notion. Being is not only “that which can only be said in many ways” (Aristotle), but that out of which the division between what is and what is not independent of the mind arises (Aquinas), and not in any finally fixed way, but differently according to the time and circumstances of the one experiencing such a contrast among objects.

Deely 1994: New Beginnings (18–19).

To understand and affect this maturation into postmodernity, we will turn our attention in this seminar to the major contributions to semiotics given by Deely: the proto-semiotic history, an expanded doctrine of causality,  the retrieved and clarified notion of relation, the concept of physiosemiosis, the continuity of culture and nature, the notion of purely objective reality, and the real interdisciplinarity which semiotics fosters. This is an advanced seminar which provides a serious challenge to all participants.

DISCUSSIONS:
July 2—27 August
Saturdays, 3:15-4:15pm ET /
7:15-8:15pm UTC

WHERE:
Lyceum Institute digital platform run on Microsoft Teams

In this seminar, lasting 8 weeks (with a break at the halfway point—see here for more information on all Lyceum Institute seminars), we will discover the enormous contributions to semiotics made by John Deely. The instructor for this seminar is Dr. Brian Kemple, who wrote his dissertation under Dr. Deely, and who is Executive Director of the Lyceum Institute. You can read more about Dr. Kemple here.

Lyceum Institute seminar costs are structured on a principle of financial subsidiarity. There are three payment levels, priced according to likely levels of income. If you wish to take a seminar but cannot afford the suggested rate, it is acceptable to sign up at a less-expensive level. The idea is: pay what you can. Those who can pay more, should, so that those who cannot pay as much, need not. Lyceum Institute members receive a further discount (see here for details).

[2022Su-B] Semiotics: Deely – Participant

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

$80.00

[2022Su-B] Semiotics: Deely – Patron

Recommended for those in professions that do not pay as well as they ought and for whom continued education is especially important (including professors and clergy).

$135.00

[2022Su-B] Semiotics: Deely – Benefactor

Recommended for those with fulltime employment in well-paying professions and sufficient resources to provide a little more in support of the Lyceum Institute and its mission.

$200.00