Our Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor, Director of Catholic Studies, and Chair of Philosophy as Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, was on the Acton Line podcast of the Acton Institute last year (but just let us know recently!). Give a listen here:
With discussion sessions beginning this coming Saturday (9/23), I would be remiss if I did not put out a final call for registration in our Fall seminars. We have three provocative offerings, each of which promises to confront the errors of modernity in radically differing ways.
Registration for all seminars closes on 21 September 2023 at 11pm ET!
Though “semiotics” is a word coined only in the late 17th century—and used consistently and meaningfully beginning only in the late 19th—the study of signs and their actions goes back millennia. During those thousands of years, some of the most important contributions were made during the age often called “Medieval” (though it would be better termed “Latin”) and especially by the Scholastic thinkers. Listen to this two-part podcast as Brian Kemple joins Hunter Olson to discuss the key figures and ideas from this period.
And be sure to check out all the great interviews on the Dogs with Torches podcast!
In a world where habits often seem synonymous with unconscious and automatic reactions, it is time to revisit and explore the true depth and meaning of this vital aspect of human existence. The Lyceum Institute is pleased to present an 8-week intensive seminar on “Thomistic Psychology: Human Habits and Experience of the World.” Guided by the profound insights of Thomas Aquinas, the seminar will open up new horizons in understanding the complex reality of habits in human life.
Why Study Habits and Experience? The modern understanding of habit is often reduced to mere patterns of behavior. However, this seminar takes a unique approach, delving into the Thomistic tradition to unveil a more profound, multifaceted, and richer perspective. Further, this course intertwines the insights of Thomistic psychology with those derived from semiotics and phenomenology to examine not only the intrapersonal dimension of habits but also the intersubjective reality in community, culture, and environment.
- Understanding Habits in Depth: Learn about Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of habit as a coalescent actuality, shaping our actions, virtues, and vices, and how it stands in contrast to contemporary notions.
- Cultural Habit: Discover the influence of habits on how we relate amongst ourselves, a theme rarely drawn out explicitly in Thomistic texts but profoundly vital in our interconnected world.
- The Role of Other Traditions: Though focused on St. Thomas, we will take a diverse approach by invoking traditions such as semiotics and phenomenology and engage with authors like Felix Ravaisson, who have written extensively on habit.
Method & Structure
The seminar, designed for those with prior study in or familiarity with Thomistic Psychology, consists of:
- Weekly Recorded Lectures: 40-60+ minute lectures exploring concepts, arguments, and potential developments within the tradition.
- Discussion Sessions: Engage in collective inquiry and civil debate with fellow participants and the instructor every Saturday at 1:00-2:00 pm ET.
- Reading: Primary texts include Aquinas’ Summa theologiae (ST Ia-IIae) with additional readings provided in PDF.
- Time Commitment: Expect 8 hours per week for reading, lectures, and discussion.
- Auditing or Completing: Participants who write an essay may “Complete” the seminar (and be considered for publication in Reality).
Richness of Experience
This is not just a seminar but a deeply engaging experience that promises to enrich your understanding of human nature and the world around us. It allows an immersive exploration of texts, lectures, and lively discussions, bringing resolution to difficulties, enhancing intellectual curiosity, and directing further inquiry.
It is more than learning; it’s participation in a dynamic intellectual community, sharing thoughts, engaging in constructive debates, and fostering a collective pursuit of wisdom. Your contribution will not only enlighten you but others as well, and you’ll have the opportunity to have your work potentially evaluated for publication.
Join us at the Lyceum Institute for this enlightening journey, a course that goes beyond the conventional, offering a unique perspective that could redefine your understanding of habits and their role in human experience. Challenge your thoughts, deepen your insights, and be a part of a meaningful dialogue about human nature and culture. Register today for “Thomistic Psychology: Human Habits and Experience of the World,” and rediscover the richness of human existence.
|Standard price||Basic Lyceum|
|Advanced Lyceum Enrollment||Premium Lyceum Enrollment|
|Benefactor||$200 per seminar||$90||3 seminars included|
|8 seminars included|
|Patron||$135 per seminar||$65||3 seminars included|
|8 seminars included|
|Participant||$80 per seminar||$40||3 seminars included|
|8 seminars included|
Perhaps you have heard of Bryan Johnson, the wealthy man spending millions of dollars per year on a routine designed to reverse his age. This routine requires absolute conformity: every day of his life is controlled by the program titled “Blueprint”, which comprises routine measurement and treatment of: heart, brain, lung, the gastrointestinal tract, his hair, skin, eyes, ears, his oral health, sleep, bone marrow, pancreas, prostate, cardiovascular system—and which commits him to a strict diet, supplements, and exercise regimen. It runs his life 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He looks far younger than his 45 years. He also looks rather effeminate. He insists that he is happy, living a life controlled by precise measurements and prescriptions.
Measurement and Beauty
Bryan Johnson’s life may exceed mine in every quantifiable metric. But the unquantifiable? Can a life dictated by numbers be beautiful? Some would, doubtless, say yes. And certainly, beauty can be observed in and through numbers, especially as they settle into a proportion. One may think of the Fibonacci sequence: of itself, that 4+6=10 and 6+10=16 and 10+16=26 may seem insignificant. But apply this to font sizes:
Is this proportionality alone, however, sufficient to render something beautiful? It is necessary; but it is not sufficient. As Thomas Aquinas writes in his Summa theologiae:
In order that there be beauty, three things are required: First, integrity or perfection, because those things which are fragmented are, by that fact, rendered ugly. And second, due proportion or consonant harmony. And third, clarity, for which reason those things having a bright color are said to be beautiful.
The fitting proportion of our font sizes would be marred by unsuitable words (whether because they signify crass objects or signify objects in a crass manner; or because they make no sense)—and, similarly, if the words were all nonsense, we might say that the font is attractive, but we’d not call the passage beautiful.
Beauty: A Transcendental?
Some may, and for good reason, cite this as an argument against the beautiful being listed as a transcendental. Conventionally, predicates are regarded as being transcendental if they are “cross-categorical”: that is, if they can be said of something which in itself is found in any of Aristotle’s ten categories (substance, quantity, quality, relation, time, place, vestition, posture, action, and passion). Within the Thomistic tradition, this has led to a commonly-accepted list of transcendentals: being (ens), unity (unum), the good (bonum), and truth (verum). Astute readers of Aquinas’ Disputed Questions on Truth will know that he there, also and importantly, includes “thing” (res) and “something” (aliquid). This list is divided in two: some pertain to beings as they are in themselves, and the rest to beings as related to others. Those which are transcendentally predicated of beings as they are in themselves (in se) are being, unity, and thing; while those concerning relation to another (ad aliud) are good, true, and something (which, in its Latin etymology, is broken into aliud quid, i.e., “another ‘what’”).
The in se predicates concern us less, here, than the ad aliud. For certainly, if beauty is to be a transcendental, it would seem to fall into this category: beauty seems somehow to consist in its admiration, its attractiveness, and something can be admired by and attractive to only that which is other than itself. But, as Aquinas says elsewhere in the Disputed Questions on Truth (q.22, a.1, ad.12), the beautiful object as desirable is none other than the good (and peaceful!) object as desirable. That “good” is a transcendental follows from the revelation of every object as somehow desirable (just as “truth” follows from every object as somehow signifiable by our minds).
But there are other passages in Thomas Aquinas, particularly in his commentary on the Divine Names of Pseudo-Dionysius (and even in his questions on truth), that impart a unique significance to “beauty” and the “beautiful”—and, as I would like to suggest this evening, this unique significance consists in the intersection of the transcendental relativities of both good and true.
- Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, q.1, a.1.
- Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, q.21.
- In librum Dionysii De divinis nominibus expositio, c.4, lec.5.
The Point Magazine:
- Issue 30: What is beauty for?
- Rubin: The Meaning of “Beauty” and Its Transcendental Status in the Metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas (PhD dissertation).
- Scruton: Why Beauty Matters?
- Scruton: Beauty in a World of Ugliness.
Philosophical Happy Hour
Come join us for drinks (adult or otherwise) and a meaningful conversation. Open to the public! Held every Wednesday from 5:45–7:15pm ET.
“I know.” “I don’t know.” We say these two sentences all the time. But do we know what they mean? Do we know what it means, “to know”? For many persons, content as they are not to ask meaningful questions, there seems no need of an answer. But for anyone who wishes to have confidence in the coherence of life, it seems an essential question to ask. We cannot, after all, claim confidently to know anything if we do not know what it is to know.
John Vervaeke’s “Cognition”
But is it truly a great secret—an ineffable mystery? To hear some thinkers of the 21st century tell it, nobody truly had a good answer for what we mean by “knowledge”—or all its many associated terms—until recently. Some might claim we still have no good answer. One of the recent claimants to the answer is John Vervaeke, professor of psychology and cognitive science at the University of Toronto. To put Vervaeke’s theory in summation (which one can find more thoroughly-presented in this link), knowing is one form of cognition, which stands in contrast to functional information processing. The latter, in essence, comprises the neurological operations of the brain and all our sensory apparatus. “Knowing”, on the other hand, consists in four types:
- Propositional knowing. What ordinarily we signify by “knowledge”: the ability to form propositions which state what other things are, as , “That is a maple tree.”
- Procedural knowing. What we might also call “know-how”: a kind of embodied grasp of how to perform a certain function. I “know how” to type; my fingers move across the keyboard without having to explicitly think through which finger goes where.
- Perspectival knowing. This is the kind of knowing that understands the situation or environment in which one is placed. It is a general awareness of the objects constituting one’s surroundings.
- Participatory knowing. In short, “being comfortable in an environment”. This is described as being in a “state of flow”. Someone who gets on line at a bank, for instance, without having to deliberate or analyze the situation.
Connecting these two forms of cognition is Vervaeke’s theory of “recursive relevance realization”. Another way of saying this would be that, through our functional information processing, we form feedback loops that recursively inform us of the fittingness of what we “know”.
Thomism and Semiotics on Cognition
But is Vervaeke either saying anything truly new, or, for that matter, true? I would argue that nothing correct in the distinctions he provides has not been said by others, and, more poignantly, that the foundations of his approach (obscured behind the dazzling array of traditions and figures throughout history from whom he scrapes), are quite unstable. Indeed, Vervaeke has produced only a superficial mosaic behind which there stands no depth.
By contrast, as we will discuss tonight, the Aristotelian-Thomistic theory of cognition, which locates operations in faculties, belonging to the soul, and therefore provides an essential (rather than merely contextual) unity for our cognitive acts, produces a much richer theory of cognition. Correlatively (as Thomism was itself developing in this direction as late as the 17th century), semiotics provides a better explanation of how we interact with our environments. Together, the two schools of thought provide a more coherent picture not only of our cognitive lives but also of our place within the whole universe.
For central to the Semiotic-Thomistic approach is the reality of relation. We hope you’ll join us to talk through this great topic tonight in our casual online environment! Links below (if you join live, we only ask that you use a real name).
Philosophical Happy Hour
Come join us for drinks (adult or otherwise) and a meaningful conversation. Open to the public! Held every Wednesday from 5:45–7:15pm ET.
Tuis ergo obsequiis, lector, si quis veritatis, non novitatis amator occurreris, haec quaecumque sunt, offerimus tuoque iudicio mancipamus, certi, quod si quid boni repereris, non nostrum esse, facile poteris apprehendere. Vale.John Poinsot, Cursus Philosophicus – “Lectori”, Quarta Pars Philosophiae Naturalis
The study of Scholastic Latin—by which specifically we mean the Latin which emerged from the Carolingian Renaissance of the late 8th century and which lasted until the decline of the schools in the 17th century—presents several unique challenges. Most critical, however, is the philosophical and theological complexity which developed over its centuries. The great thinkers of the Scholastic tradition were often subtle, not only in their ideas but in how they expressed their thoughts.
One cannot truly learn Scholastic Latin, then, apart from some learning of its philosophy. Our Introduction to Scholastic Latin course—open to all enrolled members—has been designed with this truth in mind.
Overall Course Structure
This course is not intended for the faint of heart! Students should be generally familiar with the basics of Latin grammar and in possession of a core vocabulary before beginning the course. Enrolled members who have completed our Latin II course with a B+ or higher or Latin III with a B- and higher are eligible to participate. All others may take a placement test. (If you are not a member of the Lyceum Institute and wish to take our Scholastic Latin course, enroll by 22 August 2023 to take a placement test. Elementary courses will be offered starting in January 2024.)
We have divided this course into two parts, each of which will run for eight weeks. The first part will run from September 4 (9/4/23) through November 5 (11/5/23). The second will run from January 8 (1/8/24) through March 11 (3/11/24). In Part I, we will highlight several of the key grammatical and syntactical differences between Scholastic and Classical Latin. Students will become familiar with the structure of Scholastic writings and engage with key terminology of the Thomistic tradition. Part II will continue expositing some of the differences (particularly the “loosening” of several conventions) and introduce students to a wider variety of Scholastic authors.
The primary objective of the course is to instruct students in the competence of translating Scholastic Latin into English. Such focus will help us to unveil the philosophical insights of the texts examined. This is not a spoken-language course. Students will, however, have the opportunity to practice reading and pronouncing Latin, with focus on the Ecclesiastical pronunciation.
Each week will feature a combination of readings and translation exercises. Translation exercises are to be completed and submitted before the week begins. Readings should be completed before class. Classes will focus on reading from assignments, sight-reading new material, and discussing the assignments, both as to grammar and philosophy. The instructor will provide expository materials on particularly difficult points of grammar and philosophy alike each week as well.
The primary text for this course is Randall J. Meissen, LC’s Scholastic Latin: An Intermediate Course. This text includes H.P.V. Nunn’s Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin, a grammar which succinctly illustrates many of the ways in which Scholastic Latin differs from Classical (and which students may wish to purchase separately for the sake of convenience). Supplemental notes and readings will be provided by the instructor. Students may also wish to purchase a copy of Dylan Schrader’s very brief Shortcut to Scholastic Latin. All additional readings, including those used for Translation Exercises, will be provided by the instructor.
All of our Introductory Latin courses—including Introduction to Scholastic Latin—are included in every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute. See enrollment options here. Enroll by 22 August 2023 to participate in Scholastic Latin!
Today’s Philosophical Happy Hour concerns the issue of “tolerance”. As Geoffrey Meadows, who will be leading the discussion, writes:
Tonight I thought we might discuss the definition, limit, and moral status of “tolerance,” since our discussion on kindness uncovered this underlying sensibility of our age.
Perhaps a series of guided questions can get us started thinking about it.
Is tolerance some kind of virtue? If so, under which cardinal virtue does it properly belong? Perhaps patience? If not, is it a vice and to what species of vice does it properly belong? Perhaps cowardice? Is it, in itself, morally neutral?
Some have attributed a kind of doctrine of tolerance to St. Thomas taking their cues from his treatise on law (e.g., I-II q. 96 a. 2). Essentially, they argue that since the civil authority must permit or endure certain harms or evils, the citizen must also permit them. We are brought by the above to the limit(s) of tolerance. Which evils and harms can be permitted? On what basis might governments and individuals make such judgments? Is it a matter for prudence alone?
Join us this evening (5:45—7:15pm ET) for a lively discussion about tolerance, intolerance, law, prudence, authority, and the moral good! It’s a small step in the right direction.
Philosophical Happy Hour
Come join us for drinks (adult or otherwise) and a meaningful conversation. Open to the public! Held every Wednesday from 5:45–7:15pm ET.
Unless you have been living under a rock—which might in fact be quite an enviable place to live, these days—I should not need to point out that masculinity has been a controversial topic over the past decade. I could argue here against the various claims that have been made against something like a “traditional” concept of masculinity, but I would rather not stick my toes into the cesspool of such thoughts. I could also take up the various claims for a “traditional” concept of masculinity—claims, of course, not very traditional at all, but which instead laud the abuses of pre-modern relations between men and women as though they were the norm. Rather, I want simply to talk about what masculinity is, without any qualifying adjectives.
Meaning of “Masculine”
To do this, let us ask: what do we typically mean in using the word “masculine”? Derived from the Latin masculus, it is usually used as an adjective meaning “male”. We also often transform this concrete descriptor into an abstract noun; that is, we use “masculine” to describe individuals, but we talk about “masculinity” as an object in its own right. Clearly, such an abstractly signified object is not a thing in itself: you cannot go out and poke masculinity in the ribs, or slap it in the face (no matter how much some people would seemingly love to), because it is not something which exists apart from the individuals in which it exists, and yet, at the same time, it does not reduce to any or even all of those individuals.
In other words, what we signify by the word “masculinity” is a pattern of possibilities which is only ever partially realized in actuality, in individuals. There are infinite degrees of possible masculinity, though not infinite ways in which one can be masculine, for there is an essential configuration of this pattern, and without that essential configuration—no matter how many other realizations of the pattern one manifests—one cannot be masculine.
Naturally, we need therefore to identify the essential configuration of the pattern of masculinity. Because of recent postgender ideology, many defenders of masculinity have focused on the biological aspect. The distinctive male physiology is, of course, very important. But there is a trap in thinking exclusively or primarily about masculinity from the biological perspective: namely, that it often leads to reductionism. That is, if we look for the cause of the distinction of masculine from feminine solely in terms of genes and hormones, we are missing the bigger picture, and often implicitly accept ourselves a reductionistic and materialistic causal framework which is ultimately self-defeating. Yes, to be sure, testosterone is important to masculinity. So is the SRY protein. So is the Y-chromosome. But no quantity of testosterone makes a male human being “masculine” in the humanly-meaningful sense. While someone cannot truly be masculine without these biological components—that is, we can describe a woman as being rather “masculine” in the sense that she possesses many incidental traits of masculinity, but she is not and cannot be essentially masculine—the requisite biology alone does not make someone masculine.
Nor, for that matter, can the masculine (or the feminine) be truly explained by evolutionary psychology. One finds so-called “hypermasculine” types (the kind who would describe themselves as “alphas”—those who pursue sex, money, power, etc., as the ends of life itself) commonly subscribing to this theory. Such evolutionary reductionism, however, seeks primarily to excuse immoral behavior by claiming that it stems from an impulse to reproduce, to further one’s genetic line, to have dominion—to “be the alpha”. But this explanation does nothing to say what it is to be a man. Rather, it tries to circumvent that question by bald assertion; it avoids the properly human function of questioning and subsequently thinking-through what is questioned by rooting all action in “pre-rational” motives of the given. It tries to reduce moral action to biological imperatives—and thereby excuse immoral stupidity.
To put the true exposition, by contrast, in Aristotelian-Thomistic causal terms: the form of masculinity, which is a property of the substantial form of being human, requires in any individual that it possess a certain kind of matter, just as the form of humanity requires in any individual that there be bones and flesh and so on (to use Aquinas’ example). Any masculine individual must have the Y-chromosome and testosterone, from which there will be further consequences enabling the actions befitting a masculine individual, such as greater muscle growth (relative to women), male genitalia, a neurochemical tendency towards responding to situations with aggressiveness, and so on. But the form of humanity is irreducible to having flesh and bones and organs in the correct disposition and proportion, and so too is the form of masculinity irreducible to having testosterone and muscles and man-parts in the correct disposition and proportion. That is: the form of humanity consists principally in certain operations, most especially those concerned with virtuous exercise of the faculties which are distinctive to being human: those faculties of the intellect and will, which redound to and thereby elevate the faculties we share in common with other animals.
The form of masculinity, as differentiated from femininity, does not produce specifically-distinct faculties in the human being and so does not produce distinct operations. It does, however, modulate the faculties and therefore modifies the right or fitting way for a man to perform certain operations as opposed to the right way for a woman to perform certain operations. In other words, depending upon one’s biological sex—as the material disposition required by the form of either masculinity or femininity—there are different fitting patterns of operation; and these fitting patterns are what we call gender. There is something incomplete, I would posit, about someone with masculine biology who does not conduct himself within the fitting patterns of masculine gender, and likewise someone having feminine biology who does not conduct herself within the fitting patterns of feminine gender.
Foregoing any discussion of the feminine, how do we determine whether or not the pattern of one’s operations, however, befits his masculine form? If our only criterion is whether the operations seem enabled by the biological, we will again miss the point. We need to look beyond the formal and the material, in other words. Specifically, here, we need to look also at three further kinds of causes.
First is the objective or specifying cause. This is a kind of causality unfamiliar to most people—it is not found in the traditional Aristotelian taxonomy but is a development of later scholasticism which has remained buried to most thinkers for centuries. I have gone into greater detail in other publications. But to give a succinct presentation, the objective or specifying cause is an extrinsic formal cause, one which determines our cognitive and cathectic faculties by presenting to us objects in specific ways. This cause differs for men and women insofar as their faculties, as aforementioned, are modulated by their respective masculine and feminine forms. Put otherwise, nothing differs on the part of the object as it is independently of the person who receives it, but something is indeed different on the part of the recipient. That such a difference occurs has been demonstrated by a number of studies showing, for instance, different toy preferences in very young children. Male and female are not differently determined by all objects, or in all ways, but in many and perhaps most objects they likely are—even if only very slightly—but especially if they have grown up and maintained for years a kind of bifurcated environment fitting to their respective forms. A girl brought up in the company of boys will likely develop more tomboyish attributes and be more alike to boys in the way she is determined by objects, whereas a boy brought up in the company of girls will likely develop more-typically feminine interests and responses. These are not all wrong in all ways, but if excessive do result almost invariably in some one or another unfitting habituation for each sex with respect to gender, and, following that, with respect also often to sexual orientation. Moreover, the media to which a mind is regularly attuned will have similar consequences. The excess of fantasy-universe media attention, for instance, tends to distort our conceptualization insofar as it distorts our habituated patterns of image-creation.
Regardless, the point I am attempting to convey here is that the objects to which we direct our minds (and by which our minds are directed) are both influenced by and influential over the patterning of our gender: either in ways which are fitting to our forms or ways which are unfitting. A girl may enjoy watching sports without losing her femininity, and a boy may feel great empathy for animals or children without losing his masculinity; but a girl who wishes to be very muscular and strong does lose something of her femininity and a boy who wishes to wear dresses and look pretty loses something quite important to his masculinity.
This brings us to the second kind of cause we cannot afford to here overlook: the internal final cause. Every living individual has, by virtue of the essential form making it to be the kind of thing that it is, an end or a goal through which that living organism attains its perfection. Often, this internal final cause results in a series of concatenated relative final causes. For instance, someone seeking happiness seeks a spouse, and seeking a spouse seeks to make himself attractive, and seeking to make himself attractive, dresses nicely and works out, and so on and so forth. Getting fit is an end, as is dressing nicely, as is appearing attractive, as is finding a spouse. Since happiness—in the Aristotelian, eudaimonic sense—is the final cause of all human beings, our question is: how is this pursuit modulated by the form of masculinity?
This is a question every man must contemplate for himself, I believe. For it is an ethical question, and ethical questions—while they may be understood from and interpreted through some universal laws—always require particular resolutions. That is, the masculine modulation of virtue will be slightly different for every individual human male, but there are certain commonalities. The virtue of courage, for instance, as specifically male, skews far closer to recklessness than caution than it does for women, for the most part. But I think a specific modulation by sex and gender which has often been overlooked regards the virtue of prudence. The virtue of prudence is the virtue of right reasoning concerning things to be done, i.e., actions to be taken. Now you might say, “How can right reasoning be distinctively male or female? Isn’t reasoning common to both men and women? Are you saying men are more reasonable than women!?” To answer these questions in reverse: no, men are not more reasonable than women; yes, reasoning is common to both, but it is distinctively male or female insofar as being formally differentiated we very typically, with rare exception, grow up being habituated to reason in different ways: not that we see different intellectual truths, but we do form different phantasms, insofar as we are differently specified by the objects, as mentioned above.
That is: men’s reasoning concerning things to be done is often focused on attaining results: on implementing plans, on who can do what, how, when, and where; while women’s reasoning concerning things to be done more often focuses upon the persons involved; on how they might or will be effected, are treated well, and so on. That’s not to say women cannot be good planners or that men cannot be empathetic. We are looking, rather, at typical and malleable patterns. But there is good reason that these patterns tend to follow the way that they do: the biological foundations of each tends to conduce to them and each conduces to the other as complementary attributes; each completes the other.
This complementarity leads us into the last of our causes to consider, the external final cause. We are each of us parts of a whole greater than any one of us. While there is a unique dignity to the human individual which makes each—as a comprehendor of the universe, in some sense—greater than all the material whole, we are nonetheless still subordinate to a common good. This unique dignity ties into so many things—many more than I could reasonably talk about here—being a good husband, a good father, a good leader in the community when called upon to do so, a good follower of other leaders when it is their talents that are called upon, and so on.
I suppose in sum, masculinity primarily consists in understanding yourself and how you are related to the things around you. This self-understanding seems hard for many to grasp today; we live in an age of illusions, where media deeply infects our minds with habits of fantasy found hard to shake, and where the promise of technological mastery suggests that we may realize these fantasies. Perhaps we may; and in gaining the whole of our desire, lose our souls.
 Understood, that is, in the sense of that which is precisely as in relation to a cognitive subject (or at least semiosic agent). Cf. Deely 2009: Purely Objective Reality, 8-15.
 See, for instance, 2022: Introduction to Philosophical Principles.
The work of John Poinsot, also known as Joannes a Sancto Thoma (though as John Deely noted, his name has often been given in many other variations, across English, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, French, and Latin), has long been the victim of great neglect. His Cursus Philosophicus was critically-edited and published in the 1930s under the blessed endeavor of Beatus Reiser, O.S.B., and reprinted in 2008 by Olms Verlag. Currently, his Cursus Theologicus is undergoing a similar critical evaluation and re-publication.
Though the facsimile reprint volumes here are taken from the non-critical and therefore somewhat unreliable Latin text Vives edition of the 1880s, they are presented in full and affordably. The far superior critical Solesmes edition has thus far reached only the fifth volume (in 2015) and sits outside the price-range of many.
However, in the meantime and in an effort to promote the study and understanding of Poinsot, these ten volumes (the tenth being the index to the whole series) are presented as-is, in a reasonably durable, reasonably affordable set. All the volumes are entirely in Latin. Note that only the first four volumes were completed in Poinsot’s lifetime. The rest were compiled and edited by followers of his posthumously after his sudden death in 1644, drawing from notes he had left behind.
The total cost for all 15 printed volumes (10 tomes), before tax, is $261. They are also available here to download free in PDF. Please consider donating if you do! (If anyone tried downloading before, I had uploaded the wrong Zip file! Apologies! Corrected now.)
Brief Table of Contents
- Tomus Primus – Summary of the Sentences of Peter Lombard; introduction to and approbation of St. Thomas; Sacred Theology; God’s existence and nature.
- Tomus Secundus – Attributes of God; the Work of the Six Days.
- Tomus Tertius – I – The Ideas, Truth, Life, and Will of God.
- Tomus Tertius – II – God’s Love, Justice, Mercy, Providence, etc.
- Tomus Quartus – I – Mystery of the Sacred Trinity; Creation.
- Tomus Quartus – II – Treatise on the Angels.
- Tomus Quintus – I – Ultimate End of Humans; Human Acts.
- Tomus Quintus – II – Human Acts; their Goodness and Evil.
- Tomus Sextus – I – Good and Evil of Human Acts; Passions, Habits, Virtues.
- Tomus Sextus – II – Effects of the Holy Spirit, Grace, Justification.
- Tomus Septimus – I – Faith, Hope, Charity, Authority of the Pope; Homicide.
- Tomus Septimus – II – Irregularity; Religion, Devotion, Prayer, Miscellaeny.
- Tomus Octavus – The Incarnation.
- Tomus Nonus – Sacraments in general; the Eucharist; Penance.
- Tomus Decimus – Indices.
cursus theologicus – complete volumes
In this first volume of his Cursus Theologicus, John Poinsot summarizes the four books of Peter Lombard’s Sentences, gives an introduction to the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, explains the connection and order of the whole Summa Theologiae, provides a treatise lauding and defending the authoritative teaching of St. Thomas, and exposits the first seven questions of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologiae.
In the second volume of his Cursus Theologicus, Poinsot continues his commentary on the treatise concerning the divine nature, from question eight through fourteen, before turning to the work of the six days of creation, in questions sixty-five through seventy-four, all of the Prima Pars in the Summa Theologiae.
In the first of two parts in volume three of his Cursus Theologicus, Poinsot discusses the ideas of God, truth and falsity with respect to Him, and pursues the questions of God’s life and will. Here he follows and exposits the wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae Prima Pars.
In the concluding part of volume three in his Cursus Theologicus, Poinsot discusses many more topics concerning God: His love, justice and mercy, providence, potency, and beatitude. He also takes up here the questions of predestination—not only expositing St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae Prima Pars, but responding also to a pressing concern of his own age.
In this, the first part of the fourth volume in his Cursus Theologicus, Poinsot provides two treatises commenting upon the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologiae: first concerning the mystery of the sacred trinity, and second, concerning creation.
In this, the second part of the fourth volume in his Cursus Theologicus, Poinsot delivers a thorough treatise concerning the angels, commenting upon the corresponding part in the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologiae.
This, the first of two volumes in the fifth tome of Poinsot’s Cursus Theologicus, covers the first nine questions in the Prima Secundae of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, comprising the treatise on the ultimate end for human beings, and the beginning of the treatise on human acts.
The second of two volumes in the fifth tome of Poinsot’s Cursus Theologicus, this volume completes the treatise on human action and considers the goodness and evil of human acts, continuing to build our understanding of the Prima Secundae in Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae.
The first of two parts in volume six of his Cursus Theologicus, here Poinsot completes his discussion of the goodness and evil of human acts and takes up also the passions, habits, and virtues, expounding upon the insights of St. Thomas Aquinas in his Prima Secundae of the Summa Theologiae.
In this, the second of two parts in volume six of his Cursus Theologicus, Poinsot continues examining and expositing the Prima Secundae of Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, taking up the topics of gifts, blessings, and fruits of the Holy Spirit, before turning to grace and justification.
Here, in the first of two parts in the seventh volume of his Cursus Theologicus, and acting as commentary upon the Secunda Secundae of Aquinas’ Summa Theologia, Poinsot treats of faith, hope, charity, the authority of the pope, and dedicates a question specifically to homicide.
In the second of two parts in volume seven of the Cursus Theologicus, John Poinsot discusses canonical impediments to holy orders (irregularity), the nature of religion, devotion, prayer, and various other questions pertaining to the conduct of spiritual life, following prompts from the Secunda Secundae of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae.
In this eighth volume of his Cursus Theologicus, Poinsot takes up commentary on the Tertia Pars of Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, discussing the many nuances which follow upon the Incarnation.
In this, the final substantive volume of the Cursus Theologicus, Poinsot completes his consideration of the Tertia Pars of Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, with treatises concerning the sacraments in general, the sacrifice of the mass, the Eucharist, and of penance.
This volume contains an invaluable set of indices to all ten tomes, including all citations of Sacred Scripture sorted by book, and a general, analytic index sorted alphabetically.