Education and Digital Life

The Founding Declaration of the Lyceum Institute, Education and Digital Life, has now been published in paperback, along with a series of related essays written by Faculty and Board Members of the Institute. This slim volume (117 pages) outlines the why for the Lyceum Institute’s existence as well as the manner in which it pursues its goals for education.

Here is an excerpt from the Declaration itself:

“All human beings, by nature, long for knowledge.”[1]  Composing the opening line of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, these are words familiar to many, and have rightfully inspired reflection for millennia: reflections on human nature and operations, as well as the good at which we, commonly human, are aimed.  To long for knowledge: this is not merely to want knowledge for some ulterior motive—making money, gaining power, defeating your enemies—but for its own sake.  We want to know because knowledge fulfills us, because it satisfies a need we experience, a need we suffer in every encounter with our own ignorance.  This longing is what Aristotle meant, and this fulfillment by knowledge, indeed, is what we long for by nature.

Many, both in the present and in decades and ages past, have suffered a diverting and anesthetizing of this longing by the proliferation of easier and lesser pleasures: why read, when you can watch a documentary; and why watch a documentary, when you can watch a comedy?  In the ubiquity of immersive entertainment media—radio giving way to television, to the internet, to streaming shows and movies seeping through every device in our homes—the slide into the ease of unthinking pleasure appears obvious.  But the diversion of our natures from their proper good occurs not only through our entertainments and pleasures, but is further fostered today even by the supposed institutions of learning—even, or perhaps especially, the most vaunted—which have themselves departed the path along which knowledge is sought, and instead flung themselves down the slippery slope of merely conveying standardized sets of information, or, far worse, disguising social activism in the garb of intellectual enrichment (the latter being merely the logical conclusion of abandoning, among other truths, the centrality of classical logic).  Rather than learning to discover what is through their own efforts, therefore, students are taught to receive and retain pre-packaged information about what is (or what is purported to be—no matter how discordant those claims from the cognition-independent reality), so that they might serve as functionaries for how we want ‘what is’ to be: information discovered, interpreted, and arranged by others, to the occlusion of—and thereby depriving us the freedom to ask—that most-human of questions, “What is that?”

Is this knowledge?  Is it learning?  We desire to know; but is that the same as receiving information, pre-determined, pre-packaged for us?  The currently common view of the universe—a reductionist view that posits the most-elemental parts of matter to be the truest reality, such that all other phenomena are merely various configurations thereof—holds that knowledge amounts indeed to nothing more than an organization of information; that our ability to know consists in the right configuration of parts in our minds, or even more reductionistically, our brains; and that what we signify by “information” is only a certain abstract descriptor of this configuration…

Is the mind “what the brain, body, and world around us” collectively do?  Perhaps that is true, in some way; but it is not very helpful for understanding what the mind really is, especially as something distinguished from the brain, body, and world.

No.  No thinking person can accept this flattening, this levelling out of what we know from our own experience to be different.  The mind is manifestly something more than any of its contributory sources or its necessary, integral parts, and—rather than by an enumeration or description of its materially-constitutive parts—we know any object of our inquiry best by discerning its characteristic action.

The action of the mind consists fundamentally in the seeking and understanding of the world in the light of knowledge; and knowledge subsists as a relation to the intelligible truth of objects themselves—the relation whereby is grasped the articulable reality of what is.  This seeking unfolds through observation and a questioning after what is observed: that is, observation and questioning which begets recognition that the things observed have explanations, causes, beyond what the observations themselves entail; and the subsequent attempt to discover those causes to better explain the observed effects.  The phenomena of our experience, in other words, are not self-explanatory, and what we mean by “knowledge” is just such explanation: the grasp of the causes, not merely inchoate, but in a manner that both the causes themselves and the grasp of them can be verbally expressed.  These explanations must be worked out with trial and error, with continued recursion to certain principles—which themselves must be discovered with some difficulty—with experimentation, reflection, and most of all a habit of inquiry; to continue questioning, again and again, seeking always to better understand what we have revealed, always seeking better to grasp the relation between cause and effect.

It is this knowledge, which grows into wisdom, that all human beings desire.

[1] i.348-30bc: Μετά τα Φυσικά, 980a21.
[2] Steven Pinker 1997: How the Mind Works, 21.

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Reclaiming Wisdom – Summer Fundraising Campaign

Reclaiming Wisdom – Perennial Truths for the Digital Age

Once the center of Western culture, the University has lost its way.  For centuries, it was a force both stabilizing and civilizing, training young minds to discover the perennial truths by which they were elevated above the merely material concerns of our baser nature.  The University was a center of wisdom, guiding us to the principles by which we ought all to live. 

Today, however, we observe a culture in decay, and the root cause is the University itself… [read more]

The universities have abandoned the pursuit of wisdom for that of skills, for profits, for worldly success, for the latest ideological fashions.  What they have abandoned, we will reclaim.

The past two years have seen the Lyceum Institute continue to grow, develop, and has resulted in excellent work being done by our Faculty Fellows.  As our members and friends alike know, the Lyceum has not only already accomplished a great deal, but has the potential to do much more.  While money makes nothing happen of itself, it does help to remove some impediments for those striving to realize that potential.

And so, this summer, from June through August, we are ambitiously striving to raise $10,000.  We would be enduringly grateful to anyone who helps us reach that goal—or even just to reach towards it.  As a not-for-profit organization, we rely on the generous donations of supporters like yourself.  

Reclaiming Wisdom

Support the Lyceum Institute in providing access to perennial truths for the digital age and fostering a love and pursuit of wisdom through a community dedicated to bettering our philosophical habits.

Trivium: Rhetoric

Beginning the week of June 6, all Lyceum Institute members will have access to a 10-week course in the Art of Rhetoric. Discussion sessions will be held twice per week: Mondays at 6:00–6:45pm and Thursdays at 12:00–12:45pm (subject to change). Each week there will be an assigned reading, relevant practice, and brief lecture. Discussion sessions will cover both the reading and selected issues raised in the lecture.

The study of rhetoric is a study not only of defending ourselves against false accusations, slander, calumny, and other verbal assaults upon our character, but is further a study of making known the truth, so that it may speak for itself. If logic, which cannot be justly divorced from rhetoric, consists in learning the valid structures whereby one discovers truth for himself (by understanding the nature and action of thought), then rhetoric consists in the discovery of righteous means to persuade others to grasp those same truths—and, moreover, the ability to defend ourselves against the manipulative persuasions of others.

This talent resides not principally in the manipulative arrangement of language, but rather the effusion of virtue in that most-human of capacities, the linguistic. In the words of Quintilian:

The orator then, whom I am concerned to form, shall be the orator as defined by Marcus Cato, “a good man, skilled in speaking.” But above all he must possess the quality which Cato places first and which is in the very nature of things the greatest and most important, that is, he must be a good man. This is essential not merely on account of the fact that, if the powers of eloquence serve only to lend arms to crime, there can be nothing more pernicious than eloquence to public and private welfare alike, while I myself, who have laboured to the best of my ability to contribute something of value to oratory, shall have rendered the worst of services to mankind, if I forge these weapons not for a solider, but for a robber… To this must be added the fact that the mind will not find leisure even for the study of the noblest tasks, unless it first be free from vice… vileness and virtue cannot jointly inhabit in the selfsame heart, and… it is as impossible for one and the same mind to harbour good and evil thoughts as it is for one man to be at once both good and evil… Consequently, the bad man and the perfect orator can never be identical.

Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, lib.12, c.1

This course is open to all Lyceum Institute members. Download the syllabus or find out more in the links below.

Learn more about Rhetoric at the Lyceum

The Lyceum Institute offers courses in all three arts of the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Together, they form a core of knowledge necessary to every educated human being.

Learn more about our approach at the links below.


Enroll

Trivium courses are included in every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute. See enrollment options here.

Trivium: Logic

Logic as a Liberal Art – HFS Books
Houser: Logic as a Liberal Art
[Order – Amazon] [Order – CUA Press]

Beginning the week of January 10, all Lyceum Institute members will have access to a 13-week course in traditional Logic. Discussion sessions will be held twice per week: Mondays at 6:00-6:45pm and Thursdays at 11:45am-12:30pm (subject to change). Each week there will be an assigned reading, problem set, and brief lecture. Discussion sessions will cover both the reading and selected problems.

But why study traditional logic? Some will say it has been obsolesced by modern (symbolic) logic. Others will say that it is a frivolous activity used even less commonly in “real life” than algebra or calculus. Both are wrong: for though we do not break down our propositions and arguments into formal, syllogistic formulas, by a deep familiarity with their structure, their rules, and their application in natural language, we are able to recognize illogical arguments from others and to construct more logical arguments ourselves.

To quote our primary textbook, R.E. Houser’s logic as a Liberal Art:

The natural habitat of logic is the verbal and written language of ordinary human discourse, including the high-level verbal discourse that occurs in university courses.  The man who invented this approach to logic was Aristotle, who wrote the first textbooks in logic in the fourth century B.C.  The main reason why this approach is preferable for most people is that it avoids the two problems that have plagued the teaching of symbolic logic during its heyday and up to the present.  First, the verbal approach is clearly preferable for those who have math phobia.  The problems used in the verbal approach are set out in ordinary language, language that often contains clues that help us to understand the logic of verbal discourse.  Such clues, of course, are missing from the mathematical symbols used in symbolic logic.  Second, the verbal study of logic has the advantage of avoiding the problem of needing to translate back and forth between abstract logical symbols and the more concrete verbal symbols we call words.  While mathematical symbols do on occasion help us see logical relations… by using ordinary or “natural” language to study logic we can avoid the large headache of translating from the language of symbols to ordinary language, and then back again.  So we content ourselves with the smaller but real headaches involved in searching out the logic contained within verbal or natural language.

Houser 2020: Logic as a Liberal Art, xxviii.

This characterizes our approach to the Trivium as a whole at the Lyceum: striving to master language as a real and integral part of thinking. In our logic course, we will focus on affecting clarity in thought so as to better express it in words. I hope you will join us!

Learn more about Logic at the Lyceum

The Lyceum Institute offers courses in all three arts of the Trivium: Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. Together, they form a core of knowledge necessary to every educated human being.

Learn more about our approach at the links below.


Enroll

Trivium courses are included in every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute. See enrollment options here.

How to be a Contemporary Thomist: The Case of Marshall McLuhan

The colloquium lecture delivered in November 2020 by Adam Pugen, PhD “How to be a Contemporary Thomist: The Case of Marshall McLuhan” is now available to the public. You can listen or download below (full lecture at the bottom). Please consider supporting the Lyceum Institute if you enjoy this lecture! The Lyceum Institute is currently fundraising for 2022 to support the pursuit of philosophy and dedicated thinkers like Dr. Pugen in their research, teaching, and publications.

How to be a Contemporary Thomist: The Case of Marshall McLuhan

Dr. Adam Pugen

Preview – Dr. Adam Pugen: How to be a Contemporary Thomist: The Case of Marshall McLuahn

In the fifth of the Lyceum Institute Colloquia, we present our own Adam Pugen, PhD, who brings us a discussion of Marshall McLuhan–who, despite his popularity as a “media guru”, was more fundamentally and consciously a Thomist–a discussion ranging through the influences of Chesterton, New Criticism, Jacques Maritain, analogy and metaphor, the Trivium (especially the deepening and expansion of grammar), and all this aimed at the meaning of what it is to truly be a Thomist in our own times. Not merely incidental but integral to true contemporary Thomism is the wrestling with our techno-media environments–and conversely, to understand in depth McLuhan’s own “medium is the message”, we must understand the Thomistic roots of his thinking.

Full Lecture

If you enjoyed this lecture, please consider supporting the Lyceum Institute with a small donation.

Funding the Lyceum Institute in 2022

Dear friends:

I need your help.

Two-and-a-half years ago I started an experiment: to see whether people genuinely and seriously interested could engage in a philosophical inquiry, online, dispersed around the country or even the world. The answer? “Yes”; but a “yes” that demanded more. As it turns out, those who are genuinely and seriously interested *always* want more. True answers raise new questions.

It quickly became evident that I could not answer all of those questions myself. Thus, the experiment expanded, and this past year, five others joined me–a first group of Faculty Fellows–in building an environment of inquiry. As they all discovered (a somewhat painful revelation, I think), it’s a lot more work than it seems–but also (I think), much more rewarding than one might anticipate. After years of teaching at the university level, one becomes a bit jaded about the nonchalance, the apathy, the mercenary disposition characteristic of many of our students. Encountering people who truly want to learn, who invest themselves into the study… it makes us remember why we got into academia in the first place.

I want to keep that rewarding if difficult work going. I want to keep building this environment of the Lyceum Institute. And so I am asking for your help. I’ll probably be asking for it again, too, but right now I’m asking you to help fund these Faculty Fellows, to fund our colloquium speakers, to fund our access to research materials–I’m asking you to help us become free from the constraints that have held honest intellectual work and philosophical education down for decades. To this end, I have started a $5000 fundraising campaign at GiveButter.com. Please, if you can, donate; share; participate. There’s more detail at the link. Anyone is welcome to sign up, or to come by a Happy Hour.

Thank you!

Support the Lyceum Institute’s Faculty Fellows

New Book – Linguistic Signification

Dr. Kemple has–at long last–finished his Linguistic Signification: A Classical and Semiotic Course in Grammar & Composition. Comprising twenty-six chapters and four appendices, this text is the work of two years concerted effort, but roughly a decade of thinking closely about the nature and function of language, particularly in light of the doctrine of signs–that is, semiotics. It is available in either paperback or hardcover from Amazon, or as a PDF to all Lyceum Institute members.

This book intends to serve one principal end: instructing students, of sufficiently mature mind, how to compose thoughtful and insightful essays in the English language. Accomplishing this rather specific end, however, requires a broad range of study: a study much broader than that comprised by a simple question of “how to write”. That is, we cannot write well unless we understand the instruments whereby writing is accomplished; or, to employ one of those instruments—the metaphor—the fruits of composition are nourished best through growing deep the roots of grammar. As we will see, this linguistic growth requires some knowledge also of logic and rhetoric: for although this book intends an introduction into the first study of the liberal arts, all three arts of the Trivium are nevertheless inseparably convergent in the flourishing of our natural human ability for linguistic signification.

We will combine some use of all the Trivium, however abecedarian our talents in these arts may still be, by the time we reach the final chapter. While we will draw upon logic and rhetoric, however, the focal study of grammar, as pursued in this book, forms not only the foundational but rather the central part of this non-trivial pursuit of the Trivium.

This aim is carried out through various readings, exercises, investigation of literature, philosophy, and more.

Trivium: Grammar – Fall 2021

Why study grammar? We might think it a basic necessity for young students–elementary students, perhaps into middle school–but of little importance by the time of high school, the competent student having gained the adequacy in composition and speech necessary to make him or herself understood to most persons in most situations. At most, an extended study of grammar seems to be for the aesthete or dilettante: not someone to be taken seriously.

Certainly, many who pride themselves on their study of the liberal arts do so out of pretension. But, in truth, a real study of the liberal arts–a study that seeks habituation in clear and deep thinking–suffers none of the pretensions which inhibit our ability to understand the world in which we live common to the typical person of today. At the foundation of such a study is grammar: for all the validity and soundness of logic, and all the persuasiveness of rhetoric, rely upon the structures of signification.

Thus, our course in grammar–which incorporates much from the paired arts of logic and rhetoric, especially as it aims also for the improvement of our abilities in composition–looks at these significative structures not merely in terms of rules, and correctness, but with an eye attuned to the reasoning which governs our linguistic systems.

The Trivium courses are available to all Lyceum Institute members. Enroll here. The Fall 2021 course begins 9/20/21!

Or see the Trivium: Grammar Page for more.

Lyceum Schedule [8/15-8/21]

Weekly Schedule of Events

8/16 Monday

  • Exercitium Linguae Latinae (2:00-2:30pm ET). Legemus ex Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata ut melioremus nostrum locutionem et augeamus familiaritatem vocabulis.

8/17 Tuesday

  • Ex Sancto Thoma Legimus (9:30-10:00am ET).  Legemus ex Sancto Thoma et convertit in linguam Anglicam; practicum bonum et utile est!
  • Philosophical Happy Hour (5:30-7:00pm ET). Join us for drinks, conversation, lively debates, and get to know the Lyceum Institute and its members!  Open to the public: use the “Send Us a Message” form here (write “Happy Hour” in the message box) and we’ll see you on Teams!

8/18 Wednesday

  • Exercitium Linguae Latinae (2:00-2:30pm ET). Legemus ex Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata ut melioremus nostrum locutionem et augeamus familiaritatem vocabulis.

8/19 Thursday

  • Ex Sancto Thoma Legimus (9:30-10:00am ET).  Legemus ex Sancto Thoma et convertit in linguam Anglicam; practicum bonum et utile est!
  • Elementary Latin Class (6:00-7:00pm ET).  Via Romae sunt multa et utile — audes quomodo servus improbus Medus ambulat ad Romam dum servi boni suos dominus in lecticam vehunt.  Legimus et convertimus ex capitulo VI!

8/20 Friday

  • Open Chat (9:30-10:30am ET). Our regular Friday-morning open chat, allowing conversation between those in the West and those in the East–bridging the international community of the Lyceum Institute.
  • Exercitium in Lingua Latina (11pm-12am ET).  Etiam exercitium in Lingua Latina!  Ista hora conveniens Orientalibus est (11am Manila time).

8/21 Saturday

  • Latin Class(10-11am ET).  Emere et vendere–labor mercatorum–est labor periculosus: quia saepe merces pretiosas in mare mersae sunt!  Discemus delphini, Arionis, Orpheus et plus dum legemus et convertemus ex capitulo XXIX!
  • Colloquium Discussion: Immediate or Delayed Hominization? (1-2pm ET).  With the discussion led by Dr. Michel Accad, Lyceum Institute members are invited to read a 1970 article by Fr. Joseph Donceel and a 1995 article by Fr. William Wallace on the question of whether hominization is immediate (upon conception) or delayed (occurring between conception and birth).  You can find the meeting thread here.

UPCOMING

9/1 Wednesday – Two sessions for the Quaestiones Disputatae, open for Inquirere or Defensio.  Morning (for Eastern members) and Evening (for Western members).  Anyone is welcome at either or both sessions.

Fall seminars will begin the first week of October!  Dr. Kirk Kanzelberger will be teaching on Evil, Dr. Matthew Minerd on Art, Aesthetics, and Thomism, and Dr. Kemple on the Metaphysics of God.  DETAILS TO COME THIS WEEK!

Trivium – tentative start date for the Grammar & Composition portion is planned for the week of September 19th.  

Symposium – beginning in October, Dr. Mark McCullough will be leading a twice-monthly discussion session proceeding through Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Details will be shared soon for this new experimental offering.

Lyceum Schedule [8/8-8/14]

Weekly Schedule of Events

8/9 Monday

  • Exercitium Linguae Latinae (2:00-2:30pm ET). Legemus ex Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata ut melioremus nostrum locutionem et augeamus familiaritatem vocabulis.
  • Ex Sancto Thoma Legimus (6:00-6:30pm ET).  Legemus ex Sancto Thoma et convertit in linguam Anglicam; practicum bonum et utile est!  Testing out varied times for practice!

8/10 Tuesday

  • Ex Sancto Thoma Legimus (9:30-10:o0am ET).  Legemus ex Sancto Thoma et convertit in linguam Anglicam; practicum bonum et utile est!
  • Philosophical Happy Hour (5:30-7:00pm ET). Join us for drinks, conversation, lively debates, and get to know the Lyceum Institute and its members!  Open to the public: use the “Send Us a Message” form here (write “Happy Hour” in the message box) and we’ll see you on Teams!

8/11 Wednesday

  • Exercitium Linguae Latinae (2:00-2:30pm ET). Legemus ex Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata ut melioremus nostrum locutionem et augeamus familiaritatem vocabulis.
  • Ex Sancto Thoma Legimus (6:00-6:30pm ET).  Legemus ex Sancto Thoma et convertit in linguam Anglicam; practicum bonum et utile est!  Testing out varied times for practice!

8/12 Thursday

  • Ex Sancto Thoma Legimus (9:30-10:00am ET).  Legemus ex Sancto Thoma et convertit in linguam Anglicam; practicum bonum et utile est!
  • Elementary Latin Class (6:00-7:00pm ET).  Discimus de familiam Iulii et Aemiliae, etiam villam et hortum!  Legimus et convertimus ex capitulo V!

8/13 Friday

  • Open Chat (9:30-10:15am ET). Our regular Friday-morning open chat, allowing conversation between those in the West and those in the East–bridging the international community of the Lyceum Institute.
  • Exercitium in Lingua Latina (11pm-12am ET).  Etiam exercitium in Lingua Latina!  Ista hora conveniens Orientalibus est (11am Manila time).

8/14 Saturday

  • Latin Class(10-11am ET).  “Quis est ille dominus tuus cui mare et venti oboedire videntur?” Medus inquit Lydiam.  Et ea instruit eum miraculos Iesu.  Legemus et convertemus ex capitulo XVIII!

UPCOMING

8/21 Saturday – A Colloquium Discussion on Immediate or Delayed Hominization.

9/1 Wednesday – Two sessions for the Quaestiones Disputatae, open for Inquirere or Defensio.  Morning (for Eastern members) and Evening (for Western members).  Anyone is welcome at either or both sessions.

Fall seminars will begin the first week of October!  Dr. Kirk Kanzelberger will be teaching on Evil, Dr. Matthew Minerd on Art, Aesthetics, and Thomism, and Dr. Kemple on the Metaphysics of God.  Keep your eyes open for more!

Trivium – stay tuned for updates!