Home » trivium

Announcing: Latin 2024

We are delighted to announce our Latin courses available in 2024. But… why Latin? Does the study of Latin—a language spoken by no people, no country, no nation today—offer us anything other than an affectation or the satisfaction of niche reading (or liturgical) interests? Do we gain anything from this language itself, or does it provide us nothing more than a means to other pursuits?

In studying Latin, we enter a phase of language similar to the intimacy of family life… In Latin Grammar, every one theme [of grammatical structure] is still disclosing the full complexity of real life. The daily food of modern people speaking English does not contain, in every cell, so to speak, the full life of speech; the Latin does. And when you compare the real obstacles to efficient speech: confusion, indifference, fear, forgetfulness, to the minor difficulties of learning Latin, you will understand why people have learned Latin for so many centuries. It is difficult. But since it is so difficult to speak at all, we can hardly criticize too harshly the difficulties of learning another language.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, 1937: “Articulated Speech” in Speech and Reality.

The study of Latin, that is, proves fundamental not only to opening entire worlds of literature, philosophy, theology, and indeed the original language of a great many essential figures in the Western intellectual tradition, but also to our own growth in the ability to think at all. Few languages, understood in their grammatical depths, will so greatly increase the dexterity of thought. Thus we are delighted to offer six (and possibly more) courses in Latin for 2024:

We are very excited to continue inclusion of these courses, and to add Composition, within the repertoire of our Language program. Latin study is open to all enrolled members of the Lyceum Institute at no additional charge. Additionally, successful applicants to the Columbanus Fellowship will be able to join and fully participate in these courses (among many others) at no cost.

A Brief Life of St. Columban

“The missionary labours of the Irish were not confined to Great Britain, but extended far and wide through the west of Europe. In the sixth and seventh centuries, Irish monasteries were founded in Austrasia and Burgundy, Italy, Switzerland, Bavaria; they were established among Frisians, Saxons, Alemanni. And as centres of Latin education as well as Christianity, the names of Bobbio and St. Gall will occur to every one. Of these, the first directly and the second through a disciple were due to Columbanus. With him we enter the larger avenues of Irish missions to the heathen, the semi-heathen, and the lax, and upon the question of their efficacy in the preservation of Latin education throughout the rent and driven fragments of the western Roman Empire. The story of Columban’s life is illuminating and amusing.

“He was born in Leinster. While yet a boy he felt the conflict between fleshly lusts and that counter-ascetic passion which throughout the Christian world was drawing thousands into monasteries. Asceticism, with desire for knowledge, won the victory, and the youth entered the monastery of Bangor, in the extreme north-east of Ireland. There he passed years of labour, study, and self-mortification. At length the pilgrim mission-passion came upon him (coepit peregrinationem desiderare) and his importunity overcame the abbot’s reluctance to let him depart. Twelve disciples are said to have followed him across the water to the shores of Britain. There they hesitated in anxious doubt, till it was decided to cross to Gaul.

A Stern Figure in Europe

“This was about the year 590. Columban’s austere and commanding form, his fearlessness, his quick and fiery tongue, impressed the people among whom he came. Reports of his holiness spread; multitudes sought his blessing. He traversed the country, preaching and setting his own stern example, until he reached the land of the Burgundians, where Gontran, a grandson of Clovis, reigned. Well received by this ruler, Columban established himself in an old castle. His disciples grew in numbers, and after a while Gontran granted him an extensive Roman structure called Luxovium (Luxeuil) situated at the confines of the Burgundian and Austrasian kingdoms. Columban converts this into a monastery, and it soon included many noble Franks and Burgundians among its monks. For them he composed a monastic regula, stern and cruel in its penalties of many stripes imposed for trivial faults. ‘Whoever may wish to know his strenuousness (strenuitatem) will find it in his precepts,’ writes the monk Jonas, who had lived under him.

“The strenuousness of this masterful and overbearing man was displayed in his controversy with the Gallican clergy, upon whom he tried to impose the Easter day observed by the Celtic Church in the British Isles. In his letter to the Gallican synod, he points out their errors, and lectures them on their Christian duties, asking pardon at the end for his loquacity and presumption. Years afterwards, entering upon another controversy, he wrote an extraordinary letter to Pope Boniface IV. The superscription is Hibernian: ‘To the most beautiful head of all the churches of entire Europe, the most sweet pope, the most high president, the most reverent investigator: O marvellous! mirum dictu! nova res! rara avis!—that the lowest to the loftiest, the clown to the polite, the stammerer to the prince of eloquence, the stranger to the son of the house, the last to the first, that the Wood-pigeon (Palumbus) should dare to write to Father Boniface!’ Whereupon this Wood-pigeon writes a long letter in which belligerent expostulation alternates with self-debasement. He dubs himself ‘garrulus, presumptuosus, homunculus vilissimae qualitatis,’ who caps his impudence by writing unrequested. He implores pardon for his harsh and too biting speech, while he deplores—to him who sat thereon—the infamia of Peter’s seat, and shrills to the Pope to watch: ‘Vigilia itaque, quaeso, papa, vigila; et iterm dico: vigila’; and he marvels at the Pope’s lethal sleep.

Conflict with Brunhilde and Theuderic

“One who thus berated pope and clergy might be censorious of princes. Gontran died. After various dynastic troubles, the Burgundian land came under the rule nominally of young Theuderic, but actually of his imperious grandmother, the famous Brunhilde. In order that no queenwife’s power should supplant her own, she encouraged her grandson to content himself with mistresses. The youth stood in awe of the stern old figure ruling at Luxeuil, who more than once reproved him for not wedding a lawful queen. It happened one day when Columban was at Brunhilde’s residence that she brought out Theuderic’s various sons for him to bless. ‘Never shall sceptre be held by this brothel-brood,’ said he.

“Henceforth it was war between these two: Theuderic was the pivot of the storm; the one worked upon his fears, the other played upon his lusts. Brunhilde prevailed. She incited the king to insist that Luxeuil be made open to all, and with his retinue to push his way into the monastery. The saint withstood him fiercely, and prophesied his ruin. The king drew back; the saint followed, heaping reproaches upon him, till the young king said with some self-restraint: ‘You hope to win the crown of martyrdom through me. But I am not a lunatic, to commit such a crime. I have a better plan: since you won’t fall in with the ways of the world, you shall go back by the road you came.’

“So the king sent his retainers to seize the stubborn saint. They took him as a prisoner to Besançon. He escaped, and hurried back to Luxeuil. Again the king sent, this time a count with soldiers, to drive him from the land. They feared the sacrilege of laying hands on the old man. In the church, surrounded by his monks praying and singing psalms, he awaited them. ‘O man of God,’ cried the count, ‘we beseech thee to obey the royal command, and take thy way to the place from which thou camest.’ ‘Nay, I will rather please my Creator, by abiding here,’ returned the saint. The count retired, leaving a few rough soldiers to carry out the king’s will. These, still fearing to use violence, begged the saint to take pity on them, unjustly burdened with this evil task—to disobey their orders meant their death. The saint reiterates his determination to abide, till they fall on their knees, cling to his robe, and with groans implore his pardon for the crime they must execute.

Persistence in Mission

“From pity the saint yields at last, and a company of the king’s men make ready and escort him from the kingdom westward toward Brittany. Many miracles mark the journey. They reach the Loire, and embark on it. Proceeding down the river they come to Tours, where the saint asks to be allowed to land and worship at St. Martin’s shrine. The leader bids the rowers keep the middle of the stream and row on. But the boat resistlessly made its way to the landing-place. Columban passed the night at the shrine, and the next day was hospitably entertained by the bishop, who inquired why he was returning to his native land. ‘The dog Theuderic has driven me from my brethren,’ answered the saint. At last Nantes was reached near the mouth of the Loire, where the vessel was waiting to carry the exile back to Ireland. Columban wrote a letter to his monks, in which he poured forth his love to them with much advice as to their future conduct. The letter is filled with grief—suppressed lest it unman his beloved children. ‘While I write, the messenger comes to say that the ship is ready to bear me, unwilling, to my country. But there is no guard to prevent my escape, and these people even seem to wish it.’

“The letter ends, but not the story. Columban did not sail for Ireland. Jonas says that the vessel was miraculously impeded, and that then Columban was permitted to go whither he would. So the dauntless old man travelled back from the sea, and went to the Neustrian Court, the people along the way bringing him their children to bless. He did not rest in Neustria, for the desire was upon him to preach to the heathen. Making his way to the Rhine, he embarked near Mainz, ascended to the river, and at last established himself, with his disciples, upon the lake of Constance. There they preached to the heathen, and threw their idols into the lake. He had the thought to preach to the Wends, but this was not to be.

“The time soon came when all Austrasia fell into the hands of Brunhilde and Theuderic, and Columbanus decided to cross over into northern Italy, breaking out in anger at his disciple Gall, who was too sick to go with him. With other disciples he made the arduous journey, and reached the land of the Lombards. King Agilulf made him a gift of Bobbio, lying in a gorge of the Apennines near Genoa, and there he founded the monastery which was long to be a stronghold of letters. For himself, his career was well-nigh run; he retired to a solitary spot on the banks of the river Trebbia, where he passed away, being, apparently, some seventy years of age.

Love of Language and Learning

“It may seem surprising that this strenuous ascetic should occasionally have occupied a leisure hour writing Latin poems in imitation of the antique. There still exists such an effusion to a friend:

‘Accipe, quaeso,
Nunc bipedali
Condita versu
Munera parva.’

“The verses consist mainly of classic allusions and advice of an antique rather than a Christian flavour: the wise will cease to add coin to coin, and will despise wealth, but not the pastime of such verse as the

‘Inclyta Vates
Nomine Sappho’

was wont to make. ‘Now, dear Fedolius, quit learned numbers and accept our squibs—frivola nostra. I have dictated them oppressed with pain and old age: Vive, vale, laetus, tristisque memento senectae.’ The last is a pagan reminiscence, which the saint’s Christian soul may not have deeply felt. But the poem shows the saint’s classic training, which probably was exceptional.”

We might, I would suggest, fairly dispute a few qualifications and choices of description given by Henry Osborn Taylor in this, the recounting of St. Columban’s life, found in vol.1 of Taylor’s Medieval Mind—such as the suggestion that Columban’s Christian soul did not deeply feel the pagan reminiscence; though doubtless he did not feel it in a pagan manner.

Regardless, there is much we can learn from St. Columban’s life: his passion, fortitude, love of language, desire to preach and teach and to see truth triumph over fear and weakness. We hope that you will be inspired to promote the legacy of St. Columban through our Fellowship in his name!

Art of Rhetoric I: Discovery of Arguments

“…it is strange if it is a shameful thing not to be able to come to one’s own aid with one’s body but not a shameful thing to do so by means of argument, which is to a greater degree a human being’s own than is the use of the body.”

Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric, 1355a 40—1355b 3.

The nature and function of rhetoric have both long been matters of controversy, even among classical and like-minded authors. We find the reason for this controversy in the complex relationality of orator and audience: for each is ordered to an object, and the correspondence of such order a matter necessarily complex. That is, persuasion—with which rhetoric is concerned—concerns a myriad of relations. The rhetorician aims to bring these relations into alignment. Rhetoric as a study concerns first the discovery of the means of such alignment and, second, their application.

Discovering the means requires keen awareness of the instruments suitable for this task. In persuasion, we attempt to change another’s beliefs. That is, we attempt to convince another of the truth of some proposition so as to act in accordance with that truth when the occasion occurs. If we are corrupt, we will do so with disregard to that propositions’ truth ourselves. If we are righteous, we will seek the clear exposition of that truth. But before we can affect such exposition, we must be clear-sighted ourselves. Attaining such clarity is the goal of this, the first of two Art of Rhetoric courses offered at the Lyceum Institute.

Overall Course Structure

This course—as but one of eight courses in our Trivium program—is not intended to be taken as a standalone pursuit but integrated with the other arts. There are no prerequisites to our study of Rhetoric I: Discovery of Arguments, although it is encouraged that students begin with Grammar I: Foundations and Logic I: Basics of Argumentation.

The Art of Rhetoric I: Discovery of Arguments is 8 weeks long, with one brief recorded lecture and two recorded discussion sessions each week.  Each discussion session is structured around readings of Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric, Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria, and Edward Corbett’s textbook, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, with supplements and examples drawn from elsewhere in the tradition.  Our study within discovery will attend primarily to the works of Aristotle and Corbett.  Participants are expected to have read the assigned reading and listened to the lecture prior to the session, so that they may engage in a semi-structured discussion directed and moderated by the instructor and ask insightful questions about language and its use.  Moreover, continual discussion will foster that participation and engagement throughout the week.  Participants will be expected to partake in these discussions on a regular basis and will be challenged to do so directly.

Weekly Structure

Each week there will also be a 15 to 45-minute audio or video lecture, posted to Teams at the beginning of the week.  This lecture will be based upon the assigned reading, but will also stray into related topics, or may use the reading as a launching point for addressing some related issue (perhaps one more general, or perhaps one more specific). 

Though elements of the study of rhetoric can occur asynchronously—there being countless examples wherein we may encounter it on our own—discussions are nevertheless crucial for rightly directing our attention to the most salient points of expressing ourselves persuasively through language.  Accordingly, two discussion sessions per week (with a midway break) will be held on Mondays from 6:00-6:45pm ET and Thursdays from 12:00-12:45pm ET, beginning on 4 September 2023 and ending on 2 November 2023,

Required Texts

  • Edward P.J. Corbett’s Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student (in first or second editions; PDF provided though purchase strongly recommended).
  • Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric, translated by Robert C. Barlett (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019).
  • Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria in the Loeb edition (Latin-English facing; PDFs provided).
  • Some additional readings will also be required (PDFs to be provided).  Readings are subject to change.

Enroll Today

Study Rhetoric at the Lyceum

All Trivium courses are included in every level of Lyceum Institute enrollment. Sign up or take a Tour today to begin your mastery of language and deepening of thought.

Falling in Love with an Easy Life

An excerpt from the concluding pages of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, Part II, recollecting time spent in the Butyrki transit prison of central Moscow. In particular, he here notes a contrast with the prisoners of his own generation—most of whom fought in the Second World War with some pride in their service for the Motherland—and the younger prisoners. This younger generation, while their peers were busy “falling in love with an easy life”, saw through the falsehoods of socialism.

Dawn of the Great Truth

Was it not here, in these prison cells, that the great truth dawned? The cell was constricted, but wasn’t freedom even more constricted? Was it not our own people, tormented and deceived, that law beside us there under the bunks and in the aisles?

Not to arise with my whole land
Would have been harder still,
And for the path that I have trod
I have no qualms at all.

The young people imprisoned in these cells under the political articles of the Code were never the average young people of the nation, but were always separated from them by a wide gap. In those years most of our young people still faced a future of “disintegrating,” of becoming disillusioned, indifferent, falling in love with an easy life—and then, perhaps, beginning all over again the bitter climb from that cozy little valley up to a new peak—possible after another twenty years? But the young prisoners of 1945, sentenced under 58-10, had leaped that whole future chasm of indifference in one jump—and bore their heads boldly erect under the ax.

In the Butyrki church, the Moscow students, already sentenced, cut off and estranged from everything, wrote a song, and before twilight sang it in their uncertain voices:

Three times a day we go for gruel,
The evenings we pass in song,
With a contraband prison needle
We sew ourselves bags for the road.

We don’t care about ourselves any more,
We signed—just to be quicker!
And when will we ever return here again
From the distant Siberian camps?

Good Lord, how could we have missed the main point of the whole thing? While we had been plowing through the mud out there on the bridgeheads, while we had been covering in shell holes and pushing binocular periscopes above the bushes, back home a new generation had grown up and gotten moving. But hadn’t it started moving in another direction? In a direction we wouldn’t have been able and wouldn’t have dared to move in? They weren’t brought up the way we were.

Our generation would return—having turned in its weapons, jingling its heroes’ medals, proudly telling its combat stories. And our younger brothers would only look at us contemptuously: Oh, you stupid dolts!

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, Vol.I, Part II.

Knowledge and History

We must remind ourselves, often, that ignorance of the past condemns us to its repetition. This past need not have disappeared into the mist of ancient history. Ignorance grasps us by default. We repulse it by constant effort. Today, we see many, indeed, “falling in love with an easy life”—unthinking consumption of the lotus flower. It comes today in many forms. Drugs. Pornography. Endless streaming entertainment. The promise of a universal basic income. The hope of automation. Simultaneously, others are realizing the inhumane consequences of taking a daily soporific. Meaningless distractions. Life without purpose. The sickness of pleasure for its own sake. “Good Lord, how could we have missed the main point of the whole thing?” You will find no freedom in such a love; only slavery.

Let us wake up, and remain alert.

(If you do not own the Gulag Archipelago, you can purchase all three volumes in paperback for $44—well worth it!)

How and Why We Study Logic

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

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

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

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

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

John Deely on the “Practical Value” of Logic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trivium: The Art of Logic 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

I.M. Bochenski on the Concept of Formal Logic

Preliminary definition of the subject matter of the history of logic is hard to come by. For apart from ‘philosophy’ there is perhaps no name of a branch of knowledge that has been given so many meanings as ‘logic’. Sometimes the whole history of philosophy, and even knowledge in general, has been thus named, from metaphysics on the one hand, cf. Hegel, to aesthetics (‘logic of beauty’) on the other, with psychology, epistemology, mathematics etc. in between. With such a wide choice it is quite impossible to include in a history of logical problems all that has been termed ‘logic’ in the course of western thought. To do so would practically involve writing a general history of philosophy.

But it does not follow that the use of the name ‘logic’ must be quite arbitrary, for history provides several clues to guide a choice between its many meanings. This choice can be arrived at by the following stages.

1. First let us discard whatever most authors either expressly ascribe to some other discipline, or call ‘logic’ with the addition of an adjective, as for example epistemology, transcendental logic, ontology etc.

2. When we examine what remains, we find that there is one thinker who so distinctly marked out the basic problems of this residual domain that all later western inquirers trace their descent from him: Aristotle. Admittedly, in the course of centuries very many of these inquirers – among them even his principal pupil and successor Theophrastus – have altered Aristotelian positions and replaced them with others. But the essential problematic of their work was, so far as we know, in constant dependence in one way or another on that of Aristotle’s Organon. Consequently we shall denote as ‘logic’ primarily those problems which have developed from that problematic.

3. When we come to the post-Aristotelian history of logic, we can easily see that one part of the Organon has exercised the most decisive influence, namely the Prior Analytics. At some periods other parts too, such as the Topics or the Posterior Analytics, have indeed been keenly investigated and developed. But it is generally true of all periods marked by an active interest in the Organon that the problems mainly discussed are of the kind already to hand in the Prior Analytics. So the third step brings us to the point of describing as ‘logic’ in the stricture sense that kind of problematic presented in the Prior Analytics.

4. The Prior Analytics treats of the so-called syllogism, this being defined as a λογος in which if something is posited, something else necessarily follows. Moreover such λογοι are there treated as formulas which exhibit variables in place of words with constant meaning; an example is ‘B belongs to all A‘. The problem evidently, though not explicitly, presented by Aristotle in this epoch-making work, could be formulated as follows. What formulas of the prescribed type, when their variables are replaced by constants, yield conditional statements such that when the antecedent is accepted, the consequent must be admitted? Such formulas are called ‘logical sentences’. We shall accordingly treat sentences of this kind as a principal subject of logic.

5. Some logicians have limited themselves to the discovery, examination, and systematic ordering of logical theorems, e.g. many scholastic and mathematical logicians, as also Aristotle himself in the Prior Analytics. But logic so understood seems too narrowly conceived. For two kinds of problem naturally arise out of the theorems. First those about their nature – are they linguistic expressions, word-structures, psychical forms or functions, objective complexes? What does a logical law mean, what does a statement mean? These are problems which nowadays are dealt with in semiotics. Second, problems relevant to the question how logical laws can be correctly applied to practical scientific thought. These were dealt with by Aristotle himself, principally in the Posterior Analytics, and nowadays are the concern of general methodology. So semiotic and methodological problems are closely connected with logic; in practice they are always based on semiotics and completed in methodology. What remains over and above these two disciplines we shall call formal logic.

6. A complete history of the problems of logic must then have formal logic at its centre, but treat also of the development of problems of semiotics and methodology. Before all else it must put the question: what problems were in the past posited with reference to the formulation, assessment, and systematization of the laws of formal logic? Beyond that it must look for the sense in which these problems were understood by the various logicians of the past, and also attempt to answer the question of the application of these laws in scientific practice. We have now delimited our subject, and done so, as we think, in accordance with historical evidence.

But such a program has proved to be beyond accomplishment. Not only is our present knowledge of semiotic and methodological questions in the most important periods too fragmentary, but even where the material is sufficiently available, a thorough treatment would lead too far afield. Accordingly we have resolved to limit ourselves in the main to matters of purely formal logic, giving only incidental consideration to points from the other domains.

Thus the subject of this work is constituted by those problems which are relevant to the structure, interconnection and truth of sentences of formal logic (similar to the Aristotelian syllogism). Does it or does it not follow? And, why? How can one prove the validity of this or that sentence of formal logic? How define one or another logical constant, e.g. ‘or’, ‘and’, ‘if—then’, ‘every’ etc. Those are the questions of which the history will here be considered.

Ioseph Maria Bochenski, A History of Formal Logic

I.M. Bochenski’s History of Formal Logic presents a clear and systematic discussion of the major figures in the history of logic who have attended to problems in the above consideration, from antiquity to the early twentieth century, as well as a contrast between Western and Indian logic. We will use this text as a supplement in our upcoming Trivium: Art of Logic course (beginning May) which is available to all enrolled members.

Trivium: Art of Grammar 2023

Today (2 January) we begin our 2023 course in studying the Trivium: Art of Grammar. Our first discussion session will take place on 9 January 2023 at 6:00pm ET. This course is open to all enrolled Lyceum Institute members. If you would like to sign-up and take this course, enroll here. You can find out more about our approach to studying grammar here.

Too few of us know well enough the nuances and difficulties of the English language, or of language in general. Yet all of us live today in a world suffused by language. The more time we spend in digital environments, especially, the more we find ourselves comprised by linguistic structures. A careful study of the English language is necessary to guard oneself against misinformation, deception, and abuse. The Lyceum Institute offers an accessible program and supportive community for undertaking such a study.