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Fall Seminar Previews

METAPHYSICS: THE DEPTHS OF ACT & POTENCY

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

Metaphysics: The Depths of Act & Potency

THE FAULTS OF MODERN PHILOSOPHY

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

Science: The Faults of Modern Philosophy

SEMIOTICS: PEIRCE AND THE MODERN SPIRIT

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

Semiotics: Peirce and the Modern Spirit

[Fall 2022] Metaphysics: The Depths of Act & Potency

“In long Indian file, as when herons take wing, the white birds were now all flying towards Ahab’s boat; and when within a few yards began fluttering over the water there, wheeling round and round, with joyous, expectant cries.  Their vision was keener than man’s; Ahab could perceive no sign in the sea.  But suddenly as he peered down and down into the depths, he profoundly saw a white living spot no bigger than a white weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and magnifying as it rose, till it turned, and then there were plainly revealed two long crooked rows of white, glistening teeth, floating up from the undiscoverable bottom.”

-Melville, Moby Dick
Chapter 133: The Chase—First Day.
Download the Syllabus
View the Syllabus

While preparing a lecture on the contribution made by Thomas Aquinas to the historical development of semiotics—particularly as it helped move understanding past the initial contributions to a Latin theory of signs constituted by Augustine of Hippo—I found that nothing was more central to the advance of this narrative than the Aristotelian doctrine of act and potency.  To understand the efficacy of a sign, that is, we need to understand relations, and to understand relations, we need to understand act and potency.

As I took one brief dive after another into the relevant texts of Aquinas—most especially his Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle—I fleetingly glimpsed what seemed an endless series of wonderous observations, each more than the last deserving of a thorough investigation.  This seminar provides an opportunity for all interested to join collaboratively in making such an inquiry.

Act and potency, I must admit, have together always seemed a doctrine that—despite long familiarity with the teaching—has escaped me for its depths.  The two interrelated concepts are indefinable, but not for lack of intelligibility; indeed, they are so rich that all description leaves us infinitely short of having exhausted their meaning or their pertinence to our lives.  To think of potency is to think of what is intelligible only in the light of act, but not as itself an act; to distinguish passive and active potency is to get a foothold on the nature of change, but through something itself unchanging.  It is through the change from potency to act that we come to know what anything is; and, indeed, such a change is how knowledge itself is realized within us.

If we are to explain being—to know being—we must know and be able to explain the distinction between those elements which divide it all. We must peer beyond what eyes can see.

Ten minute lecture preview
Discussion Sessions
3:30pm ET

(World times)
Study Topics &
Readings

September
24
Week 1: Form as Cause of Being & Knowing
Lecture: Principle of Substance, End of Knowledge
Readings:
» Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book VII, c.17.
» Aquinas’ Commentary on the Metaphysics, lib.7, lec.17 (§1648–1680).
» Owens’ Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics, c.12 (375-77).
October
1
Week 2: Form as Principle of Composite Being
Lecture: Intelligible Relations of Form and Matter
Reading:
» Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book VIII, c.1-2.
» Aristotle’s Physics, Book II, c.1.
» Aquinas’ Commentary, lib.8, lec.1-2 (§1681–1702).
October
8
Week 3: The One and the Many
Lecture: Infinite Material Plurality
Reading:
» Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book VIII, c.3-6.
» Aquinas’ Commentary, lib.8, lec.3-5 (§1703–1767).
» Owens’ Doctrine, c.13 (379-99).
October
15
Week 4: Definition and Distinction of Potency
Lecture: Discerning the Meaning of Potency
Reading:
» Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book IX, 1-2.
» Aquinas’ Commentary, lib.9, lec.1-2 (§1768–1794).
» Owens’ Doctrine, c.14, parts I-II (403-06).
October
22

BREAK
October
29
Week 5: The Grounds of Potency
Lecture: Potency and Possibility
Reading:
» Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book IX, 3-5.
» Aquinas’ Commentary, lib.9, lec.3-4 (§1795–1822).
November
 5
Week 6: Analogical Primacy of Act
Lecture: The Speaking of What Is
Reading:
» Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book IX, 6-7.
» Aquinas’ Commentary, lib.9, lec.5-6 (§1823–1843).
November
12
Week 7: Explanatory Primacy of Act
Lecture: The Existing of What Is
Readings:
» Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book IX, 8-9.
» Aquinas’ Commentary, lib.9, lec.7-10 (§1844–1894).
» Owens’ Doctrine, c.14, part III (406-409).
November
19
Week 8: The Divisions of Being
Lecture: The Governance of Truth and Falsity
Readings
» Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book IX, 10.
» Aquinas’ Commentary, lib.9, lec.11 (§1895–1919).
» Owens’ Doctrine, c.15 (411-41).

This is an advanced seminar. View the syllabus here and learn more about Lyceum Institute seminars here. Participants should have at least basic familiarity with Aristotelian physics and Thomistic psychology before enrolling.

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

Registration is closed.

Philosophy, Faith, and Signs

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

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Philosophizing in Faith – What is final causality?

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

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.

Education and Digital Life – purchase your copy today!

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How Truthful is the “Proof of the Truthful”?

In the third Lyceum Institute Colloquium of the year, we present Dr. Catherine Peters, who takes up a controversy between the Islamic philosophers Avicenna and Averroes concerning the “proof of the truthful”:

ABSTRACT: The “Proof of the Truthful” is Avicenna’s most famous argument for the existence of God. Beginning with the essential possibility of creatures, he argues that there must be a first, necessary, cause: God. This argument came to be known as the “Proof of the Truthful” because it proposes an argument which is, in theory, accessible to any rational being (not just to the “wise” or religiously affiliated). In this way, it is the “most truthful.” Though compelling, Avicenna’s proof has not escaped criticism, most notably from Averroes, who rejected Avicenna’s conception of “possibility” and “necessity.” Rejecting these concepts can have far-reaching consequences, not only for the cogency of Avicennian metaphysics, but for any natural theology that seeks to employ these concepts. The present study, therefore, will first defends “necessary” and “possible” as formulated in the metaphysics of Avicenna. It will then show how these concepts serve as premises in the “Proof of the Truthful.” Third, it will address and refute Averroes’ criticisms.

Dr. Peters’ paper is now available at the Lyceum Institute. The live Question & Answer session will be held on 16 June 2022 (Thursday) at 6:00pm ET.

Enroll

Colloquia are available at every level of membership for the Lyceum Institute — starting as low as $10.50/month.

See enrollment options here.

IO2S Deely – “Ens Intentionale” and “Ens ut Verum”: Traveling with John Deely Beyond Non-Being

On 14 May 2022 at 2pm ET (check event times around the world here), Dr. Matthew Minerd will present on “Ens Intentionale and Ens ut Verum: Traveling with John Deely Beyond Non-Being”. A Ruthenian Catholic, husband, and father, Dr. Minerd is a professor of philosophy and moral theology at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. His academic work has appeared in the journals Nova et Vetera, The American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Saint Anselm Journal, Lex Naturalis, Downside Review, The Review of Metaphysics, and Maritain Studies, as well in volumes published by the American Maritain Association through the Catholic University of America Press. He has served as author, translator, and/or editor for volumes published by The Catholic University of America Press, Emmaus Academic, Cluny Media, and Ascension Press.

This presentation consists in a pre-recorded lecture streamed at the above time.

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

IO2S Deely – Umberto Eco and the Semiotic Quest for Truth

On Saturday 14 May 2022, at 11am ET (check event times around the world here), Anna Maria Lorusso will present on “Umberto Eco and the Semiotic Quest for Truth”. After Dr. Lorusso graduated in Philosophy with a dissertation in Semiotics, in Bologna, she completed her doctoral research in Semiotics, under the supervision of Umberto Eco. Following a research scholarship, Lorusso became a researcher at the University of Bologna, where she is now Associate Professor, as well as Director of both the First Cycle Degree in Communication Sciences in the Department of the Arts and the Master in Printed and Digital Publishing. Her interests have always revolved around the rhetorical-discursive dimension of culture: forms of collective narrative, dominant rhetorical figures, discursive modalities for stability, and translation and transformation of stereotypes and commonplaces. Recently she has published under many labels of excellence, including Bakhtiniana: Revista de Estudos do Discurso, Estudos Semióticos, International Journal for the Semiotics of Law, Rivista di Estetica, and Semiotica. At the present date, she is a member of the research group Trame, dealing with memory and cultural trauma, and the President of the Italian Association for Semiotic Studies.

Comment will be provided by Bujar Hoxha, PhD., full professor of Communication Sciences at the South-East European University in Tetovo and Skopje, North Macedonia.

Join the Zoom Meeting to participate in the Q&A

2022 International Open Seminar on Semiotics (IO2S) | Website

This collaborative international open scientific initiative and celebration is jointly organized by the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, the Lyceum Institute, the Deely Project, Saint Vincent College, the Iranian Society for Phenomenology at the Iranian Political Science Association, the International Association for Semiotics of Space and Time, the Institute for Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Semiotic Society of America, the American Maritain Association, the International Association for Semiotic Studies, the International Society for Biosemiotic Studies and the Mansarda Acesa with the support of the FCT – Foundation for Science and Technology, I.P., of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education of the Government of Portugal under the UID/FIL/00010/2020 project.

Lyceum Schedule [9/5-9/11]

Quaestiones Disputatae – Inquirere & Defensio

There are two available September sessions for Inquirere & Defensio in the Quaestiones Disputatae program. Members are encouraged to participate as Observers, Inquirers, or Defenders.

Fall Seminars

Fall 2021 Seminars are now available to sign up (follow the link for Syllabi).  Hard to believe we’re already approaching the last quarter of the year! Announcing our Fall Seminars, discussion sessions starting from October 2 and running until November 20. Members of the Lyceum Institute are free to participate for the first week (the enrollment period for members will be from September 25–9 October). Non-members can enroll from now until October 6.

[2021 Fall] Thomistic Psychology: The Meaning of Evil – Dr. Kirk Kanzelberger

Every human being has some notion of evil as that which is opposed to a good: the good that one desires, the good that one honors – or, perhaps, the good that one wishes one honored or desired more than one does. Even persons who might consider themselves at quite home with the official or trendy relativisms of the day frequently find themselves possessed with anger at states of affairs, ideas, and other persons they clearly judge to be evil. Might not the frenzy of the anger, as well as the lack of humility it evinces, suggest a deeper questioning? For if we are honest, we must admit that, despite every good intention, we ourselves have some share in the mysterious reality of evil in the world.

[2021 Fall] Metaphysics: The Existence, Nature, and Intelligibility of God – Dr. Brian Kemple

“In my opinion,” Umberto Eco once said, “it’s religion that produces God, not the other way around.” Once the sentiment of the purportedly rebellious thinker, today such is a commonplace. But for all Eco’s learning, for as much as he may have read St. Thomas Aquinas (and even admired his mind), it seems that the novelist did not understand the doctor: for having seized the truths of the divine so articulately explicated by Aquinas, one could not help but wish to create a religion around the being thereby revealed, were the Divine not to have already revealed Itself and given us the right means for worship.

[2021 Fall] More than Aesthetics: Ens Artificiale and the Philosophy of Art – Dr. Matthew Minerd

Human experience is filled with beings which are often considered a sort of “non-being” or, perhaps, “diminished” being by many scholastics: artifacts. Sometimes, we are told by this tradition that a door threshold is really just an accidental conjunction of a given shape with the substance of dead wood. However, a cursory glance around the world reveals the a host of realities which are structurally dependent upon human ingenuity and the long history of human exploration and creativity.

Exploring its topic from a broadly Aristotelian-Thomistic perspective, this course will use the work of Jacques Maritain to probe the broader set of philosophical issues involved in the “philosophy of art”…

Weekly Schedule of Events

9/6 Monday

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

9/7 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 (5:45-7:15pm 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!

9/8 Wednesday

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

9/9 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 pastoribus, ovibus, canibus, lupis, nubibus, et multis aliis!  Legimus et convertimus ex capitulo IX!

9/10 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).

9/11 Saturday

  • Intermediate Latin Class(10-11am ET).  In hac septimana, de praedonibus et classibus Romanis discemus!  Reddimus ad fabulam Lydiae et Medii.  Legemus et convertemus ex capitulo XXXII.