Philosophy Outside the University - The Lyceum Institute

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.

Perhaps most importantly, it has shown me why the old institutional structure, which relegated philosophy to a limited course of study, as a one-among-many of academic disciplines–which fragmented the essential unity of knowledge–is entirely inadequate an approach in our time. You cannot learn enough now, or have well-instilled enough in a measly four years, the habits necessary for navigating the informational chaos characteristic of the digital age. And so today I would invite you all to investigate what I’ve been creating–the Lyceum Institute–and to offer your feedback.

We operate on a principal of financial subsidiarity (those who can pay more can thereby help those who can only pay a little), on the idea of small-as-beautiful, on the model of persistent membership instead of a determinate course of study, and in the belief that the classics are not an object of archeological inquiry, but a living tradition which we may instill in ourselves today, in dealing with the issues of the here and now.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to any comments!