“Thinking Beyond Academia” // For too long, higher education and the development of a liberal mind has been the exclusive provenance of universities and colleges: institutions which have failed to adapt to the new digital paradigm in which we now live. Continuum Philosophical Insight is a new venture which strives to break this exclusivity and bring the insights of theoretical study outside the confines of the ivory tower.
The Continuum Name
Although Continuum Philosophical Insight is just one person, the name is important. The problem of the continuum was and remains today a question for scientific inquiries, pursued by Aristotle, Galileo, Descartes, Hobbes, Gassendi, Leibniz, Kant, and Peirce—to name just a few of the giant intellects who wrestled with the difficulty. To summarize the question: is the universe made up of discrete physical parts, with true emptiness between them? Or are these discrete parts contiguous without gaps? Or is there something, however “thin”, which remains between the discrete physical bodies which we can detect? Pursued to great lengths, this question seems inevitably to become a matter resoluble only by philosophical thought.
This is a metaphor for human life: no matter our sources of guidance, philosophy is ultimately necessary for making sense of our existence, for unifying the disparate experiences we have into a coherent and intelligible whole.
Who is Continuum? – Brian Kemple
My name is Brian Kemple and I hold a PhD in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas, in Houston TX. I have written two books (on one Thomas Aquinas and another on Charles Peirce and Martin Heidegger), a number of scholarly articles and a few public-oriented ones, as well. My CV is available here.
I taught undergraduate courses, including human person, ethics, medieval philosophy, metaphysics, and philosophy at knowledge, at St. Thomas from 2013 to 2016 and ethics at the Wentworth Institute of Technology from 2016-17.
I am a Thomist and a semiotician—or as I like to say, a Semiotic Thomist or perhaps most broadly, a Semiotic Realist—which means that my thought is influenced by Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) and Charles Sanders Peirce (1839–1914).
Thomas Aquinas is best known as a saint and theologian of the Catholic Church, but during a time when theologians were expected to conduct their work philosophically. While he worked from divine revelation, therefore, Aquinas also worked from natural human reason, and beautifully at that.
Peirce, on the other hand, is best known as the founder of semiotics (as well as a founder of pragmaticism). Unlike Aquinas, he was not a theologian (and certainly not a saint), but he was just as powerfully-capable a philosopher.
After spending a few years on the academic job market, I began to see the structure of academia as inhibiting rather than enabling philosophical thinking, both for professors and for students. I realized I had a choice: I could continue striving for a job in a broken system, or I could do something different—risky, but possibly better not only for myself but for those I teach: that is, I could actually teach philosophical thinking.
More than a professor of philosophy, I have always aspired to be an actual philosopher. The difference, as I see it, is that I do not simply profess adherence to any particular set of doctrines, to the thought of historical figures; nor do I merely profess the opinions and teachings of others to students.
The philosopher considers human experience, and what can be inferred from that experience, according to the first and the highest principles of natural human reason. Thus, the philosopher is not confined to the consideration of this or that particular subject matter; the subject of study is “everything”. One might have an expertise within the realm of “everything”—ethics, for instance, or philosophical physics (“natural philosophy”)—but the exercise of the philosophical office begins and ends with “being”.
To put the philosophical activity in more concrete terms: I, together with my clients, ask what things are, why they are, why they are what they are, how they ought to be, why they ought to be how they ought to be. I might ask a question seemingly as simple as, “What do we mean by the word ‘one’ when we say that ‘this is one thing’?” I can ask, “Do we mean the same thing when we say that something is ‘good’ for a human being and something is ‘good’ for a dog?” and see that, while we take it for granted that something is good for us and not for a dog, we have never stopped to think about what the term “good” truly means.
We get into these questions by reading texts—some as old as the mid-4th century B.C., some published just a few years ago—written by very smart men and women who have also engaged in questioning the mystery of being; and in so doing, we see that the answers to these questions aren’t really answers if they are treated as facts to be memorized. We enter into the mystery of reality again, anew, and always discover something new.