The Lyceum

The Continuum Lyceum is a philosophical learning program based around the idea that we can live a better digital life.

What is the internet?  Do we even know?  I don’t mean its underlying architecture—ports and gateways and IP addresses and fiber optic cables—but rather its cultural role.  In the early days of its commercial existence, it was immediately a tool of business and especially of business communication, and quickly it grew into commerce, personal communication, and curiosity; but it took on a dramatic shift with the advent of social media.  As self-narration and self-curation took hold through social media platforms, familiar tendencies of the human psyche found room to grow in the digital age: the seeking of fame (being “followed”), popularity (being “liked”), fortune (“monetizing”), and reputation (being “noted”).

But these tendencies first took root in the human psyche, in the first place, through the earlier technologies of the electric age—radio and especially the television.  They are tendencies of the ephemeral, the fleeting, the passing moment, and most especially the tendencies of fantasy: that is, of portraying the unreal as real and the unrealizable ideal as possible, attainable.  The arts of self-narration and self-curation consist principally in making one’s experiences appear as desired.

This pervasive falsity, however, does not beguile us as readily as it did in the age of the television; for there is no centralized control, no guiding ethos which preserves or excludes from digital presentation.  One may find any theory espoused, any belief professed, any lunacy made to sound credible and any credible theory made to sound ludicrous.  The Global Village, where we all clustered around the narratives of the television personality, has been abandoned and as the digital nomads wander across the paths of cyberspace, odd ideas and habits accrue, and everyone else seems all the stranger and all the more threatening.  Tribes form; squabble with each other; squabble within themselves; dissolve; re-form anew and start the process all over again, speeding pell-mell down the information superhighway.

Is this our best digital life?

A Better Digital Life

No.  We have fallen into this way because it is the way which has been placed before us and we, unthinkingly, have walked it without looking around to see which other way we might go; or, as it turns out, where we might stay.  That is, we are all online running after… something: followers, likes, opportunities, theories, ideas, groups, attention; from one page to another, one tweet to the next, endless scrolling after—something.

But while the internet has opened doors kept under tight lock and key in the televisual age, the habit of rushing through them has led us to miss what else the internet and the underlying architecture of digital technology allow and even more fundamentally encourage: namely, the archival retention and categorization of all the information that has been made available.  So attuned are we to other ways of being that we hardly even know where to begin in answering the question of how to live digitally.

I’m not here to say I have all the answers, and certainly not to promise a solution.  But I do have an idea and one I believe it is worth investigating.  The state of culture today is most comparable to the days following the dissolution of the Roman Empire (only a timeline where centuries are compressed into years or even months).  The central culturizing influence—the television—has lost its authority, and bits and pieces of what once was have been carved up and distributed among the various tribes, who fight over their claims to authenticity and ownership of beliefs.  What withstood this chaos and not only preserved culture but grew learning in the centuries following the Empire’s fragmentation was the monastery.

The monasteries—especially those of Ireland—sprung up as bastions of holiness and stability in a darkening world; a world where order and safety collapsed in the absence of Roman discipline.  In our day of ideological and cultural but not societal collapse, we need something similar and yet different; for we are not in a society where intellectual flourishing stands far off, but rather—especially given our digital technologies today—is at our fingertips.  Truth in the fifth and sixth centuries AD was threatened by loss; in the twenty-first century, it is threatened by obfuscation, by “information”, by atrophied abilities of interpretation, by a new scientism, and by the worst habits of humankind exerting a ubiquitous influence.  Our ideological situation is as fragmented as the world after the fall of Rome; but our intellectual situation is much more akin to that of Athens in the time of Plato and Aristotle.  That is, we lack a clear perception of truth not because it is obscured by darkness but rather by the clouds of sophistry and licentiousness.

The Lyceum

What I am proposing therefore—my idea—is an online platform for instilling better habits, especially of careful thinking, and not just the preservation of truth, but its strengthening.  This isn’t a program, a course, a certification process, nor simply a place to find content to passively consume, but rather something to become a part of one’s life: a digital medium that directs one towards the development of perfective human habits, rather than deviant ones; habits of humility, generosity, insightful interpretation, willingness to hear, ardor for the truth and deepening one’s understanding, security in forming one’s beliefs, contentment, and worldly detachment.

This is the Continuum Lyceum.  Using the Microsoft Teams Platform, Continuum Philosophical Insight is building a community of persons committed to the collaborative pursuit of these habits and to living a more philosophically-rich life.  We are engaged continually in conversation and philosophical inquiry, and surround ourselves with intellectually-enriching content and discussion.

The Lyceum is open to all-comers: graduate and undergraduate students, professors, the philosophically-seeking general public, clergy, and so on.

Memberships

Lyceum Memberships come in three tiers: basic, advanced, and premium.  Please note that there is a $6/mo technology cost for each tier, included in the monthly charge.*

Basic memberships ($15.75 month-to-month or $165 annual) include:

  • Access to the Lyceum platform
  • Access to all lecture recordings and supplemental materials (PowerPoints, readings, etc.)
  • Participation in the Quaestiones Disputatae program (see below)
  • 35% discount on one seminar
  • 20% discount on additional seminars
  • Additional bonus content released periodically

Advanced memberships ($30 month-to-month or $300 annual) include:

  • Access to the Lyceum platform
  • Unlimited access to all lecture and seminar recordings as well as and supplemental materials (PowerPoints, readings, etc.)
  • Access to philosophical resources, including books, articles, and more
  • Participation in the Quaestiones Disputatae program (see below)
  • Access to 2 seminars per year
  • 35% discount on additional seminars

Premium memberships ($60 month-to-month or $600 annual) include:

  • Everything in the Advanced membership plus:
  • Access to 6 seminars per year
  • 40% discount on additional seminars
  • Special opportunities
  • 2 persons per membership.

Additionally, all Lyceum memberships include:

  • A Microsoft Office 365 Essentials License
  • A personal @cp-insight.com email address
  • The opportunity for a more philosophically-enriching life

Sign up for a monthly membership at Patreon today!

If you would like to sign up for an annual program, please use the Contact form.

*Why does it cost this much?  Providing the highest quality service for the Lyceum is a lot of work: this is not entertainment provision masquerading as thought-provocation for large crowds, but rather an endeavor to help people engage in a habitual philosophical life; not the production of content for consumption, but the contemplative examination of thought.  If that isn’t worth a restaurant burger and beer per month, then this probably isn’t for you in the first place.

The Quaestiones Disputatae Program

Among the central practices for education in the Latin Age university was the quaestio disputatae.  Bernando Bazán describes it thus:[1]

a disputed question is a regular form of teaching, apprenticeship and research, presided over by a master, characterized by a dialectical method which consists of bringing forward and examining arguments based on reason and authority which oppose one another on a given theoretical or practical problem and which are furnished by participants, and where the master must come to a doctrinal solution by an act of determination which confirms him in his function as master

This dialectical approach to education subsided as authoritative speaking became increasingly focused on monological proclamations given through books and lectures.  But among the retrievals affected by the digital paradigm is the capacity for the dialectical: we no longer exchange thoughts through centralized, unidirectional media; we are no longer constrained by news broadcasts, television personalities, and major publishers.

Reviving the centrality of dialectical development, the Continuum Lyceum platform includes participation in a program of regular quaestiones disputatae for all members: that is, all members are encouraged to submit their questions for consideration in accordance with topics determined by Dr. Kemple.

How does it work?

Every three months, Dr. Kemple will post a prompt concerning a specific topic: for example, how human beings attain truth, how habits develop, the differences between animal and human cognition, the effects of technology on social structure, and so on.  Using Microsoft Forms (available through Teams and in the Quaestiones Disputatae channel), members will be able to anonymously submit questions.  Dr. Kemple will select from the best of these and write responses, which will be first delivered in summary by video session and later edited into a comprehensive textual format.

Sessions will be held every two weeks, if a sufficient number of quality questions are submitted.  Both videos and texts will be available to all Lyceum members in an archive.

[1] Bazán 1985, cited from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/medieval-literary/#DisQuaQuoQue.