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Morrissey College of Arts and Science

UN542 Journey to Self-Discovery

capstone program

Brian Braman

Director, Perspectives Program
Faculty, College of Advancing Studies

This course is also offered as PL538.

In his commentary of the Metaphysics of Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas remarked that the philosopher as much as the poet must be a philomythes, a lover of stories. This is because philosophy, like poetry, has its origins in a natural wonder about ourselves and the world in which we live. Philosophy is a way of life that commits us to an existential question that deals with the total reality of our own self-identity as known and lived and as still unknown and unlived. In other words, we are historical and dramatic beings whose lives constitute a story that unfolds in time. Our lives narrate a journey from sin to salvation, despair to faith, sickness to health, death to life, darkness to light, and ignorance to knowledge. We are sojourners struggling to discover more deeply who we are as this self, and what is my place in the world.

Who or what is this self we seek to discover? It is a self who knows, chooses and loves. Simply put, we are knowers, choosers and lovers. The purpose of this seminar, then, will be to help the student discover and critically appropriate the richness of these three foundational elements to one’s self-hood so as to see our lives as a meaningful and hope-filled narrative.


The Experience of Nothingness, Michael Novak

Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, Wendell Berry

Living with other people, Ken Melchin

The Shattered Lantern

The Moviegoer

Birth and Death of Meaning

Course Requirements

Regular and faithful class attendance. Any more than three unexcused absences and the grade is lowered a full step.

There will be no exams for this course, but there will be a series of writing assignments. Your grade will be determined on the basis of these writing assignments and your contributions to class participations and discussion.


There will be five reflection papers from three to five pages in length, and one paper seven to ten pages. Each of these reflection papers has a particular thematic, and is based on the texts we will be reading in class. These are listed below

Students will also be required to prepare questions for discussion for each class meeting. These are to be written out.

The following are the list of questions for each reflection paper.

What does it mean for you to be a hero? How has BC either helped or hindered this desire for yourself or others.

How are the values/virtues of honesty/freedom, courage/community related to your drive to understand. How has BC helped or hindered the cultivation of these values/virtues?

What does it mean for you to be morally self-transcendent?

How would you describe your faith journey. How has BC helped facilitate this journey.

How has BC helped to shape you intellectually?

This is the seven to ten page reflection paper. Read the preface to Berry’s book. Do you agree or disagree and why? Is BC part of the problem or solution?


Class 1: Introduction

Class 2: Becker - Birth and Death of Meaning - chapters 4, 7, 8

Class 3: Becker

Class 4: Becker - chapters 9, 11, 13

Class 5: Becker

Class 6: Novak - Experience of Nothingness - chapter I

Class 7: Novak - 1st paper due

Class 8: Novak - chapters 2, 3


Class 9: Novak

Class 10: Melchin - Living with Other People - Intro - chapters, 1-2

Class 11: Melchin - 2nd paper due

Class 12: Melchin - chapters 3, 4

Class 13: Melchin - chapter 5

Class 14: Handouts - 3rd paper due

Class 15: Shattered Lantern - Preface - chapters 1, 2

Class 16: Shattered Lantern


Class 17: Shattered Lantern - chapters 3, 5

Class 18: Shattered Lantern - 4th paper due

Class 19: Berry - Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community - pages 116-173

Class 20: Berry

Class 21: Berry

Class 22: Moviegoer - chapters 1, 2

Class 23: Moviegoer - 5th paper due


Class 24: Moviegoer - chapters 3, 4

Class 25: Moviegoer

Class 26: Finish Moviegoer

Sixth paper is due the last study day. It is to be delivered to my office in Campanella 380V.