Perspectives on Western Culture

Perspectives on Western Culture is a year-long, twelve credit course focused on the classic writings of Western culture, and guided by the fundamental question of the best way to live.

As a way to contribute to the formation of a campus-wide intellectual community, all sections of Perspectives on Western Culture assign many of their texts from a Common Reading List of classic texts. In addition to these, a diversity of other works and thinkers are found across the many sections of the course, reflecting the diverse scholarly interests and commitments of our instructors.


Course Details

In the first semester, students begin by encountering two "spiritual eruptions": the rise of Greek philosophy, and the Judeo-Christian experience of God's self-revelation in history. This ancient encounter between "Athens" and "Jerusalem" contributed significantly to the emergence of the European intellectual culture of the Middle Ages, and to the understanding of the good life as oriented towards transcendence and guided by the complementary truths of faith and reason.

The second semester continues the investigation of the best way to live by examining the emergence of modern understandings of faith, reason, justice, nature and the human person. However, rather than presenting modern thought as a rejection of ancient and medieval thought, or as a simple process of secularization, modern thinkers are put in conversation with the thinkers of the ancient and medieval world. The resulting clarification by contrast allows students to appropriate, in a critical and dialectical manner, the contributions of feminist, post-colonial, post-modern and other approaches to the history of Western thought.

This course fulfills: 

  • Six credits philosophy
  • Six credits theology