Perspectives on Western Culture
Six credits philosophy
Six credits theology
Perspectives on Western Culture is guided by the fundamental question of the best way to live.
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 one 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 understandings of faith, reason, justice, nature and the human person that emerge in the modern world. However, rather than presenting the modern world 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, contemporary ideas of the good life.
As a way to contribute to the formation of a campus-wide intellectual community, all faculty who teach Perspectives on Western Culture base their courses on the Common Reading List, itself an object of continuous reflection and renewal by the faculty. Each section will also include multiple works and thinkers chosen at the discretion of the individual instructor.
Common Reading Lists
- Sophocles, Antigone and/or Oedipus the King
- Aristophanes, Clouds
- Plato, Apology, Meno and Republic
- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
- The Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, the Book of Job, Prophets)
- The New Testament (at least one Gospel; at least one Letter)
- Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
- Thomas Aquinas, selections from the Summa Theologiae
- Luther, “A Treatise on Christian Liberty”
- Machiavelli, The Prince
- Ignatius of Loyola, Autobiography
- Descartes, Meditations
- Pascal, Pensees
- The State of Nature and the Social Contract (at least two of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Wollstonecraft)
- Kant, Grounding for a Metaphysics of Morals
- Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
- Marx, The Communist Manifesto
- Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality OR Freud, Civilization and its Discontents
- At least one Papal Encyclical
- Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”