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Morrissey College of Arts and Science

UNCP5553 Poets, Philosophers, and Mapmakers

capstone program

Rev. Paul McNellis, S.J.

Philosophy Department

Course title: Capstone: Poets, Philosophers, and Mapmakers
Course number: UN/PL 533.01
Course also offered as PHIL5553

Course Description

We go through life with mental maps of reality, in various degrees implicit or explicit. A Liberal Arts education presupposes such a map of the intelligible world. Is it accurate? What does your “map” of reality look like? How has it changed since freshman year?

The goal of the seminar is to help you see what kind of map you implicitly have now and to begin to ask what you want the map to look like ten years after graduation. In other words, how do you develop an “open” rather than “closed” map? How do you plan on continuing your education on your own after graduation?

There must be both poetry and prose in every life. What is the balance between the two in your life? (Poetry here is broadly understood, as Plato would have it; i.e., it includes theology.)

We will reread some classic texts you read as freshmen to see if you read them any differently as seniors. Such texts will include works by Aristotle, Plato, and Pascal.


We will follow a seminar format, with the professor as facilitator and students taking turns leading the discussion. There is a good deal of reading and it is writing intensive: a short reflection paper is due each week and two longer papers will be assigned throughout the semester. Each class will begin with a quiz on the assigned readings for the day.


50% weekly quizzes and class participation
50% written assignments


  • The Bible
  • Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est
  • E. F. Schumacher, Guide for the Perplexed
  • Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics
  • Blaise Pascal, Pensées
  • Owen Gingerich, God’s Universe
  • P.D. James, The Children of Men
  • A Workbook with further readings