The ultimate happiness that man can have in this life must consist in the
contemplation of the first causes; for the little that can be known about them is more lovable and excellent than everything that can be known about lesser things.
. . . And it is through the completion of this knowledge in us after the present life that man is made perfectly happy, according to the words of the Gospel: This is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God.

-St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Book of Causes

Philosophy, the “love of wisdom,” begins in wonder and ends in an organized natural knowledge of the ultimate causes of all things. It is an essentially speculative discipline, one that seeks knowledge for its own sake and not for its usefulness. It is not a means to a liberal education but, along with theology, is the very purpose and end of a liberal education. Desirable in itself, philosophy also prepares the mind for the understanding of theology, the study of God based on Divine Revelation.

The beauty of wisdom imposes upon philosophy an orderly communication of its riches. Philosophy imparts to its students the tools of rational thought, applies them first to an investigation of the physical world and its most noble part, mankind, then looks to ordering our practical lives for the sake of wisdom, and finally considers each thing in its highest aspect, namely as a being participating in a limited way in the unlimited being of God. At Christendom College, this communication is reflected primarily in the arrangement of courses studying philosophy systematically and secondarily in the arrangement of courses studying philosophy historically. In the first semester a student is introduced to philosophy through a course which is both historical and systematic. This initial course focuses both on early Greek philosophy, a historical framework within which the systematic problems and aims of philosophy are presented, and through logic, the systematic science providing the intellect with its most powerful tools. He then takes a course on the philosophy of human nature, man being the greatest of God’s changeable creations. He proceeds to study ethics, a consideration of human action in its relation to human happiness. Finally the student investigates metaphysics, the culmination of philosophy and the natural fulfillment of liberal education. Metaphysics is the science of being qua being, a science that ultimately aims at a natural knowledge of God. Two courses in the history of philosophy, Medieval Philosophy and Modern Philosophy end the core sequence with an inductive approach to philosophical problems. These latter courses also have a practical aim: they prepare the student to live and act effectively in the modern world by showing him the patterns of thought which have molded it.

The philosophy courses in the core curriculum not only introduce the student to wisdom, they also provide the ability to integrate the liberal arts by showing their relation to each other and to philosophy and theology in an organized view of the whole of reality. The elective courses in philosophy build on the knowledge acquired in the core curriculum, deepening an understanding which in the core curriculum itself inevitably remains somewhat elementary.

Requirements for the Philosophy Major

The philosophy major, which requires a student to take another 24 credit hours in upper division courses beyond the required core philosophy courses, deepens his understanding of what is studied in the core. It also prepares students for graduate studies in philosophy or theology. The philosophy department requires that every major be competent in either Latin or Greek, and take the following courses:

  • PHIL 401: Recent Philosophy
  • PHIL 404: Philosophy of God
  • PHIL 512 Senior Seminar and Thesis: Each student completes his studies by writing an original senior thesis requiring independent research on a philosophical topic.

The philosophy minor offers students choosing to major in another discipline the ability to deepen their philosophical knowledge. There is no language requirement for the minor. Each student minoring in philosophy must take 12 credit hours of upper level philosophy courses beyond the core curriculum. A course grade of at least C-minus is necessary for a course to fulfill the department’s major or minor requirements.

Foundational Curriculum

PHIL 101 Introduction to Philosophy
 An introduction to the philosophical project through a consideration of key themes of Ancient Western philosophy from the pre-Socratics to Aristotle. The second half of the course is a treatment of Aristotelian formal logic, including simple apprehension and term, judgment and proposition, deduction and syllogism. Required of all students.

PHIL 102 Philosophy of Human Nature A systematic investigation of the nature of man, including a demonstration of the immateriality of the intellectual soul, the unity of the human person, his subsistence, freedom of the will, sensory and intellectual knowledge, and his natural end: God. The study will be based largely on texts of St. Thomas Aquinas and will include a consideration of contrasting positions. Required of all students.

PHIL 201 Ethics A systematic investigation of Aristotelian/Thomistic ethics, the subject of which is human action ordered to an end. The good human life is understood in terms of achieving the ultimate end of contemplative union with God through growth in virtue, with the instruction of law. Other topics include the voluntary character of human action and moral good and evil. Primary texts include the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle and the Prima secundae of St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae. Other major contemporary ethical systems will also be considered. Required of all students.

PHIL 202 Metaphysics An introduction to an elementary Christian metaphysics of being based on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. Topics covered include an analysis of being in terms of essence and existence, a demonstration of the existence and nature of God based on that analysis, the categories, the transcendental modes of being, and cognitional being. Required of all students.

Advanced Courses

PHIL 101-202 are prerequisites for all advanced courses, unless an exemption is granted by the Academic Dean (Core, 301 and 302) or the Department Chair (courses numbered higher than 302).

PHIL 301 History of Medieval Philosophy: A survey of Medieval Philosophy from late classical antiquity to the late Middle Ages. Original sources are referenced, and their role in the development of thought is identified. Required of all students.

PHIL 302 History of Modern Philosophy: A survey of modern Western philosophy from the 16th to the 20th century. Required of all students.

PHIL 312 Thomistic Ethics: An in-depth study of the natural norms for the morality of human behavior as elucidated by the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.

PHIL 314 Philosophy of Family and Household: An investigation of the ‘second part’ of ethics (the first being individual ethics and the third being political)—that which concerns the household, and how the human good is sought and achieved in that context. Based upon readings from the primary texts of philosophers, especially Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on Aristotle, as well as those of contemporary writers.

PHIL 315 Society and the Common Good: An investigation of the social nature of man and his ultimate end as a common good. Based upon readings from the primary texts of philosophers including Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as those of twentieth century Thomistic commentators.

PHIL 321 Philosophy of Nature: An enquiry into the nature of the physical world based on the philosophy of nature of St. Thomas Aquinas. Includes readings from St. Thomas’s Principles of Nature and his Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics.

PHIL 322 Plato: A reading of several dialogues from different periods of Plato’s development, with reference to Plato’s influence on later philosophy.

PHIL 323 Aristotle: Reading and analysis of extensive selections from the Organon, Physics, On the Soul, Metaphysics, Ethics, and Politics. The magnitude of Aristotle’s philosophical achievements, his profound influence on later ages, and the extent to which his work was used by the medieval schoolmen also will be considered.

PHIL 324 Philosophy of St. Augustine: The background, life, and writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, with special reference to his contributions to philosophy and his influence on Western thought.

PHIL 325 Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas: The background, life, and writings of St. Thomas, with special reference to his contributions to the various branches of philosophy.

PHIL 326 The Passions: An introduction to the thought of St. Thomas on the passions through a close reading and discussion of selected texts from his writings.

PHIL 327 Philosophy of Psychology: An investigation of the rise of modern psychology in the thought of Freud, the way it differs from a Thomistic philosophy of man and the way certain modern thinkers have placed the insights of Freud on a Thomistic basis. Other prominent modern psychologists will also be considered.

PHIL 328 Philosophy of Education: An investigation of the nature of teaching and learning with special emphasis on classical and Christian thinkers and a consideration of contemporary problems.

PHIL 401 Recent Philosophy: A study of philosophy in the 19th and 20th centuries, with selected readings in primary sources. Required of Philosophy majors. Prerequisite: PHIL 302 or permission of the Chairman.

PHIL 403 Epistemology: An investigation into the nature of human knowing based on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. The course may compare and contrast material from other thinkers.

PHIL 404 Philosophy of God: An advanced metaphysical study of the existence, nature, and attributes of God, based on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas with consideration of other philosophies. Required of Philosophy majors.

PHIL 412 Modern Moral Theories: An investigation of some of the major moral theories of the modern era beginning in the 16th century. Theories are examined in themselves and analyzed from the viewpoint of the Aristotelian/Thomistic tradition.

PHIL 421 The Will and the Virtues: A systematic study based on the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas of the nature of the will, the relation between intellect and will, the nature of habit and virtue, the types of virtue, and particular virtues, especially the cardinal virtues.

PHIL 422 Philosophy of Art and Beauty: A Thomistic philosophical investigation of art, both fine and useful art, the nature of beauty and its perception, the roles of the intellect and the will in aesthetic enjoyment, and different theories of the nature of art and of the artistic act.

PHIL/LATN/THEO 423 Latin Readings in St. Thomas Aquinas: An advanced study of scholastic Latin and an in-depth reading of selections from St. Thomas’s Summa Theologiae and other treatises. The portions of the Summa studied will vary. This course may be repeated for credit. (Cross-listed in Latin and Theology.)

PHIL 425 Contemplation and the Philosophical Life: An investigation of the nature and nobility of contemplation and the contemplative life, as well as of issues related to the pursuit of wisdom, such as discipleship, tradition, and philosophy as a craft.

PHIL 427 Issues in Contemporary Philosophy: A special study of some current theme, movement, or style of philosophizing, such as the thought of Karol Wojtyla, philosophy of science, philosophy of war, phenomenology, linguistic analysis, or contemporary Catholic philosophical movements.

PHIL 428 Ethics of John Paul II: An analysis of the ethical thought of John Paul II. The objective is to understand not only how the late Holy Father brings together different traditions in ethics, but also and primarily what he has to say about the truth about human beings and the goodness of their behavior, especially in their relations with one another, and especially in the relations of man and woman with each other. Readings will be taken from Love and Responsibility and Person and Community: Selected Essays.

PHIL 489 Honors Seminar: A seminar on a special topic in philosophy to be determined by the department chairman in consultation with interested and qualified students. Prerequisites: Minimum 3.25 GPA and permission of the Department Chairman. (4 credit hours)

PHIL 490-99 Special Topics or Directed Studies in Philosophy: A special study of some area such as axiology, cosmology, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, mathematics, moral philosophy, natural law, or philosophy of history.

PHIL 512 Senior Seminar and Thesis: Direction of the student with his senior thesis, a major scholarly paper on a philosophical topic of his interest. The student receives instruction and individual assistance in development of a topic, research methods, outlining, organizing, and writing a philosophical paper. The student may be required to defend his thesis in an oral presentation.