Philosophy at Ave Maria University is understood according to its original meaning as the love and pursuit of wisdom, viz. philosophia. It is deeply rooted in man’s desire to know himself, his place in the universe, and answer the question of life’s ultimate meaning. Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? How must I live? What is the meaning and significance of the world around me? Who made all this, and why? Beginning in awe and wonder, philosophy tries to find answers to these questions and to articulate them in a systematic and rigorous way.
In accord with its sapiential character, the philosophy program is deeply committed to having a “genuinely metaphysical range” (Fides et Ratio 83). Philosophy’s most proper object is being itself, in its rich dimensions of existence, intelligibility, goodness, and beauty. Philosophy can and must transcend the realm of the particular and empirical in order to reach what is universal and absolute. This central characteristic and task of philosophy will be evident in all philosophy courses taught at Ave Maria. Thus, students will learn in many different contexts how to discern the one in the many, and trace back the many to the one. Among other things, this will enable the Philosophy Program and its students to make a significant contribution towards the proper integration of knowledge that is at the heart of any liberal arts education.
The Philosophy Program recognizes that the search for wisdom is an ongoing and communal enterprise. It not only requires serious dialogue with contemporary thinkers, but also with those of the past. The ancient philosophers, especially Plato and Aristotle, to whom the Western philosophical tradition owes so much, will be closely studied. Then there is the deep and rich tradition of exemplary Christian thinkers, such as Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Scotus, Suarez, Newman, Maritain, Edith Stein and Karol Wojtyla. Professors and students of philosophy at the University seek to think in continuity with that great Christian tradition, studying it closely and taking guidance from its profound impulse and insights. The important thinkers with whom they are more likely to have serious disagreements, such as Epicurus, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Nietzsche and Sartre, will not be neglected. And, as opportunity allows, the contributions of Jewish, Islamic, and non-Western philosophers will also be examined.
Important as it is to study the works of other thinkers, it should be stressed, as Aquinas saw so clearly, that the point of studying philosophy is not to learn what others have thought about being, but to learn the truth of being. (“Ne respicias a quo sed quod dicitur.”) Students of philosophy at Ave Maria University will learn that, in the final analysis, the philosophical act is a disciplined ‘seeing for oneself’ the truth about being. In this way, it is hoped, they will become full participants in the great debates of our time, and not merely spectators of them.
The Philosophy Program also recognizes the strong and intimate relation between the disciplines of philosophy and theology. God is the supreme and privileged object of philosophical speculation, and much about his being and nature can be attained by philosophy’s own method. But unaided human reason comes to its limits in its knowledge of the nature of God and His acts, and here passes into the service of the reflection on revealed truth. Philosophy both acts as a propaedeutic to the faith, and also provides a foundation presupposed for the clarification and analysis carried out by theology of the truths revealed by God. On the other hand, philosophy itself is also clarified and developed by engaging revelation philosophically. In this activity, philosophers are “working on their own terrain and with their own purely rational method, yet extending their research to new aspects of truth.” (Fides et Ratio 76) Aware of the Church’s custodianship of the truths of revelation, philosophy at the University understands the organic relationship in which it stands to the Church’s Magisterium.
Explore the Philosophy Program
Philosophy is an excellent major for any field or career. There are countless lawyers, accountants, engineers, doctors, teachers, cabinet makers, builders, salesmen and (perhaps most important of all) homemakers, who have majored in philosophy and have said that no other path of study would have given them the same deep and broad education. Without a solid foundation in philosophy, it is difficult to be a good citizen, to understand the principles underlying our work, and to make wise choices in our personal lives. Philosophy is essential to the integration of faith and reason for a Christian.
Bl. John Henry Newman explained in his work, The Idea of a University, that the purpose of a university education is to develop the intellectual virtues. Perhaps no discipline fosters the intellectual virtues as well as philosophy: “The artist puts before him beauty of feature and form; the poet, beauty of mind; the preacher, the beauty of grace: then intellect too, I repeat, has its beauty, and it has those who aim at it. To open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address, eloquent expression, is an object as intelligible … as the cultivation of virtue, while, at the same time, it is absolutely distinct from it.”
We have an excellent undergraduate major which is soundly based on the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, while also conveying an understanding of modern movements such as analytic and continental philosophy. All of our faculty members are deeply conversant with the Catholic intellectual tradition while being specialists as well in some particular area.
Because students can work closely with us, in small seminars, reading groups, and directed study, you will get personal attention here. There are many opportunities to associate with our faculty and become friends of professors outside the class environment. You can take your studies as far as you wish, and our best students have gone on to study at some of the best graduate programs around the world, including the Catholic University of America, the University of Arizona, Cambridge University, and the University of St. Thomas.
- Famous philosophy majors include: Steve Martin, Harrison Ford, Alex Trebek, and Mary Higgins Clark.
- Many members of the Monty Python group are philosophers. There is a close connection between comedy and philosophy. Both deal with the absurd. Both look at ordinary things in radically new ways.
- St. Pope John Paul II taught philosophy for many years at the Catholic University of Lublin, before becoming bishop of Krakow and later Pope.
- St. Thomas Aquinas referred to Aristotle simply as “The Philosopher.”
- Philosophy is the only discipline which includes, as a subject within that discipline, what the nature of the discipline is. (“What is philosophy?” is a question in philosophy, but “What is physics?” is not a question in physics.)
- The great mathematician Kurt Goedel loved philosophy and took inspiration from philosophy for his famous “incompleteness proof.” His proof is a sophisticated development of the Liar Paradox: Is the statement “I am now lying” true or false? (It seems to be false, if it’s true, and true, if it’s false.)
In addition to the core curriculum, philosophy majors take the following courses
- PHIL 203 Logic
- PHIL 205 Nature and Person and PHIL 206 Ethics are prerequisites for all required and elective courses.
- PHIL 302 Ancient Philosophy
- PHIL 305 Medieval Philosophy
- PHIL 401 Metaphysics
- PHIL 413 Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant
- PHIL 414 Contemporary Philosophy
- PHIL 490 Senior Seminar
- Elective Major Courses (2 Required)
See the Academic Catalogue for course descriptions
As undergraduates, philosophy majors can work as research assistants or interns to professors, whether at the university, at centers of ethics and public policy, or at think tanks.
Top philosophy majors can go on to graduate studies and academic careers. Philosophy is considered excellent preparation for law school. Many students double-major in philosophy and something else: for example, students who double-major in a science often take pre-med courses and go on to medical school.
The writing skills required for philosophy can be applied in journalism and in effective written communications in business. The debating skills fostered by philosophy are valuable for discussions and deliberations in every area of life and business.
Monica Waldstein (double major) –medical school student at Creighton University Medical School
Elizabeth Ann Del Curto (double major)—recently completed a Masters degree in Classics at the University of Arizona
Maureen Bielinski–graduate student in philosophy at the University of St. Thomas, Houston
Joseph Thomas—graduate student in philosophy at the Catholic University of America
Jackson Egan, entrepreneur and web consultant, currently a developer at Chaotic Moon and co-founder of In Media Res.
Janice Chik Breidenbach, Ph.D.
Barry David, Ph.D.
Maria Fedoryka, Ph.D.
Education: B.A., Philosophy, Christendom College; M.A., Philosophy, International Academy of Philosophy, Liechtenstein; Ph.D., Philosophy, International Academy of Philosophy, Liechtenstein
Office: Henkels 3047
Phone: (239) 280-2531
Curriculum Vitae: Download