“Happy the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding!” (Proverbs 3:13). But it is hard to find something, if one is not looking for it, and no one is motivated to look for something which he does not want. Philosophy means the love of wisdom: it implies the search for this understanding which is praised in Scripture — that is, insofar as we can attain it through the light of natural reason. (In contrast, Theology pursues the wisdom which is specifically revealed and attained through the light of faith.)
In searching for anything of value, it would be silly not to rely on those accomplished men and women who came before us. Hence at Ave Maria we place great weight on the history of philosophy, especially Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas. At the same time we esteem great philosophers of recent times, such as Edith Stein, John Henry Newman, Karol Wojtyła, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and Elizabeth Anscombe. We look to the astute thinkers of both the analytic and continental traditions, to draw from them what is best and most profitable.
“Men and women have at their disposal an array of resources for generating greater knowledge of truth so that their lives may be ever more human. Among these is philosophy, which is directly concerned with asking the question of life’s meaning and sketching an answer to it. Philosophy emerges, then, as one of the noblest of human tasks” (St. Pope John Paul II, Fides et ratio, n. 4).
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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 302 Ancient Philosophy
PHIL 305 Medieval Philosophy
PHIL 308 Epistemology
PHIL 401 Metaphysics
PHIL 403 Political Philosophy
PHIL 413 Modern and Contemporary Philosophy
PHIL 301 Philosophy of Religion
PHIL 310 Philosophy of Love
PHIL 402 Aesthetics
PHIL 405 Philosophy of Science
PHIL 406 St. Augustine
PHIL 407 St. Thomas Aquinas
PHIL 408 Franciscan Philosophy
PHIL 409 John Henry Newman
PHIL 410 Plato
PHIL 411 Aristotle
PHIL 412 Recent Philosophy
PHIL 415 Special Topics
PHIL 490 Senior Seminar
See the Academic Catalog 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.
Michael Pakaluk, Ph.D.
Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Professor of Philosophy
Barry David, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Joseph Yarbrough, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Classics & Philosophy and Chair of the Classics Department
Janice Chik Breidenbach, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Distinguished Scholar in Residence – Department of Philosophy
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.
Click on the link below to access the Philosophy Department’s blog page. We post our philosophical reflections on perennial and contemporary questions as well as on Departmental and University news and other topics of interest.