(Required Core Course) What does it mean for a man to be free? How does a man use his freedom well? These questions address the heart of the classical distinction between the liberal arts (Latin liber = free) and the servile or mechanical arts. A “liberal” education refers to the steps that lead away (e-ducere = to lead out) from the default, easy, servile starting point of our unrefined nature (erudition = being shaped and refined, i.e. not being rudus or “unformed”) to the full life befitting a free man. In this course, we will explore the tradition of liberal learning from Plato to Karl Marx, examining these questions from all sides. We will ask what it means to be truly educated, what education is for, and what kind of freedom is desirable for man. Hopefully, this will lay a foundation for your other courses at Memoria College as you establish a basic understanding of what all these classes are about.

We will read: Plato, ApologyCritoRepublic I–II; Sophocles, Oedipus the KingAntigone; Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics I, Politics I; Plutarch, Lives “Lycurgus and Numa Compared,” “Alexander,” “Caesar”; Job; Augustine Confessions I–VIII; Montaigne Essays (selections); Shakespeare, Hamlet; Locke, Second Essay on Government; Swift, Gulliver’s Travels; Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire 15–16; Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Federalist Papers (selections); Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Part.

This course offers a study in the classic texts of political philosophy, addressing the questions faced by both ancient people and people today: What are the ends of political life? What is the best form of government to serve these ends? What is the proper relation between government and the individual, and between government and religion? To answer these questions we will need to go beyond the surface-level policy discussions that we hear on the news and examine instead the fundamental issues that these policy discussions rest upon. By taking in a broad range of great books, we will also gain some understanding of the long historical development of Western political ideas.

We will read: Plato Republic I–V; Aristotle Politics I, III–IV; I Samuel; Tacitus Annals I, XIII–XVI; Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II QQ. 90–97; Machiavelli, Prince; Hobbes, Leviathan Introduction, 13–21; Shakespeare, Henry IV; Montesquieu Spirit of the Laws Preface, I–VIII; Rousseau, The Social Contract I–II; Locke, Second Essay on Government; Kant, The Science of Right Introduction, Second Part; Federalist (selections); Hegel, Philosophy of Right Introduction, III.III; Mill, Representative Government I–VIII, On Liberty;

The great natural philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “Nature has some perfections to show that she is the image of God, and some defects to show that she is only His image.” In many ways, this profound statement summarizes the findings of scientists throughout history. Text selections will help students learn how natural philosophy built the foundations of modern science and the pivotal role the Church played in shaping it.

We will read: Selections from Archimedes’ On Floating Bodies, Ptolemy’s Algamest, Bacon’s Opus Majus, Copernicus’ On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Kepler’s Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, Galileo’s The Two New Sciences, Pascal’s Account of the Great Experiment Concerning the Equilibrium of Fluids, Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, Newton’s Optics, Huygens’ Treatise on Light, Ray’s The Wisdom of God as Manifested in the Works of Creation, Lavosier’s Elements of Chemistry, and Darwin’s The Origin of Species.

In the end, all questions are theological. Pagans and Christians, atheists and saints have all shaped every aspect of the Great Conversation by the way they think (or don’t think) about God. In this course, we will try to develop an appreciation for the broad sweep of this history beginning with the Greeks, moving to the Christian Middle Ages, and ending in modernity. This class will not be a course in Christian systematic theology as you might expect to find at a seminary. Instead, we will be reading broadly from literature, drama, philosophy, epic, and Scripture in order to learn how mankind has thought about God, eternity, the soul, ultimate meaning, and worship.

We will read: Plato, Euthyphro, Laws X; Aristotle, De Anima; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound; Genesis, Exodus, and Matthew; Augustine, Confessions XI–XII; Aquinas, Summa Theologica I Q. 1, II-II QQ. 1–3; Dante, Divine Comedy Paradise; Hobbes, Leviathan I.12, II.31, III; Montaigne, Essays (selections); Milton, Paradise Lost I–III; Pascal, Pensées III–IV; Locke, Concerning Toleration, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding IV, XVIII–XIX; Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding X–XI; Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov VI; Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents I–II, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis Lecture 35.

This course will discuss the fundamental problems of human beings relating to one another in a civilized society. These problems deepen dramatically in importance and difficulty when we call upon the coercive power of the state to settle our disputes. The texts in this class will examine questions of justice, duty, right, and law, and they will ask about the extent to which these are grounded in positive human legislation versus the extent to which they are grounded in a higher divine or natural order.

We will read: Aeschylus, AgamemnonChoephoroeEumenides; Plato, EuthyphroLaws I, IV, ApologyCrito; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics V, Athenian Constitution; Exodus 19–20, Deuteronomy 5–6, Matthew 15, 22:15–40, Romans 7–8; Plutarch, Lives “Solon”; Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II QQ. 90, 94–97; Hobbes, Leviathan 14–15, 26–28; Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice; Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws I, XIV–XVII, XXIX; Rousseau, A Discourse on Political EconomyThe Social Contract II; Kant, The Science of Right Part I; Articles of Confederation, Constitution; Hegel, Philosophy of Right III.IIB; Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov XII.

The ancient epic tradition of Homer stands at the beginning of all Western literature. Many centuries later, Virgil self-consciously imitates this beginning in order to do for the Romans what Homer did for the Greeks. These poems tell the tale of larger-than-life heroes on the plain of battle, of gods aiding and foiling the plans of men, of glorious victory and pitiful loss—all in lofty lines of dactylic hexameter. In this course, we will study both the cultural milieu in which these epics were composed and the later culture that they helped to found.

We will read: Odyssey I–V, Odyssey VI–X, Odyssey XI–XIV, Odyssey XV–XX, Odyssey XXI–XXIV, Iliad I–V, Iliad VI–X, Iliad XI–XIV, Iliad XV–XX, Iliad XXI–XXIV, Aeneid I–II, Aeneid III–IV, Aeneid V–VII, Aeneid VIII–X, and Aeneid XI–XII.

While many associate the tradition of epic poetry with the pagan Greeks and Romans, both Dante and Milton qualify for the laurel crown right along with the best of them. These Christian epics, however, expand the focus to the whole sweep of history from the fall of Satan to the return of Christ and the whole cosmos of heaven and earth, hell and purgatory. In this course, we will look at The Divine Comedy, including discussion of its background in medieval philosophy and theology, and we will cover Paradise Lost, including reflection on the culture of post-Reformation England.

We will read: Inferno Intro and I–XI, Inferno XII–XXII, Inferno XXIII–XXXIII, Purgatorio I–XI, Purgatorio XII–XXII, Purgatorio XXIII–XXXIII, Paradiso I–XI, Paradiso XII–XXII, Paradiso XXIII–XXXIII, Paradise Lost I–II, Paradise Lost III–IV, Paradise Lost V–VI, Paradise Lost VII–VIII, Paradise Lost IX–X, and Paradise Lost XI–XII.

The great treasury of Greek drama, the vast majority of which has now been lost, was written by a small handful of writers, in a single Greek city, with a population in the tens of thousands, emerging from the illiterate depths of bronze-age prehistory. One might be forgiven for guessing that the products of these writers would not survive the test of time. And yet—the treatment of the human condition by Aeschylus and Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes, has proved to hold enduring interest across centuries and cultures. As we read, we will ask what all these very old Greek things have to do with humanity today.

We will read: Prometheus Bound, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides, Ajax, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, The Bacchae, Medea, Hippolytus, Helen, The Birds, The Clouds, and The Frogs.

“[T]here is not a place of splendor or a dark corner of the earth that does not deserve if only a passing glance of wonder or pity,” says Joseph Conrad in his famous “Preface,” where he discusses the purpose of art and particularly of literary fiction. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when the world lost (for good or ill) its sense of philosophical and theological grounding and consensus, we see a flowering of realistic fiction that seeks to portray both the splendid and the dark, to arouse wonder and pity, and to investigate questions of human meaning and purpose from a uniquely literary angle. In this course, we will study some of the great works of that period and will investigate these authors’ investigations of the human being. But we will also consider these authors’ reflections on their own art, asking with Conrad, “What is literature for? What is it meant to do for and to us?”

We will read: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, “Preface to the N—- of the Narcissus” and Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, Babette’s Feast by Isak Dinesen.

Using masterworks of Romantic and early modern literature, we will explore together two archetypal themes: the conflict between good and evil and man’s struggle to find meaning. Goethe’s rollicking, earth-shattering play Faust, Part I (1808) will set the frame for us. Then, we will proceed through Gogol’s ironic and prophetic short story The Nose (1836), Dostoevsky’s probing novel The Brothers Karamazov (1880), Tolstoy’s incomparable novel Anna Karenina (1878), and conclude with Chekhov’s searing play The Cherry Orchard (1903).

We will read: Goethe Faust 1–807, Faust 808–2804, Faust 2805–3834, Faust 3835–4614, Gogol The Nose, Tolstoy Anna Karenina I–II, Anna Karenina III–IV, Anna Karenina V–VI, Anna Karenina VII–VIII, Dostoevsky Brothers Karamazov I–III, Brothers Karamazov IV–VI, Brothers Karamazov VII–IX, Brothers Karamazov X–XII and Epilogue, Chekhov The Cherry Orchard I–II, and The Cherry Orchard III–IV.

Few students will need to be convinced of the centrality of Shakespeare to English literature. At once poignantly true to life and perversely ironical, elevated, and farcical, Shakespeare gives the English language words and phrases for every season. In this course, students will read closely several of Shakespeare’s most influential plays from each of his three genres: history, comedy, and tragedy. Students will consider what structures Shakespeare’s plays, what drives his characters, what accounts for their deep insight into human affairs, and most importantly what makes his words so perfect.

We will read: As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Henry V, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello.

In this course, we will attempt to formulate as a science what is really an art: the art of right living. We will reflect on the question, “How ought we to live? What is the good life for man?” This question, however, will draw us into further perennial questions about the very nature of goodness and duty, right action and right feeling, freedom and fate. These questions have been central to the conversation of the great books since the time when man learned to write, and we will see the same themes arise repeatedly in our texts over thousands of years. Hence, students will be asked to reflect both on their own answers to these questions and on the unfolding history of the questions themselves.

We will read: Plato, LachesGorgias; Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics I–III, X; Epictetus, Discourses; Aquinas, Summa Theologica I-II QQ.1–5; Hobbes, Leviathan (selections); Montaigne, Essays (selections); Spinoza, Ethics Part V; Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (selections); Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of MoralsCritique of Practical Reason, I.II; Hegel, Philosophy of Right III.I; Mill, Utilitarianism; Darwin, The Descent of Man I.IV–V.

Post-Enlightenment thought gave birth to a new set of philosophical, social, and political questions, which, in turn, gave birth to a new set of disciplines. Economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and a host of other fields of study came to prominence in the nineteenth century. These all involved a reassessment of human nature and proposed new, controversial, and sometimes radical views about the relationship between man and society and between man and himself. The purpose of this course is to understand and assess these views in light of the broader intellectual tradition of the Christian West.

We will read: Kant, What is Enlightenment?; Darwin, The Descent of Man; Comte, A General View of Positivism; Spencer, The Study of Sociology; Smith, Wealth of Nations and Theory of Moral Sentiments; Bastiat, That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen; Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money; Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844; Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France; De Toqueville, Democracy in America; James, The Principles of Psychology; Freud, The Origin and Development of Psych-Analysis Selected Papers on Hysteria, A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis; Durkheim; Elementary Forms of the Religious Life; Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism; Laing, The Divided Self; Berger, The Social Construction of Reality and The Sacred Canopy. 

All the questions we ask in other courses become philosophical questions in the end. To say anything meaningful about anything, we must at least tacitly make assumptions about the relationship between our minds in the world. Is it possible for fallible creatures like ourselves to know anything at all for certain? If we can know, what shape does this knowledge take and how far does it go? When we make claims about reality and think that some of those claims are true and others are false, what must the very structure of reality be? The deeper we go with such questions, the more esoteric they can seem, and yet they also press upon us with greater and greater urgency as we pursue a life of wisdom. This course will survey what has been said about such things by some of the great authors in the Western tradition.

We will read: Plato, Republic; Aristotle, Metaphysics I, IV; Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, I–II; Aquinas, Summa Theologica I QQ. XVI–XVII; Montaigne, Essays, “Apology for Raimond de Sebonde”; Descartes, Discourse on Method I–IV; Spinoza, Ethics I; Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, IV.I–IV; Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge; Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding I–VIII; Kant, Critique of Pure Reason (selections); James, Principles of Psychology Ch. 28.

Western culture has produced a body of music unsurpassed in expressive force and beauty. Grounded in the science of Pythagoras, forged in early Christianity, and refined by Renaissance ideals, the music we label as “classical” emerged as a cultural force by the mid-seventeenth century. Visual art has a far longer history of cultural and spiritual significance, linking us directly to our Greek heritage.

Great art and music deserve to take their places alongside the great books. The desire to hear, make, and be uplifted by music is born within each of us, yet music receives scant attention in today’s systematic curricula. A child is born with a magnificent capacity to create and respond to visual art but learns all too soon that art is an elective, over which more “serious” studies take precedence.

It was not always so. Artists, composers, writers, scientists, and philosophers were always entwined. Accordingly, in examining the period primarily between 1600 and the end of World War II, we will consider parallel developments in visual art and music. The masterworks we select will reflect the influence of literature, philosophy, and aesthetics; general and specific history; and the new technologies of each era. No music or art background is needed for this course.