Core Course Descriptions
601 – The Education of a Free Man: Introduction to the Liberal Arts
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, Apology, Crito, Republic I–II; Sophocles, Oedipus the King, Antigone; 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.
602 – Man in Society: The Development of Political Theory
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;
603 – Natural Philosophy and Modern Science
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. In this course, 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. These selections will help students learn how natural philosophy built the foundations of modern science and the pivotal role the church played in shaping it.
604 – The Numinous and the Divine: History of Religion and Theology
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.
605 – Rights, Laws, and the Power of the State: Philosophy of Law and Jurisprudence
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, Agamemnon, Choephoroe, Eumenides; Plato, Euthyphro, Laws I, IV, Apology, Crito; 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 Economy, The Social Contract II; Kant, The Science of Right Part I; Articles of Confederation, Constitution; Hegel, Philosophy of Right III.IIB; Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov XII.
607a – The Meaning and Purpose of Literature: The English Novel
“[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 19th and 20th 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, beginning with the novels of Austen, Dickens, and Eliot, moving to the short fiction of Conrad, Hawthorne, and Melville, and concluding with a little-known novella by Isak Dinesen. We 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: Jane Austen, Mansfield Park; George Eliot, Middlemarch; Charles Dickens Great Expectations; Nathaniel Hawthorne, selected short stories; Herman Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener” and “The Lightning-Rod Man”; Joseph Conrad, “Preface to The N——of the ‘Narcissus’”; Isak Dinesen, Babette’s Feast.
608 – The Art of Right Living: The Study of Ethics and Moral Values
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, Laches, Gorgias; 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 Morals, Critique of Practical Reason, I.II; Hegel, Philosophy of Right III.I; Mill, Utilitarianism; Darwin, The Descent of Man I.IV–V.
609 – Mind, Soul and Science: Biology, Psychology, and Medicine
Man is a rational animal. Hence, he participates in both the physical, animal side of creation and he participates in the spiritual, intellectual side. In this course, students will read selections from the Great Books that explore the interplay between these two dimensions of human existence. What is soul? How tied is the life of our soul to the life of our body? How connected are the healing of bodily disorders and the healing of spiritual or mental disorders? Questions like these have occupied doctors and philosophers, scientists and theologians throughout the classical tradition, and this course will provide a broad overview of that conversation.
We will read: Hippocrates, Oath, On Ancient Medicine, On the Sacred Disease; Plato, Meno; Aristotle, On the Soul II, On the Parts of Animals I; Galen, On the Natural Faculties I–II; Aquinas, Summa Theologica I–II QQ. XLIX–LIV; Hobbes, Leviathan I.I–X; Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (selections); Harvey, On the Motion of the Heart and the Blood in Animals; Darwin, Origin of Species III–IV, Descent of Man I–IV; James, The Principles of Psychology, IX–X, XXV–XXVI; Freud, Origin and Development of Psycho-Analysis, Selected Papers on Hysteria III, A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis (selections), New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis Lectures 30–31.
610 – Mind and Reality: Introduction to Philosophy
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.