The aim of philosophy at the University is to recover the possibility of a wisdom dealing with those "first things" which ground and locate human experience within the whole of being. Philosophy explores the totality of human existence. It analyzes the frameworks within which other human endeavors occur and recommends ways in which they might be situated so as to throw light on the character of the totality. Such illumination, in turn, affects those other human endeavors by giving them perspective. By reason of its location in a Catholic institution, the Department is particularly interested in the ways revelation has led to developments within a properly philosophic wisdom available to believers and nonbelievers alike.
The major tool of philosophic research lies in the careful study of classical texts from Plato and Aristotle to Heidegger and Wittgenstein. The cultivation of competence in logic and facility in at least one classical and one modern language are viewed as indispensable auxiliaries in the project. The underlying conviction is that texts which have continually attracted reflective minds throughout the centuries contain profound insights into the fundamental issues of being and thought, and that we neglect such insights at our own peril, especially since they have been instrumental in the formation of our own mental horizon. Hence polemical reaction takes second place to sympathetic dialogue. Not so much "Where do they go wrong?" as "What did they see?" governs the approach. Such an approach does not aim at the indifferent cataloguing of historical positions. Rather, it aims at understanding "the things themselves" through dialogue with the masters. The aim is to see the same things in different ways and thereby learn to assess the value and limitations of the differing ways with a view toward an ever-deepening wisdom of the whole.
The curriculum is divided into historical and thematic courses. The historical courses deal with an epoch or an individual thinker; the thematic courses with an area (e.g. ethics or metaphysics) or an issue (e.g. immortality or potentiality). But both types of courses are, in different ways historical and thematic. The thematic courses draw from the entire textual history and the historical courses engage the issues through the thinker or thinkers studied.
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