The Ralph McInerny Center for Thomistic Studies will offer a three-year program in philosophical studies that will provide a wide-ranging introduction to classical philosophy. This program will consist of six courses over three years (during the fall and spring semesters), each course consisting of 6 or 7 two-hour sessions, including lectures and time for discussion.

This program is intended for generally educated citizens who wish to develop a deeper grounding in philosophy. No previous formal study in philosophy is required. Our goal is to provide people with sound philosophical “tools” that will help them to evaluate and form judgments about problems and issues facing them and their fellow citizens, drawing especially on the ethics and metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas.

OUR FIRST COURSE will be an introduction to ancient Greek philosophy. We will begin September 27, 2006 (Wednesday) from 7 to 9 p.m., at the McInerny Center office at 616 E Street, NW, Suite 1214. Short recommended readings will be provided online, along with suggestions for further reading. OUR SECOND COURSE will briefly survey the main periods in the history of philosophy, from Medieval to Early Modern until contemporary philosophy. And it will focus particularly on two absolutely uniquely great figures like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. OUR THIRD COURSE will deal with the basic principles in natural philosophy and logic as the needed background for the study more advanced areas, like metaphysics, in the FOURTH COURSE, and ethics and political theory in the FIFTH COURSE. Finally, in the SIXTH COURSE, we will end the program by addressing the public square and the current issue.

Classes will be taught by Fulvio Di Blasi (University of Palermo), Joshua Hochschild (Mt. St. Mary’s College), Ralph McInerny (University of Notre Dame), Dr. Michael Pakaluk (Clark University), Christopher Wolfe (Marquette University) and other Visiting Professors.

Cost of enrolling: $ 100.00 per course ($ 50.00 for students). Some tuition grants are available. To register, contact

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I. Philosophy, the Beginning - Third Class

Theory of Ideas, Second Navigation, and Knowledge as Remembering.
Myth, Faith and Reason

For our next two classes, we will be focusing on a single philosopher, the first from whom we possess a significant number of complete works. The philosopher is Plato, and we call his works "dialogues" because they imaginatively envision philosophical conversations between two or more characters.
A favorite dialogue used to introduce Plato's philosophy, and one especially suited to our chosen themes, is the Phaedo. In it, Plato pays homage to his teacher Socrates by depicting the final hours of Socrates' life, conversing with friends before his execution. The central, explicit philosophical question is whether there is life after death, whether the soul is immortal – but Plato uses the occasion to connect this question to some of his central theoretical innovations (the theory of recollection, the theory of the Forms) and practical concerns (the relationship between reason and myth; the connection between intellect and the emotions; the nature, causes, effects, and significance of virtue; and the purpose of philosophy).
Plato's Phaedo is the recommended reading for the next two courses. It is not brief, but can be read in parts. A classic discussion of the theory of the Forms, which will be a focus of the class on October 25, takes place over just a few pages, as part of Socrates' account of his own intellectual development (in most editions, numbered in the margins 95e-102a).
Any edition of the Phaedo can be used. The text is widely available online, for instance here.

On the linked page, you can find the section treating the theory of the Forms about two-thirds of the way into the dialogue, by searching down to the words "Socrates paused awhile" and ending at the words "the wonderful clarity of Socrates' reasoning."

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