The Problem of Female Spirituality

The Problem of Female Spirituality

Public discourse has long considered the Catholic Church as a vehicle for the subjugation of women. For this reason, feminist spirituality is widely thought to be necessarily subversive of traditional Christian teachings, perhaps even inherently unorthodox. This seminar will call into question both of these assumptions by exploring a space for feminist theology and spirituality within the Church. We will read excerpts from the writings of Edith Stein and John Paul II, both of whom are considered as among the foremost feminist Catholic theologians of the 20th century. This class will be taught by Kathleen Powers and Alexandra McCleary. For more information or to receive the readings, please contact

Dates: Tuesday evenings on 6.6, 6.13, 6.20

Time: 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Reading Schedule:

6.6: John Paul II,  “Letter to Women” and excerpts of Mulieris Dignitatem.
6.13: Edith Stein, “The Ethos of Women’s Professions”
6.20: Edith Stein, “The Separate Vocations of Man and Woman According to Nature and Grace”

This seminar will be taught by Alexandra McCleary and Kathleen Powers.

Movies With St. Thomas Aquinas

Watching Movies with St. Thomas Aquinas

Ludwig Wittgenstein said there was more wisdom in detective stories than in philosophy journals, but he might have mentioned movies too. Movies conform to life-as-lived more readily than ethical theories, and the study of cinematic stories can advance our understanding of morality in ways that the study of philosophy cannot. This seminar mines the ethical heart of four films and connects their themes to St. Thomas Aquinas’s teachings on the virtues of faith, hope, and love. Students will learn how plot design, visual design, and sound design not only convey thematic material–but how these same techniques might also help us better understand the virtuous life. Seminars will last from 7:00-9:30pm. Selections from Josef Pieper’s Faith, Hope, and Love will be discussed. To receive copies of the readings, please contact

May 18: The Book of Eli: Faith v. Blindness of Mind
June 1: Good Will Hunting: Faith v. Unbelief
June 15: Shawshank Redemption: Hope v. Despair
June 29: Mean Girls: Charity v. Discord

All class readings taken from Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope and Love

This seminar will be taught by Caleb Brown, Screenwriter and CEO at The Story Locker

Spring ’17 Faculty Dinner Talks

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Tuesday, February 14th: “The Origins of the Big Bang” by  Prof. Karl van Bibber (UC Berkeley – Nuclear Physics)

Tuesday, March 7th:  “Citizenship and the Limits of Empathy” by Prof. Kathleen Peterson (UC Davis – English)

Tuesday, April 18th: “The Fate of Beauty in Modern Music” by  Prof. George Barth (Stanford University – Music)

The Metaphysics of Goodness

How might assuming the best help us understand the world? According to Gottfried Leibniz, the world is most rationally explained by assuming that all things are ordered with an eye towards what is good and even best. Things happen for a good reason—not only human actions, but events in the natural world as well. This seminar will introduce students to the metaphysics of Leibniz, a field of study that seeks to explain the ultimate nature of reality. We will read selections from his Discourse on Metaphysics and his Monadology. Our goal will be to see how Leibniz’s approach to the deepest questions of philosophy might help us better understand the nature of God, the world, and our place in it.

Dates: Wednesday evenings on 4.5, 4.12, 4.19, 4.26.

Time: 5:30-7:00

Readings: For a free copy of the book, please contact


April 5: Discourse on Metaphysics, p. 1-21 (sect. 1-18)
April 12: Discourse on Metaphysics, p. 21-41 (sect. 19-37)
April 19: Monadology, p. 68-81
April 26:  Discourse, paragraphs 10, 17-22, 32-36. Monadology, paragraphs 8-12, 56-62.


The Problem of Identity

We often talk about identity to get at questions about being ourselves–who am I, what am I, and what makes me this person I am? But when we start to press these questions, we can find it hard to capture the most basic experiences of selfhood–the values, intuitions, hopes, and predicaments that shape our identities. This seminar will take up the problem of identity from a variety of religious perspectives. Its goal is to see how religious thought might offer conceptual resources that deepen and enlarge our ability to think clearly our own identities. This seminar will be co-taught by Prof. Steven Justice.

Dates: 1.26, 2.2, 2.9. 2.16, 2.23, 3.2, 3.9. 3.16, 3.23.

Time: Thursdays, 6:00-7:30pm.

Reading Schedule:

1.26: James K.A. Smith, How Not To Be Secular (excerpt)

2.2: Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, The Lonely Man of Faith (excerpt)

2.9: Simone Weil, “A Spiritual Autobiography”

2.16: Pascal, Pensees (selections)

2.23: Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian (excerpts)

3.2: John of the Cross, The Dark Night (selections)

3.9: Dante, Divine Comedy 

3.16: Augustine, Confessions, Book One.


What Christianity Offers the University

What Christianity Offers the Secular University

What place do assumptions that are distinctly religious have in the contemporary, secular academy?  Often, when people are asking this question, they want to know whether there might be some conflict between being a committed adherent of a religion and the enterprise of seeking knowledge.  But we want to ask a bigger question, and one that should be of special interest to Christians: is there something positive and distinct that religious views can offer the academy? In this seminar we will see how religious assumptions—about what the world is like and what we ought to do—make an important contribution to the university’s pursuit of knowledge.

Dates: Monday evenings on 3.13, 3.20, 4.3, 4.10
Time: 6:30-8:00 PM

Reading schedule:

3/13: Kyla Ebels-Duggan, “Autonomy as an Intellectual Virtue”
3/20: Alvin Plantinga, “Advice to Christian Philosophers”; Nicholas Wolterstorff, “Advice to Those Who Would be Christian Scholars”
4/3: J. Aaron Simmons, “The Strategies of Christian Philosophy”