Directors: Robert Anderson and Thomas Larson
The Great Books Program, administered by the Philosophy Department, aims to bring about a fully integrated liberal arts education. Through the study of great works in the arts, literature, philosophy, science, and theology, primarily of Western Civilization, the program challenges students to seek out what is true, what is good, and what is beautiful, so that they may become wiser and better human beings. The program engages the abilities to think clearly, to write well, and to communicate persuasively. When developed, these abilities are applicable to a wide range of career options within the social, economic, and political world into which the student graduates.
In addition to pursuing an integrated understanding of a great range of human wisdom, this course of study has two other significant features. The first is an emphasis on discussion seminars rather than lecture classes. The second is the use of primary rather than secondary sources or textbooks.
Great Books majors take nine (9) courses:
Students who major in the Great Books should be able to:
- Demonstrate familiarity with classic texts from different genres (including philosophy, literature, politics, history, science, theology, poetry, mathematics, and autobiography), historical periods (including Greek, Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, Enlightenment, Modern, and Contemporary), and intellectual traditions (both Western and Non-Western)
- Understand and summarize, both orally and in writing, classic texts in their entirety, including their major themes, developments, and internal divisions
- Identify, explain, and evaluate, both orally and in writing, key ideas found in classic texts
- Participate in, and also lead, intellectual conversations constructively by asking good questions, articulating one’s own ideas, arguing cogently for one’s own positions, listening charitably to others, responding intelligently to others, receiving criticism good-naturedly, and revising one’s own opinions in light of such criticism
- Contribute meaningfully to ongoing conversations about perennial questions addressed in classic texts, including questions about good, evil, beauty, love, friendship, community, justice, knowledge, education, God, death, human nature, and the meaning of life
- Appreciate and articulate the ways in which a liberal education in the Great Books enriches a human life devoted to the pursuit of truth, wisdom, and virtue
Great Books majors generally take Ancient Great Books (GB 271 ) and Medieval Great Books (GB 272 ). Depending on initial placement, they may also be completing their language requirement. The rest of their schedules can be filled with core requirements, general electives, or courses for a minor or double major.
Great Books majors generally take Renaissance Great Books (GB 273 ), Modern Great Books (GB 274 ), and Formal Logic (PH 321 ). The rest of their schedules can be filled with core requirements, general electives, or courses for a minor or double major.
Great Books majors generally take Contemporary Great Books (GB 275 ) and Non-Western Great Books (GB 276 ). The rest of their schedules can be filled with core requirements, general electives, or courses for a minor or double major.
Double Major in Great Books and Philosophy
Students may elect to double major in Great Books and Philosophy. In completing the requirements for each major, students are permitted to count two of their courses as fulfilling requirements for both programs. All double majors must pass the comprehensive exam in each major.