DO430CE Philosophy for Understanding Theology





The course presents students with an introductory overview of the major historical figures and their principal ideas in the discipline of philosophy. The goal is to make later theological concepts more intelligible by revealing their association with the great philosophical traditions that influenced the writings of the Church Fathers, Doctors and theologians through the ages and into the contemporary world.


Course Syllabus

Course Description

The course presents students with an introductory overview of the major historical figures and their principal ideas in the discipline of philosophy. The goal is to make later theological concepts more intelligible by revealing their association with the great philosophical traditions that influenced the writings of the Church Fathers, Doctors and theologians through the ages and into the contemporary world.

 

Course Objectives and Goals:

  • Know and understand the origin and depth of philosophical and Christian thought, understanding the development of theology from its origins.
  • Acquire a global vision of the main authors, the philosophical currents and the deep problems that have concerned the human being.
  • Relate philosophical theories with the historical, social and cultural framework in which they are raised. Discover one's own cultural and ideological position as heir to a tradition, before which one must be reflective and critical
  • Recognize the importance of the theories of the past for the understanding of current philosophical problems.
  • Become aware of the need for understanding as a condition of possibility of an authentic dialogue.
  • Value intellectual rigor in the analysis of problems. Appreciate the capacity of reason to regulate individual and collective human action.

Required Texts and Resources:

  • Philosophy for Understanding Theology, by Diogenes Allen. Atlanta: John Knox Press.

About the book: Allen & Springsted are Protestant theologians, and their perspective often shows in their assessment of certain theological views (for example, they are rather dismissive of the work of St. Thomas Aquinas). It will be a good exercise to keep this in mind as you read their book. Philosophy is, by and large, nothing more than an engagement with reasons, and one must be prepared to answer one’s critics as well as to defend one’s own views!

Available Online (links provided)

  • Pope St. John Paul II‚Äôs encyclical, Fides et ratio (Faith and reason)
  • Catholic Bible (e.g., NABRE at USCCB website)
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church

Provided Resources

  • A History of Philosophy by Frederick Copleston, S.J. (selections from the encyclopedic nine-volume work)
  • Selected terms and articles will be assigned regularly from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, easily found online and with immediate alphabetical linkage to the terms.

Optional Texts and Resources:

  • 101 Key Terms in Philosophy and Their Importance for Theology, by Kelly James Clark, Richard Lints, and James K.A. Smith. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

Weekly Topics:

  1. Introduction: Definition of philosophy - a science, an art, a religion? Connection to theology. Discuss the value of philosophy to Catholic theology and the Catholic Church
  2. Plato: Describe similarities between Plato‚Äôs concept of the relationship of earthly existence to eternity and the Christian concept of life on earth and eternal life ‚Äď and Catholic Doctrine. Discuss Plato‚Äôs concept of the human soul and Catholic teaching on the soul.
  3. Wisdom: Scriptural concept of ‚Äúwisdom‚ÄĚ, Identify ways the theological works of St Augustine were influenced by Plato and the Platonic Tradition. Discuss the differences between Platonic thought and Christian theology. Discuss the impact of the Stoics, Plotinus and Pseudo-Dionysius of Catholic Theology.
  4. Aristotle: Substance/accident, essences, genera and species; Influence Christian theology; differences between Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology
  5. Scholastic theology: Compare/contrast Aristotelian philosophy and Scholastic Theology. Discuss Aristotle‚Äôs ‚ÄúUnmoved Mover‚ÄĚ as evidence for the existence of God. Discuss the on-going interaction between faith and reason; the doctrine of the Trinity.
  6. Aquinas: Natural theology and his five proofs for the existence of God; St. John Paul II’s analysis of Aquinas from Fides et ratio;
  7. Nominalism, Realism, Humanism: philosophical shift leading up to the Scientific Revolution
  8. Modern Philosophy: The world and the mind from the perspective; Compare Rationalism and Empiricism; Characteristics of the Enlightenment. Integrate these philosophical approaches with Christianity.
  9. Kant: The mind from the perspective of Emmanuel Kant; the limits of knowledge. Kant’s position with respect to God, Jesus Christ. Kant’s explanation of moral law; Kant’s impact on philosophy and on Catholic Theology.
  10. Hegel: Epistemology; Master-Slave concept; Absolute Spirit. Theological implications of Hegel’s philosophy.
  11. Contemporary Philosophy: The world and the mind from the perspective of modern philosophy; existentialism, phenomenology and hermeneutics. Compare approaches with Christianity.
  12. Postmodern Philosophy: Standards of truth and certainty sought in postmodern philosophy; Moral relativism. Challenges to the Catholic faith by moral relativism and Church responses.