Phil 43811:  Chesterton


Malloy 304/631-7327


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Purpose----Texts----Requirements---- Syllabus----On-line texts, notes, and papers----First Paper Assignment-----Second Paper Assignment-----Third Paper Assignment-----Grade Scale

Purpose of Course:  Though Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was not a 'trained philosopher', a trained philosophical eye can see that he is nonetheless a deep and insightful philosopher.  Perhaps the best Catholic apologist of his time, he anticipated as early as 1908 the turn from modernism to post-modernism in the late 20th century, found interesting and creative ways to propound Catholic doctrine, and developed many provocative criticisms of the contemporary alternatives to Catholicism. What's more, mirabile dictu, he did all of this with literary elegance, panache, and humor -- a combination that is both hard to beat and not often encountered in philosophy courses for majors (Plato and Hume excepted). This course will feature Chesterton's two greatest philosophical works, Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man, in addition to his semi-biographical work on the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas.  (Also featured will be "The Arena," Chesterton's poem about Notre Dame football.)

Prerequisites:  Even though there are no formal prerequisites for this course, students who have already taken both Phil 30301 and Phil 30302 will, ceteris paribus, get the most out of the course.

Texts: I have ordered the following texts for the course, even though Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man, and St. Thomas Aquinas are all available on the web:

  • G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Ignatius Press) (ISBN:  978-0898705522)
  • G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (Ignatius Press)  (ISBN:  978-0898704440)
  • G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas/St. Francis of Assisi (Ignatius Press)  (ISBN:  978-0898709452)

  • Daily Question. Every class day during the semester you are required to email a question about the reading for the day to the instructor by 10:00 AM (15% of course grade).
  • Active Seminar Participation (10% of course grade).
  • Papers. You are required to write three 6-7 pp. papers on assigned topics, worth 75% of the course grade.  These papers will be due on 2/24, 3/30, and 4/27.  (You may write the third paper on an alternative topic of your own choosing, but you must submit a proposal to me for approval by 4/13.)

  • Preliminary reading.  You are expected to read the following before the course begins:

Tentative Syllabus:
  • 1/13:  Chesterton's general outlook and the argument of Orthodoxy
    • Orthodoxy, chap. 1
  • 1/18:  Chesterton's critique of modernism
    • Orthodoxy, chap. 2
    • The Everlasting Man, appendix II

  • 1/20:  Chesterton's critique of post-modernism
    • Orthdoxy, chap. 3
  • 1/25:  The elfish alternative to modernism and postmodernism
    •  Orthodoxy, chap. 4

  • 1/27:  Truth vs. loyalty:  how to have both
    • Orthodoxy, chap. 5
  • 2/1:  Christianity and equilibrium
    •  Orthodoxy, chap. 6

  • 2/3:  Not a tame religion
    • Orthodoxy, chap. 7
  • 2/8: Liberating rigidity
    • Orthodoxy, chap. 8

  • 2/10:  Authority and adventure
    • Orthodoxy, chap. 9
  • 2/15: Pagodas and the Caveman
    • The Everlasting Man, Introduction and Part I, chap. 1

  • 2/17:  The professors, the cave-man, and The Iliad
    • The Everlasting Man, Introduction and Part I, chaps. 2-3
  • 2/22: Religious pluralism, Chesterton-style
    • The Everlasting Man, Part I, chap. 4
  • 2/24:  Gods, demons, and philosophers -- what they're all looking (out) for
    • The Everlasting Man, Part I, chaps. 5-6  (paper due - no comment required)

  • 2/29: Rome and Carthage:  good vs. bad paganism
    • The Everlasting Man, Part I, chap. 7

  • 3/2: Doomsday for paganism 
    • The Everlasting Man, Part I, chap. 8
    • "The Arena"  (poem about Notre Dame football, contrasting bad pagan 'entertainment' with Christian entertainment)
  • 3/14: The new cave-(god)-man 
    • The Everlasting Man, Part II, chap. 1

  • 3/16:  The unread Gospel
    • The Everlasting Man, Part II, chap. 2
    • Highly recommended:  Matthew, Mark, or Luke

  • 3/21:  Born to die
    • The Everlasting Man, Part II, chap. 3

  • 3/23:  How heresy defines the Church
    • The Everlasting Man, Part II, chap. 4 
  • 3/30: Good paganism redivivus
    • The Everlasting Man, Part II, chap. 5  (paper due - no comment required)

  • 4/4:  The resiliency of the Faith 
    • The Everlasting Man, Part II, chap. 6 and conclusion
  • 4/6: The revival of nature by the whacky poet and the stodgy philosopher
    • St. Thomas Aquinas (from St. Thomas Aquinas/St. Francis of Assisi), Introductory Note and chap. 1

  • 4/11:  The accidental Dominican and Aristotle
    • St. Thomas Aquinas, chaps. 2-3

  • 4/13:  The specter of (the wrong sort of) anti-naturalism
    • St. Thomas Aquinas, chap. 4

  • 4/18:  Portrait of a saint
    • St. Thomas Aquinas, chap. 5

  • 4/20:  Peeping Thomism
    • St. Thomas Aquinas, chap. 6

  • 4/25:  The irrepressible philosophy
    • St. Thomas Aquinas, chap. 7

  • 4/27:  What now?
    • St. Thomas Aquinas, chap. 8 (paper due - no comment required)