Is it good?

It is true?

It is beautiful?

What is the good and what makes for a good life? How can we know the truth and live truly? What attracts us to beauty and does beauty matter? These are the most fundamental questions of human life. They apply to everything in our lives: from the world and society we inhabit, to our deepest convictions about the meaning of life to our chosen professions, friendships, even to the shows we watch and the products we buy. In our Examined Life Cohort, we aim to consider these questions in dialogue with great thinkers, artists, and writers from the ancient world to the present. Informed by the Augustinian tradition, we live out the Villanova mission statement and “affirm the intrinsic good of learning, contemplation and the search for truth.”  

This three-semester sequence is our most popular and fulfills core requirements in the Augustine and Culture Seminar (for all Villanova students) and the Literature and Writing course (for CLAS students). In these courses students examine the meaning, reality, and impacts of goodness, truth, and beauty. Through seminar discussion, common lectures, and cultural outings, they are shaped by their encounters to live an examined life themselves. While doing so, they develop their skills in reading, writing as well as analyzing and synthesizing knowledge. These skills are invaluable within any major or career. Drawing together the pursuit of wisdom, shared dialogue, and the development of necessary skills students find in the examined life, the only life worth living.  

Read more from our Honors Director, Dr. Anna Moreland, who discusses "The Examined Life: the Good, the True, the Beautiful" Living and Learning Cohort.


Course Sequence

This course inaugurates your college experience with robust discussion about what human beings really want and love.  You’ll read classic texts that discuss questions that human beings ask in every generation:

How should I live? How do I know if my friendships are real?  Can I be better and happier than I am? How should our society be ordered?  Do I want what you want?  How are we going to work all this out?

Readings from Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Coen Brothers’ movie No Country for Old Men, and more.  You will also begin your year-long journey through St. Augustine’s Confessions.

This course challenges you to consider what you think is true (and how you know that).  Is truth good? Is it useful? Is it knowledge? Can we ever be certain about anything? What if truth is just another name for power? Is it for everyone? Is it everything? Can it set us free?

Texts are drawn from history, literature, philosophy, and theology, with a focus on how what we think is true impacts every aspect of our lives.  You will read texts by William Shakespeare, W.E.B. Dubois, Mary Shelley, Plato, and more, and you will complete your year-long journey through St. Augustine’s Confessions.

Is a beautiful, examined life possible? This course considers the promise and perils of the beautiful: Where do we find it?  How does an encounter with beauty change us?  Does beauty move us to love and to justice?  What if it merely entertains or, worse, manipulates us? What light do truth and goodness shed on beauty? 

You’ll read literary works by James Joyce, Dante, Oscar Wilde, Karen Blixen, Walker Percy, Zadie Smith, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, in addition to various interpretations of beauty from Plato, Walter Pater, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Jacques Maritain, Josef Pieper, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Iris Murdoch. 

The three-semester sequence of the Examined Life concludes by proposing that we consider ourselves as masterpieces in the making.

Villanova University
Garey Hall 106
800 Lancaster Ave.
Villanova, PA 19085

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