"How should I live?" "What is truth?" "What beauty saves the world?"

Mankind has been asking questions about the transcendentals—the good, the true and the beautiful—even before the advent of modern society, making these topics worthy of in-depth inquiry. In this learning community, students have the opportunity to engage in a distinct Honors experience in the most flexible way. Students participate in a three-course sequence, each of which focuses on one of these transcendentals.

Each course in this sequence is a requirement of the University’s core curriculum. Our learning community sections tailor these courses to the investigation of the good, the true and the beautiful. Co-curricular activities such as trips and special lectures give students in this community the opportunity to engage in their studies outside of the traditional classroom setting.

This learning community works well for students in all disciplines.


Course Sequence

This course is an interdisciplinary investigation of the transcendental “good.” From the perspective of the students, the question of the good originates in the question of “How should I live?” and “How should my society be ordered?” Thus “The Good” course is a course in Political Philosophy and Ethics. 

“The Good” course is first in the learning community sequence, since it addresses foundational questions. Readings include selections from Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Shakespeare, Scripture, Machiavelli, Tocqueville, etc. Co-curricular activities such as trips and combined learning community lectures are also a part of this course.

As the second in the “transcendentals” series, this course is a seminar organized around the “true.” We will read both classic and contemporary texts that aim to raise the question of the nature of truth and to explore its essential connection with goodness and beauty. 

We will begin with a consideration of the impoverishment of the notion of truth in contemporary discourse and then consider both the origins of this impoverishment and alternatives to it. Along the way, students will learn to read texts closely, to engage in fruitful discussion of them with their classmates and to write compelling papers.

“What beauty saves the world?”—Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

Where do we find the beautiful? How does an encounter with beauty change us? Does it move us to love and to justice? Or does it mislead and seduce us? Does beauty walk rightly with goodness and truth, or do philosophical and theological concerns distract and deaden the artist or the lover? 

These questions will guide our inquiry into the beautiful across disciplines and across centuries. We will read literary works by Dante, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Walker Percy and attend to visual and musical encounters with the beautiful. We will pursue the contested interpretations of beauty among classical thinkers such as Plato, Kant, Hume and Nietzsche, as well as more recent assessments by Roger Scruton, Elaine Scarry, Josef Pieper, John Paul II and Hans Urs van Balthasar. 

With these great minds, we will ask not only if beauty can save the world but also what beauty could save the world.

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