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The Heart of an Augustinian Education

There are four foundational courses in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:

• The Augustine and Culture Seminar (ACS 1000/1001)
• Faith, Culture, and Reason (Theology and Religious Studies1000)
• Knowledge, Reality, Self (Philosophy 1000)
• The Good Life: Ethics and Contemporary Moral Problems (Ethics 2050)

The Foundational Courses address four intersecting questions which will guide you on your path through your experience here at Villanova and beyond. The four questions are:

• Who am I? (ACS)
• What can I know? (Philosophy)
• What do I believe? (Theology and Religious Studies)
• How should I live? (Ethics)

Through the Foundational Courses, students will also receive a deep exposure to the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the most significant thinkers in world history, and the patron saint of the Augustinian Order here at Villanova. Each of the Foundational courses will introduce students to different aspects of his works.

Why are these courses considered foundational?

• They offer four central foundational questions;
• They are built on a foundation of significant books and ideas that
   have shaped human culture;
• They are grounded in the Augustinian and Catholic intellectual    tradition;
• They provide a foundation of essential skills: close reading, critical writing, analytical discussion.

Through these courses, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences provides the distinctive stamp of a Villanova and Augustinian education.


Augustine and Culture Seminars: Detailed Course Description

Course Titles:  Augustine and Culture Seminar: “Ancients” (ACS 1000) and “Moderns” (ACS 1001)    

Catalog Description:  These seminars focus on the question: Who am I? The first seminar contains readings from Hebrew and Christian scriptures, Greek and Roman antiquity, Augustine’s Confessions, and the Middle Ages and is dedicated to understanding the foundations of our shared intellectual tradition.  The second semester continues to address the question of identity with texts from the Renaissance to the present.

Course Guidelines:

ACS 1000 explores the guiding question of “Who Am I” and includes readings from each of the following:

  • Hebrew Bible (Genesis recommended)
  • New Testament (Recommended: Acts of the Apostles, Gospel of Mark)
  • Classical Greece (suggested readings: Homer, Plato (Symposium, Apology), Sophocles, Aristotle
  • St. Augustine’s Confessions (required)
  • Medieval Europe

ACS 1001 continues to explore the question of “Who Am I?” and incorporates readings from the Renaissance to the present, including:

  • One play by Shakespeare
  • One author who represents the Catholic Christian intellectual tradition.  
  • At least two texts off of the Moderns Elective Reading List, a list that contains some of the most significant authors and texts of the Modern era.

To advance students in the following skills of critical reading and inquiry, writing, speaking and listening:

  • Analyze and understand difficult and important classical texts;
  • Write clearly and persuasively, supporting positions with argumentation and evidence;
  • Communicate effectively orally, based on reading and in class discussion s with other students;
  • Work well and learn from other members of the class in a climate of mutual respect.


  • To further the development of a vital intellectual community of scholars and student- scholars who learn from each other as active participants in these first year seminars.
  • To help students apply new perspectives and make connections between the student’s own ideas and values and the texts, and between the texts themselves.


In Book VIII of Confessions, Augustine tells the story of his conversion, the miraculous change that, it might be thought, would end the intellectual wanderings of his youth and bring peace to his restless heart.  Yet Augustine goes on to pose some truly fundamental questions near the beginning Book IX: “Who am I, and what am I?” (IX.1.1). Even after his conversion, that is, there is much that Augustine fails to understand about himself:  his mind, his heart, his failings, and his place in the world.  He still confesses to God, “In your eyes, I have become a question to myself” (X.33.50).

The “Who Am I” question thus guides the student’s journey through the ACS 1000 and 1001 sequence, from the ancients to the moderns.  In order to ask, “Who am I?” as Augustine did, students must examine not only the ancient world but the modern world as well—our world. Accordingly, if ACS 1000 is about “Augustine and His World,” ACS 1001 may be said to be about “Augustine and Our World.

Augustine’s Confessions as the unifying text for ACS 1000:

For more than 1500 years, seekers from all walks of life have turned to the Confessions as a model.  The book is particularly appropriate for our first year students.  Like Augustine, our students are encountering the key texts of Western civilization in hopes of learning the truth; Augustine’s life-journey is a model for their own education. 

Confessions describes Augustine’s wandering through the world of late antiquity—a world of Christians and pagans, Manicheans and Platonists, aristocrats and beggars.  For Augustine, beginning to understand himself meant coming to grips with these different people and, in many cases, with the books they read.  Moreover, in contrast to Augustine’s strictly theological texts, Confessions is generally accessible to the common reader.  For these reasons, studying the Confessions is a formative experience for all first year Villanova students.

Studying the Confessions is a formative experience for all first year Villanova students.

In addition, ACS 1000 students share the common experience of reading selections from the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, the Greeks, and the Middle Ages.

All sections study a play by Shakespeare, at least two texts on the Moderns Common Texts reading list, and at least one text from a Catholic Intellectual Tradition reading list.

Every two years, a faculty committee revisits the Catholic Intellectual Tradition reading list and the Moderns Common Texts reading List. 

A curriculum committee works in conjunction with the other Foundational courses (Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics) to prevent overlap in common texts.