Moderns Annotated Bibliography

General Editor, Dr. Liam Kavanagh (2017-)

Prior Editors: Dr. Lorraine McCrary (2014-16)


Please note: This annotated bibliography is provided as a resource for faculty looking to explore new or different authors and texts to teach in ACS1001: Moderns. The items on the bibliography reflect the professional expertise and/or the teaching experience of the faculty member(s) who wrote the entries. The bibliography is not intended as an official list of required authors or texts. New entries are always welcome: please contact the General Editor for more information.  

Early Modern

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was a late Renaissance/early modern figure in every sense of the word: trained as a lawyer, during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I Bacon served as Attorney General and then as Lord Chancellor; he was also worked as an education reformer, philosopher, essayist, and author. (Despite his many talents, he did not also write Shakespeare’s plays.) An Anglican (of course), Bacon first rose to political prominence in 1684 when he wrote a memorandum titled “A Letter of Advice to Queen Elizabeth,” advocating a kind of alert toleration of Catholics in the realm. His work on education reform has been and continues to be tremendously influential: Bacon has been referred to as the philosophical father of both the scientific method and of empiricism. Bacon’s ultimately incomplete philosophical project was titled The Great Instauration, but one part of the project he did succeed in completing, and that is particularly useful in the context of ACS1001, is The New Organon (Novum Organum Scientiarum, 1620).

The New Organon is a two-book collection of aphorisms – intended to replace Aristotle’s works on logic collectively known as the Organon – that introduce, explain, and illustrate Bacon’s proposed method of acquiring knowledge. In a Cartesian spirit avant la lettre, Bacon explains his aim as the following: “I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty.” The method Bacon proposes is inductive reasoning. As preparation for successful use of the method, Bacon contends that we should be cognizant of “four idols” that “so beset men’s [sic] minds that truth can hardly find entrance:” the “idols of the tribe,” the “idols of the cave,” the “idols of the marketplace,” and the “idols of the theater” (aphorisms 38-68). The idols of the tribe are rooted in human nature itself, and include the inclination to trust the evidence of our senses; the idols of the cave are rooted in the experiences and temperaments of individuals, and include a desire for order or an aptitude for noticing differences; the idols of the marketplace are derived from the vague, imprecise, uses of charged words and terminology (consider, for example, the essentially contested concept of “freedom”); and, the idols of the theater are rooted in adherence to theories – say, to Aristotle’s natural philosophy or Plato’s metaphysics – that befuddle the mind from obtaining an accurate knowledge of the real world.

Bacon’s short “Preface,” and the few pages on the Idols (aphorisms 38-68) can serve as an excellent introduction to the modern sensibility. The individual idols can help illuminate other Modern texts: Students who have taken or are taking Intro to Philosophy likely will see connections between Bacon’s project and Descartes’ (i.e. the quest for certainty and suspicion of the senses). Hobbes is particularly concerned with the idols of the marketplace and of the theater; Elizabeth Bennett, in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, can be read as particularly discerning in regard to the idols of the tribe and of the cave (except in her own case). Although he does not explicitly address the question of the nature of religious belief in these sections, it is clear that Bacon’s empiricism entails that there is no such thing as “knowledge” of God; his own formal Christian beliefs relied on revelation alone. It is worth asking the question of whether Christianity is an example of an “idol of the theater.” Finally, reading the material on the idols is also a good “test” for the students: there is nothing intuitive about the title of the idols and the students must read Bacon to know what he has in mind. The New Organon is in the public domain, and it is easy to create a Word or a PDF document of the Preface and aphorisms 38-68. One reliable link: (11/2014).

Greg Hoskins

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) is best known today for his work in political philosophy; however, he also worked in physics, history, and theology, among other fields. He wrote Leviathan while in exiled in France during the English Civil War; the work is motivated by the desire to avoid such war.

Regarded by many as the foundational philosophical work of modernity, Hobbes’ Leviathan lays the ground for all subsequent political thinking. Much more than a narrow work of political theory, Leviathan offers a sweeping and comprehensive overview of key themes and ideas that characterize the modern world. In it Hobbes argues: for a “new science” of politics, based on a strictly empirical understanding of terms; attacks Aristotle’s understanding of happiness as the summum bonum, asserting instead that it is a “restless and perpetual desire for power after power that ceaseth only in death”; posits fear of violent death as man’s most basic motivation; argues that the state of nature is the state of war, than which nothing can be worse; argues that civil society is the binding compact into which man enters to escape the state of war; argues that within this compact there are no rightful limits to the sovereign’s power; and provides a fundamental critique of the authority of scripture in the political realm. Dense, rich, challenging, the work is also surprisingly witty and mischievous, and offers a window into the origins of much of the world around us. It is especially useful for making students see some of the questionable assumptions--and entailments—of beliefs whose goodness they take for granted.

Hobbes can be read fruitfully in conversation with many other thinkers: Bacon (for whom Hobbes was a secretary) offers an explanation of the scientific approach that Hobbes brings to politics. Locke offers an alternative conception of the relationship of the state of nature to the state of war and defends natural rights in opposition to Hobbes. Aristotle provides a theory of virtue and happiness that Hobbes reacts against. Thucydides, whom Hobbes translated, provides a precursor to Hobbes’ realism.

There are a number of excellent editions, the Cambridge (ed. Richard Tuck, 1996) and Oxford (2009) among them.

Brian Satterfield

John Locke (1632-1704) was an English philosopher, physician, educator, political adviser and (by some accounts) revolutionary. Locke was a towering intellectual figure in Europe during his life and throughout the eighteenth century and beyond. He authored widely influential works on politics, religion, epistemology, moral philosophy, education, economics, natural science, and medicine. One might say that all of Locke’s works centrally concern liberation — of the human mind, body, and will from traditional conceptions of metaphysics, nature, religious orthodoxy, and political authority. He was a comprehensive thinker of great ambition who labored to rebuild the foundations of human affairs out of one basic material: the judicious reasoning of free and equal individuals from their own direct experience. For three centuries Locke has been one of the most praised as well as one of the most contemned figures of the modern enlightenment. No doubt the judgment depends to a great extent on whether one thinks that the liberal-democratic, capitalistic, technological world he helped create serves to further or to hinder human flourishing.

The two works of Locke that will be of greatest interest to teachers of the Augustine and Culture Seminar are his Second Treatise of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration, both published anonymously in 1689.

After having refuted, in the First Treatise of Government, the theory of divine right as defended by his contemporary Robert Filmer, Locke lays out in the Second Treatise a new basis for political authority in the natural rights of the individual. Building on this foundation, he examines the origins, purpose, and structure of government and political society generally. The chapters on the state of nature (II), property (V), the ends of political society (IX), and the right of revolution (XIX) are especially useful for provoking conversation about the meaning of justice and a life well lived. The Second Treatise contains an overall vision of the good life that creates a bracing contrast with any ancient work on ethics or politics. It is best to read the work in conjunction with Hobbes’s Leviathan, whose basic premises Locke adopts, but to a different end. Locke’s account of a limited government devoted to protecting individual rights is a direct response to the absolutism of the Hobbesian commonwealth. Whether the Lockean commonwealth represents progress over the Leviathan, and whether it is possible to found a liberal polity on principles that Hobbes thinks lead logically to an unlimited and undivided sovereignty, are two major questions one might address. The American Declaration of Independence draws directly on the Second Treatise; comparing the two permits an examination of the philosophical ground of the American polity. It is also fruitful to study the antagonism between the Second Treatise and the anti-bourgeois political visions of Rousseau’s Social Contract and/or Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto. Reading Locke’s property chapter alongside Marx’s “Alienated Labor” essay tends to provoke conversation about the nature and value of modern work, and it can also be read as the intellectual wellspring of Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Locke’s complex (and seemingly contradictory) position on whether human beings “own” themselves or are the property of God provides a thematic connection to Augustine and especially his Confessions. Locke’s views on charity and economic justice contain much to criticize from an Augustinian Catholic standpoint, but have deep philosophical roots that make them much more difficult to dismiss than those of many of Locke’s more recent intellectual descendants.

A Letter Concerning Toleration was and remains the foundational document for the separation of religious and political authority that is so characteristic of modern life and especially American life. Locke argues that “the care of souls” belongs exclusively to the church, not the state, and that a church is a strictly voluntary association with no authority to compel obedience from those who have not freely joined it. He makes the case for a kind of division of labor between civil and ecclesiastical authority, both of which he thinks have essential, but essentially separate, roles in the establishment of a good life for humankind. The culminating pages of the Letter, in which Locke raises and answers objections to his argument—e.g., What if the law commands something that violates the religiously formed conscience of a group of citizens? What if a certain religious practice is harmful to the public good? If religion is essential to the overall human good, should atheists be tolerated?—are especially gripping and provocative. Teaching A Letter Concerning Toleration with Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice works well. It is also useful to teach the Letter with any of a number of Supreme Court religion cases involving the very controversies addressed by Locke. Yoder v. Wisconsin, Employment Division v. Smith, Lee v. Weisman, and, more recently, Hosana-Tabor v. EEOC and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby are all good options. With regard to the Augustinian mission, Locke’s Letter engages in a profound way the question of the place of religious faith in the pursuit of the common good. On an even deeper level, it raises the question of where our ultimate loyalties ought to lie, and whether or how being a good citizen of one’s country is compatible with being a good citizen of the kingdom of God.

I recommend the editions by C.B. Macpherson (Second Treatise of Government, Hackett, 1980), Peter Laslett (Two Treatises of Government, Cambridge, 1988) [Texts in the History of Political Thought series], Ian Shapiro (Two Treatises of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration, Yale, 2003) [Rethinking the Western Tradition Series], and James Tully (A Letter Concerning Toleration, Hackett, 1983).

Andrew Bove

Martin Luther (1483-1546), called the “Father of the Reformation,” famously broke with the Catholic Church over theological differences on the doctrine of salvation, known as soteriology. For Luther, salvation could not be earned through actions or good works. Rather, it was received by grace through “faith alone.” His emphasis on personal spiritual accountability before God and on the individual’s right to read and interpret scripture were crucial catalysts for modernity.

Luther, a former Augustinian monk, studied the scriptures for insight into the nature of God and the nature of the self in relation to God. His spiritual restlessness and searching ultimately led to his signature theological epiphany about the sufficiency of grace to bring peace to a troubled heart. His commitment to scripture and theological education reflects his Augustinian heritage.

For ACS, his essays “The Freedom of a Christian,” “Two Kinds of Righteousness,” “Commentary on Galatians,” and “The Bondage of the Will” stimulate discussion on hermeneutics, power dynamics, individuals vs. institutions, faith vs. works, and the self before God. While more theological than most ACS texts, the essays serve as valuable entry points into broader themes of modernity, and connect well with Augustine’s Confessions in particular.

I recommend John Dillenberger’s Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings (Anchor, 1958). Helpful biographies include Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Signet, 1955), Martin Marty’s Martin Luther: A Life (Penguin, 2008), and Heiko Oberman’s Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (Yale, 2008). Finally, here is an assignment I developed from teaching Luther in ACS:

Mark Scott

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527): Florentine minister, diplomat, political philosopher, historian, dramatist, poet. Machiavelli rose from obscurity to become an important political figure in the Florentine republic during the first decade of the 16th century. He was expelled from his position when the Medici family returned to power in Florence in September, 1512. In February, 1513 Machiavelli was arrested on suspicion of conspiring against the Medici regime, imprisoned, and tortured. He confessed to nothing and was spared execution. He spent the last two decades of his life in a kind of exile in the Florentine countryside, authoring numerous literary, historical, political, and philosophic works including the Florentine Histories, The Art of War, Mandragola, and, most famously, The Prince and Discourses on Livy. While there is wide agreement that Machiavelli was a radical innovator in political thought, the nature and meaning of his innovations is a matter of much debate. The greatest controversy concerns whether Machiavelli truly was a “Machiavellian” who taught that evil means may be justified if they serve the ends of gaining and maintaining political power. Some influential recent commentators argue that Machiavelli was, in fact, a sophisticated but principled republican whose apparently evil teachings must not be taken simply at face value. It is clear, in any case, that Machiavelli aimed at some kind of radical transformation or reinvigoration of political life as he found it, and that his ambitions as a political thinker extended far beyond his time and place.

The Prince, which was written in 1513 (the year after Machiavelli was expelled by the Medici) but not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli’s death, is the best Machiavelli text for ACS. It is brief, highly readable, and raises sharp and exciting questions about politics, morality, and the art of thriving. The book’s official program is, first, to classify the different kinds of principalities (or forms of rule by a prince) and, second, to give advice to princes on how best to conduct their affairs. It is conventional in form, but highly unconventional in content. Machiavelli trains his attention on princes who found, or re-found, their principalities on the basis of their own “virtue” (virtù). Thus the meaning of virtue as it relates to political life, and its meaning simply, emerges as the central theme of the work. Machiavelli begins his explicit teaching about virtue in chapter XV, a short chapter in which he assails the classical understanding of virtue as moral excellence or perfection. Machiavelli lists not virtues and vices, but pairs of “qualities” (e.g. cruelty and mercy, liberality and avarice, honesty and astuteness) that may be either virtues or vices, depending on the circumstances. “It is necessary to a prince,” he explains, “if he wants to maintain himself, to learn to be able not to be good, and to use this and not use it according to necessity.” The excellent prince must “unlearn” goodness; moral virtue as traditionally understood is not the ground or ultimate aim of a princely education. What makes The Prince especially exciting is that its teachings are intended to apply to humans generally, not just those who hold high political office. (The title of chapter 15 reads, “Of Those Things for Which Men And Especially Princes Are Praised and Blamed.”) The book culminates with a remarkable chapter challenging the claim that fortune reigns supreme in human affairs.


The Prince is a good text with which to begin the Moderns course because it presents a fundamental challenge to classical moral and political philosophy and establishes a new context for thought about human flourishing. A syllabus that also contains Hobbes’s Leviathan or Locke’s Second Treatise of Government (or even The Federalist # 10 or #51) will allow students to see that the modern idea of rights owes much to Machiavellian thinking about human nature. Several works of Shakespeare, most notably King Richard III, King Henry IV Part I, and Macbeth, force us to reckon with Machiavellian characters and their actions and purposes. Kant’s Perpetual Peace can be read as an attempt to refute Machiavelli on modern grounds, and the two works make for a stimulating dialogue about the moral possibilities of human beings understood as essentially solitary or self-concerned. While The Prince is certainly not a “mission text,” it does provoke serious reflection on what might be necessary if one truly wishes to “ignite change” in the world.


There are numerous translations of The Prince currently in print. Some good editions are Mansfield (Chicago, 1998), Wooton (Hackett, 1995), Skinner & Price (Cambridge, 1988) [Texts in the History of Political Thought series], and Codevilla (Yale, 1997) [Rethinking the Western Tradition series].

Andrew Bove

Moliere (1622-1673) is known as one of the best, if not the best, comic playwrights in modernity. His most widely read and performed plays (Tartuffe, The Misanthrope, The Doctor Despite Himself, The Miser, The Bourgeois Gentleman, and The School for Wives and The School for Husbands) are satirical works that take aim at the absurd, yet perhaps inevitable, hypocrisy and duplicity shown by human beings when they interact with other in aristocratic society. Moliere himself was born in Paris into an upper class family, and began his life in the theatre as a College Student at the College de Clermont. After thirteen years as an actor he took to writing and he found support for his work from Philippe I, Duke of Orleans (the brother of Louis XIV). His plays were adored by the public and received recognition from the Royal Court as well. His work (especially Tartuffe) was also criticized by the Catholic Church, which led to it and another of his plays (Don Juan) being censored by the French government. Moliere died in 1673. He suffered from tuberculosis, and perhaps somewhat ironically, was playing the hypochondriac Argan in his play The Imaginary Invalid at the time of his death.

I recommend teaching Moliere’s The Misanthrope in ACS 1001. The play tells the story of Alceste, the “misanthrope” of the title who is critical of all around him, but is in love with Celimene, a young woman courted not only by Alceste, but also by three other men in the play. Alceste rejects all the social conventions of the day, but is helplessly in love with Celimene who embraces them all. Alceste’s rejection of society is both comic and tragic, funny and frightening. The play leaves us wondering whether we should be admiring him as a hero or mocking him as a fool. There are multiple moments in the play that compel the reader to ask whether Alceste is guilty of the same hypocrisy and duplicity of which he accuses those around him. We are also compelled to reflect upon our own society and recognize how similar it is to the society Alceste is rejecting. The play raises questions about the power of comedy and how the comic is able to raise questions for us (about the way we relate to each other, how we deceive ourselves, how we fail to live up to our ideals) that we don’t otherwise raise. Moliere’s work is thus central to the Augustinian mission. For if Augustine is right, our motivation for going to the theater must not be to pursue a disordered good, but to engage in the deepest inquiry about ourselves. Moliere’s goal is that we see ourselves exposed to ourselves, which is the goal of the Confessions - put on the comic stage.

A fundamental question raised by the play is: are human beings social by nature or not? This puts Moliere’s work in the middle of a series of works in modernity that attempt to discuss the nature of man outside of society and within, and critique answers to this question given by ancient authors. Such works that pair well with The Misanthrope might therefore include Hobbes’ Leviathan, Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, and Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, to name a few.

I have used two translations of The Misanthrope. Richard Wilbur’s is more poetic. John Wood’s is more literal and disregards the poetry of the lines. Wilbur’s is more beautiful but harder to read. (Wilbur: The Misanthrope and Tartuffe, Mariner, 1965; Wood: The Misanthrope and Other Plays, Penguin Classics, 2000.)

Alan Pichanick

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), a polymath and master of French prose, is noted for significant advances in mathematics, physics, and probability theory, and also for a powerful defense of Christian faith that is distinctive in seventeenth-century philosophy. He invented one of the world’s first mechanical calculators, and his experiments with barometers have made him the namesake for a unit of atmospheric pressure, known as a “pascal.” After experiencing a sort of conversion in 1654, his concerns turned toward philosophical and theological questions, and in 1656 he intervened in a famous debate between Jesuits and “Jansenists” over the role of divine grace in human salvation. He published his arguments pseudonymously in a widely read series of letters, the Lettres provinciales, which offer a trenchant, satirical, and often humorous defense of Antoine Arnauld against the theology faculty of the Sorbonne. (Pascal does not so much take a position in the debate as point out why the terms in which it is posed are nonsensical.) King Louis XIV ordered the book shredded and burned.


The most appropriate text for ACS 1001 is Pascal’s famous Pensées, and the most authoritative and accessible English translation is that of Roger Ariew (Hackett, 2005). It consists of a series of fragments Pascal intended to assemble into a unified argument in defense of the Christian faith, which he called an Apology for the Christian Religion. In broad contours, he aims to show, against skepticism, that religion is not contrary to reason, and that it is worthy of veneration and respect because it has properly understood the human being. He then seeks to demonstrate that the Christian religion is attractive and true, because it promises the true good. Pascal’s position is distinctive in that he argues against the notion that God can be proven with reason (contrary to Descartes, for example), but he does appeal to what he calls reasons of the heart, which are of another order. A desire for happiness and truth is intrinsic to human nature, he says, and this happiness and truth can be found only in God. The text is thus important for its depiction of humanity, both its wretchedness and its greatness: In itself humanity is vain, corrupt, and ignorant; but it is also capable of greatness, because it knows this. In a powerful formulation, Pascal argues that we are capable good, but this capacity is empty and needs divine grace. Finally, the work also reserves an essential place for charity.


Pascal serves as an excellent contrast to Hobbes and other “modern” thinkers with respect to the questions of what reason on its own can achieve, the reasonability of faith, and a central ACS question: “What is the human being?” The text also serves as an important modern recapitulation of some of the central themes and texts from the autumn semester (e.g. the wretchedness and greatness of Odysseus; the role of desire, love, and reason in Augustine’s search for God; the vanity of the souls in Dante’s Inferno, etc.). Considering Villanova’s Augustinian mission, Pascal’s emphasis on charity and his clear Augustinian affinities make him a particularly appropriate choice for ACS 1001.

Karl Hefty

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is the most popular playwright in human history. He was well-regarded in his own lifetime and, since his death, his plays have continued to be read and performed, first in the English-speaking world and now just about everywhere. He wrote for multiple audiences, and thus his plays have something for everyone: humor, romance, violence, magic, family conflict, internal struggles, political intrigue, gender dynamics, and beautiful poetry.

Shakespeare was born in England and probably never left it. He gained some knowledge of the classics from his grammar school education, but he was not able to attend university. Instead, he married early and had a family, and later became an actor and writer in the newly-established London theater scene. He worked with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (under Queen Elizabeth) and then the King’s Men (under King James), becoming the most successful playwright of the age. He wrote 37 plays of varied genres (comedies, histories, and tragedies), as well as a sonnet sequence and a few narrative poems.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays work well in ACS, and one may choose a play to suit one’s theme or learning community. Richard III works well with Machiavelli and suits classes with political themes. The Tempest is another great political play, particularly with those who want to address colonialism, utopianism, patriarchy, and/or technology; it makes an interesting pair with Hobbes’ Leviathan or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. As You Like It and Twelfth Night have strong female characters and address themes of love and friendship; they work well with feminist texts. (As You Like It and The Tempest also may be used for classes with an environmental theme.) Henry IV Part One is a political/historical play about growing up, friendship, and education; it could be contrasted to Augustine’s Confessions or any other work about the transition to adulthood. Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice consider the topics of law, justice, and religion; they are ideal companions with Hobbes’ Leviathan. All of Shakespeare’s plays focus on questions of identity and performance. Instructors can use one of the major tragedies (Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, or Othello) or the popular Romeo and Juliet, but keep in mind that many of the students have read those in high school.

Shakespeare wrote with keen awareness of the censor as well as the public, and he was careful not to offend. (All of his contemporary playwrights – all of them – served jail time, often for what they wrote.) Under Elizabeth and James, plays were forbidden from addressing religious subjects directly; the words “God” and “Jesus” were literally banned from the stage and religious rites could not be depicted in any way. (Hence the pagan weddings in As You Like It and The Tempest.) Therefore, it can be difficult to tie Shakespeare’s works to the Augustinian Mission of the University and of ACS because Shakespeare had to be subtle with his references to Christianity.

Nonetheless, it is possible to see Shakespeare in dialogue with the Mission. His comedies are all focused on love and marriage, often with characters realizing that their resistance is based on a narrow understanding of the self and that the natural state of things is men and women coming together and forming families. Human sexuality is affirmed only when tied to marital love. The Merchant of Venice directly considers the nuances of Christian mercy (in contrast to strict fidelity to the law, especially the law of retribution), while Measure for Measure, in particular, dramatizes an attempt to create a Christian commonwealth. Richard III is a study in radical evil, and Richard’s eventual abandonment and defeat follows directly from his individualism and his will to power. The tragedies explore the consequences of self-absorption and moral relativism. The Tempest is, among other things, a meditation on freedom and order, and on submission to higher powers.

As for editions, the Pelican Shakespeare is an excellent series. The notes are adequate, but not obtrusive, and the editing is sound. The Folger Shakespeare is aimed at high school students, and you may find your students simply read the clumsy (and inaccurate) “translations” while ignoring Shakespeare’s own words. The Oxford and Arden Shakespeare offer more scholarly volumes, with extensive introductions, appendices, and notes.

I recommend the Dover editions, which are inexpensive; some people prefer the Norton Critical Editions for the scholarly apparatus.

Here are more in-depth notes about teaching Shakespeare, also written by John-Paul Spiro:


John-Paul Spiro

18th Century

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was a German philosopher who lived and worked and allegedly never ventured far from his hometown of Konigsberg, Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia). Kant is arguably the most important modern philosopher; in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781) Kant sought to reconcile the British empirical and skeptical tradition (think, David Hume) with the continental rationalist tradition (think, Rene Descartes). However, Kant is without a doubt an Enlightenment figure. Indeed, Kant offered one of clearest statements of the Enlightenment attitude in his essay, “An Answer to the Question, What is Enlightenment?” (1784): “Saper Aude! Dare to Know!” [Or in another common translation, “Have courage to use your own understanding!”]

It is not appropriate to assign one of Kant’s major philosophical works in ACS1001 and that includes his short Groundwork on the Metaphysics of Morals (which is the provenance of the Ethics Program). However, two of his essays are quite appropriate. First, his essay, “An Answer to the Question, What is Enlightenment?” (1784), is short, accessible, and provocative. In the essay Kant describes enlightenment as a kind of “maturity,” and he explores various ways in which we fail to use our own reason, in which we fail to grow up. He identifies “laziness” and “cowardice” as two primary motives for failing to think for ourselves, but he also observes that there are plenty of others who are more than willing to think for us. “It is so easy to be immature,” he explains, “I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me.” Kant also offers a (Liberal) defense of the public realm or civil sphere: it is a place governed by reason in which the freedom to question is guaranteed. In contrast to the freedom of the public sphere, the private sphere is characterized by obedience to authority. Second, in his late and longer essay, “To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch” (1795), Kant illustrates an “enlightened” take on the question of war and of international relations. Like Hobbes, Kant is also concerned with the conditions for peace and controversially he makes an argument for the republican form of government and for a “cosmopolitan right” of hospitality, i.e. for a right to travel across the globe and “not to be treated as an enemy upon his arrival in another country.”

“What is Enlightenment?” works well at the beginning of the semester to introduce a modern sensibility. It can be covered in a single seminar. Further, it challenges students to attend to the ways in which they may be actively enabling their own “immaturity” (say, by using study aids such as Sparknotes or Wikipedia). The essay also raises issues about the “place” and nature of religion within modern societies: Kant genuinely wrestles with the question of whether or not religion is a “public” or a “private” concern. If religion is a private concern, and thus should be free of government interference, is it nonetheless (only) grounded in obedience to authority? Kant walks an intellectual and religious tightrope when he advocates for the “spiritual freedom” of believers. The essay on “Perpetual Peace” works well as a sort of “rational” response to Hobbes on the question of the possibility of peace: reason, and not fear, guides Kant’s thinking. Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents can be read as a sort of critique of Kant’s faith in reason as a guarantor of peace.

Kant’s essays are in the public domain. They can be found at The essays are also available in a cheap but reliable Hackett edition, translated by Ted Humphrey (Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, 1983).

Greg Hoskins

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1772-1778), born in Geneva, was one of the most important political philosophers of the 18th century, and had a profound impact on modern political, philosophical, and sociological thought. His works were cited as instrumental in the rise of the French Revolution (though what Rousseau would have thought of the French Revolution is debatable). He wrote widely across different genres, but he is most widely known for his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality and On the Social Contract.

I would recommend teaching the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, in which Rousseau’s primary task is to show that the origin of the equality of human beings is found by investigating the past of humankind and by tracing the genesis of human society to its primordial roots in pre-social humans. Rousseau argues that the source of reason, language, community, and private property is mere accident or convention or even brute force, and so the foundation of civil society does not originate in man’s nature, but in fact represents a fall from that original state in which human beings were much happier. Rousseau compels us to examine our commitment to the social conventions we take for granted and to question whether and how such conventions express or fulfill our needs as human beings. Rousseau’s work is, in many ways, a modern telling of Augustine’s Confessions. In its challenge to modernity, its call to examination of the self and of justice, and its revival of a primary sense of natural self-awareness also make it a work that coheres with the Augustinian mission.

Modern works that complement it include Hobbes’ Leviathan, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species or The Descent of Man, Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America insofar as they consider the origin and development of human nature.

I recommend either the translation by Donald Cress (Hackett Publishing, 1992) or Roger Masters (The First and Second Discourses, St. Martin’s Press, 1969).

Alan Pichanick

François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778), whose pen name is Voltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer and philosopher. Voltaire’s jaunt through the world of the 18th century is a humorous satire of the political and religious institutions of the time and is as applicable today as when it was written. In Candide, Voltaire presents an extreme version of the philosopher Leibniz’s optimism in a contrived plot designed to demonstrate that theory’s utter uselessness. Leibniz reasoned that if there is only one world created by a benevolent God, then everything in the world must be happening according to the divine plan, in which case everything is exactly as it should be. (This “Best of All Possible Worlds” idea with which the picaresque novel opens rears its head again our contemporary world in which people, groups, and even nation-states operate with a naive optimism under the assumption that their actions must be correct by virtue of having been theirs.) After taking the hero Candide through disastrous and often absurd journeys and adventures, and weaving in those of Candide’s sometimes-companions, Voltaire is able also to reject pessimism, as well as optimism, leaving readers with a realism that is also an optimism in its own right.

As a fan of musical theater, I have shown a Theatre Chatelet production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide in class, which I recommend. The setting is changed to 20th (and early 21st) century America (even when the characters sail across the sea, it is to another part of the USA).

The end of the novel is, in a cockeyed way, a reclaiming of Eden, so it is appropriate to bring Candide into discussion with Genesis. Voltaire’s satirical and stereotypical depiction of religious figures would naturally set up a comparison with what we learn of religiosity from Confessions, for example. Moreover, in Candide, Voltaire explores the problem of evil, which also puts the work in dialogue with Augustine.

A new Penguin “deluxe” edition is available translated by Theo Cuffe (Candide: Or, Optimism, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2005). This edition is extremely readable, and even if jokes are not exactly reproduced, those that are not are replaced with analogous jokes that work in English. In addition, an extensive set of endnotes puts ideas in context, clears up the references to then-current philosophical ideas, and identifies people, places, and historical events that Voltaire expected were fresh in the minds of his readers.

Ely Levine

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was a prolific philosophical writer of the late 18th century. Widely considered one of the first liberal feminists, Wollstonecraft held that unequal distribution of rights demeans not just those with lesser share but humanity in general. She fought for women’s equal status as human persons with rational capacity and worthy of rights. Her outspoken defense of republicanism appears as the Vindication of the Rights of Men, the first published in response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). However, it is her efforts to combat injustice against women that led her to publish the work for which she is most well-known, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, in 1792. Wollstonecraft’s Thoughts on the Education of Daughters was published in 1787. She also worked in other literary styles such as novels and manuals. Wollstonecraft married William Godwin, a prominent philosopher of the 18th century, in 1797. She died shortly thereafter in childbirth. She had two daughters: Frances “Fanny” Imlay, the illegitimate daughter of Wollstonecraft and Gilbert Imlay, and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. Many scholars see an echo of Wollstonecraft’s groundbreaking ideas about gender equality and social construction in Shelley’s work.


A Vindication of the Rights of Women offers a flourishing critique of the current state of women’s education and social status. Wollstonecraft writes with vitriol about how rules of propriety have stifled women’s ability not only to contribute meaningfully to society but also to consider themselves as strong, willful, rational beings. Like Rousseau, she offers something of a social constructivist account of women’s current status and rebukes public opinion for creating women as “objects of pity.” In Vindication, she not only criticizes her contemporary society, she also proposes her own account of virtue, education, and social arrangements. For instance, she argues for a society based on equality. In preparation for that, she contends that boys and girls ought to be educated together. Perhaps ironically, Wollstonecraft suggests that this might promote early marriage and thereby facilitate a better character of citizens as men especially would not be able to selfishly pursue certain styles of life. Wollstonecraft holds that there is honor in the natural duties of domestic life—that the fulfillment of life’s small duties prepares one for the duties of public life—but that that honor has been besmirched by what she calls silly and frivolous rules of decorum.


If you don’t have time for all of Vindication, consider just teaching her introduction, Chapter 4, “Observations on the State of Degradation to which Woman is Reduced by Various Causes,” and the conclusion, “Some Instances of the Folly which the Ignorance of Women Generates,” which offers some succinct arguments regarding the foolishness of society and the possibilities that await if a proper “Revolution in Female Manners” occurs. Importantly, the concluding title is ironic: Wollstonecraft does not think women are ignorant but that society treats them as such. If you are interested in the duties of parenthood or domestic life, you’ll want to turn to Chapters 10-11. A Vindication of the Rights of Women pairs well with Rousseau’s Emile; some might even argue it is an essential accompaniment to Book V of Emile wherein Rousseau discusses the education of women. If this is your plan, I recommend part or all of Chapter 5, “Animadversions on Some of the Writers Who have Rendered Women Objects of Pity, Bordering on Contempt.” In addition, her Vindication of the Rights of Men works well not only with Burke’s Reflections but also with Thomas Paine’s well-known Rights of Man. Wollstonecraft’s arguments regarding equality might be productively compared and contrasted with similar arguments by John Stuart Mill or Harriet Taylor Mill. All three are considered liberal feminists, but they vary in their conceptions of responsibility for domestic work, women’s work outside the home, and women’s rights concerning divorce (among other things). And, of course, one could teach

something from Wollstonecraft alongside her daughter Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which is described in another entry).


Wollstonecraft connects with the Augustinian mission of ACS by defending the right of women to pursue lives as “thoughtful, intellectually-curious, and spiritually-grounded persons.” She believed that community founded on equality required treating everyone with dignity and her works are considered foundational for human rights.


Wollstonecraft was British and wrote in English so no need to worry about translations. However, her writing is definitely challenging to contemporary readers; flourishes and innuendos abound. Although a more advanced scholar might find many allusions to her contemporaries in her works (alongside the explicit references), readers today can nonetheless benefit from her careful analysis of society’s problems and her radical solutions.

Sally Scholz

19th Century

Jane Austen (1775-1817), the daughter of an Anglican rector and his respectable wife, spent most of her life in small, rural English villages. She never married, though she did reject one proposal. She lived through the Napoleonic Wars and almost never mentions them; her work instead focuses on the concerns and interests of a few interconnected families living in the English countryside. She is most interested in the interactions between men and women, particularly in courtship, but she also shows keen sensitivity to the tensions between the landed aristocracy and the rising middle class. Austen’s works are beloved for their humor and romance; less appreciated but equally important is their depiction of people making difficult decisions under strained circumstances. They are deeply realistic in their portrayal of the centrality of money and status in human life. Her mature novels are Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815), Persuasion and Northanger Abbey (both 1817, posthumously).

Pride and Prejudice is the tale of Elizabeth Bennett and her journey toward self-discovery and marriage. The novel raises themes of the importance of character and of knowing oneself and the role of choices in forming one’s identity. Pride and Prejudice works well with Aristotle, who also addresses the question of virtue and the formation of character, as well as Wollstonecraft, whose work also raises gender issues, especially the issue of the “accomplished woman.” It can also be taught fruitfully with Marx, with attention to the way in which both Marx’s writings and Pride and Prejudice address class difference. The text relates well with the Augustinian mission due to the themes of the importance of character and virtue. It also fits in well with the ACS theme of “Who Am I?” due to the way it follows Elizabeth Bennet in her own process of self-knowledge. I recommend the Penguin Classics edition (2002).

Emma (1815) is Austen’s only novel about a heroine who need not worry about money. It is a portrait of a “Queen Bee” type, a beautiful young woman who thinks she knows what is best for everyone around her. As she makes mistakes throughout the novel, the reader can trace her slow education: her realization that she is blinded by her own prejudices and sense of superiority and that other people’s interests are their own. The novel is full of keen observations, clever humor, and moments of awkwardness that students can recognize and enjoy.

Persuasion (1817) is one of Austen’s shortest novels, and to some readers, it is her most mature. The heroine, Anne Elliott, is intelligent and sensible, but mistreated by her family, particularly her vain and irresponsible father, a snooty baronet. Bowing to familial and societal pressure, Anne rejected a once penniless man who returned to their village as a wealthy and respected naval officer. Like Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion is about a young woman who learns that she is not like most of the people around her, but Persuasion goes even further, depicting something close to a rejection of English genteel society altogether.

Austen’s works are studies in the morality of self-interest, with an expansive understanding of what constitutes the self. Her characters are painfully confined by social norms and economic interests; their worlds are small and their options are always limited. Though everyone seems similar, very few people understand themselves or those around them. Passions are almost always viewed as dangerous. Yet for Austen, the “perfect relationship” is presented as a kind of moral ideal; marrying for the wrong reasons is shown to be one of the worst things a human being can do. The Augustinian themes of the education of the self and the centrality of love to human life are present, but Austen’s novels are also case studies in the ways that an apparently Christian society can see morality almost entirely in terms of manners and money.

Rachel Baard and John-Paul Spiro

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian, and poet famous for his writings on the philosophy of love, Christian ethics, and a person’s subjective relationship with Jesus through faith. Taking a holistic approach, Kierkegaard’s works blend philosophy, theology, spirituality, aesthetics, and cultural issues together with his personal life. He eschewed the abstract thought (“the system”) popular in his time that Hegel, Goethe, and Schelling propounded; instead, he focused on concrete, lived human reality and on personal choice and commitment.

He published Fear and Trembling (1843) under the pseudonym, Johannes de Silentio. The title is a reference to Philippians 2:12: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”; the work itself focuses on the story of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac in Genesis 22. Kierkegaard explores why Abraham is the so-called “Father of Faith” for having been willing to kill his son. He mulls the story over, proposing possible interior states of mind for the figures involved in the story. In an attempt to understand Abraham’s task, he delves into his hidden anxieties in an attempt to address whether faith and doubt are contradictory.

The book consists of a preface by the pseudonymous author; an Exordium, or “Tuning Up,” presenting four vignettes each recounting the Abraham story slightly differently – almost like a recurring dream (or nightmare) – all ending with a failure of faith; a Eulogy in praise of Abraham’s faith; and three Problemata that address the contradictions inherent in Abraham following God’s call and sinning (committing murder). In Problem I, Kierkegaard discusses what he terms the “teleological suspension of the ethical,” which suggests that there may be something (viz., faith) that supersedes our moral duty – but then, is everything relative? The fact that Abraham chooses faith over the ethical raises serious questions about how religious belief is supposed to correspond with real life experience. Thus, theodicy becomes a central point of discussion, as the problem of evil is juxtaposed with the idea of a good and loving God. The work is only about 110 pages, but it is extremely challenging reading, even for the instructor; students will need a substantial amount of guidance.

Fear and Trembling encourages students to consider the importance of decision-making as a process and faith as a life-long endeavor. Kierkegaard raises universal questions that would be fruitful for ACS 1001 discussions: How can I know how to act? What is the basis of my decisions? What does it mean to live truthfully? Contrary to modern philosophers who profess to understand everything through reason, Kierkegaard understands the Abraham story less and less the more he thinks about it. As he wrote, “He who has explained the riddle of Abraham has explained to me my life.” Abraham had to choose how to respond to what he perceived as God’s call, and the hardest part was not necessarily the sacrifice, but the decision he had to make to get to that point and the responsibility he would have had to take afterwards. Fear and Trembling fits in well with the Augustinian mission of ACS: it discusses the relationship between faith and reason and understands faith as a life-long task that is incorporated into daily human experience and forms the basis for ethical and faithful decision-making.

The work pairs well with Descartes, as Kierkegaard directly questions Descartes’s approach to the question of human autonomy. Kierkegaard also confronts Hegel’s claim that history progresses toward an increasingly clear and complete grasp of the truth and that we can use our predecessors’ conclusions and take them further. Kierkegaard finds this arrogant – we cannot all surpass the greatest thinkers of all time. For Kierkegaard, faith is not an intellectual task; it is a difficult process with high stakes that has to be re-started each morning. As he says in the epilogue, we all begin life in a pseudo-primitive state; we are not learning love from previous generations – we learn it ourselves, again and again, in each generation. The task of a Christian is to learn what that means for ourselves. Fear and Trembling can also work well with Jane Austen, shifting from her Enlightenment approach to epistemology to a concern with more experiential issues about how faith and doubt affect us. Lastly, using this work can also create a nice transition into a more modern Catholic perspective; in offering an existential approach to faith, Kierkegaard contrasts well with the approach of the sacramental worldview to modernity.

I recommend the Cambridge edition (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy, ed. C. Stephen Evans and Sylvia Walsh, 2006), although it runs about $19, which is relatively expensive for a moderns text.

Elizabeth-Jane McGuire

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German materialist philosopher known for laying the foundations for communist thought. Influenced by Hegel, he nevertheless rejected Hegel’s focus on the state in favor of viewing “civil society” as the source for understanding the historical development of humanity. Marx was critical of some other versions of socialism, and in 1848, in collaboration with Friedrich Engels, he published the Communist Manifesto. The first volume of his seminal work, Das Kapital, appeared in 1866.

I recommend teaching The Communist Manifesto rather than other works of Marx, since it is short. I usually leave out Part III, because it's a detailed discussion of other socialist theories of the time, and not really necessary in order to get the basic argument of The Communist Manifesto. Since I never spend more than 1 week on Marx, I'd rather focus on the more important parts. The Communist Manifesto deals with the nature of history, including the question of how historical change occurs, class, and the related theme of the distribution of social goods, and the issue of group identity (Marx believed that class trumps all, and ignored nationalism, ethnic identity, etc.).

It lends itself to some dialogue with Locke’s Second Treatise, which lays out property as a natural right in ways that contrast nicely with Marx. It would also work well with Wendell Berry, who offers his own critique of capitalism.

The text relates with the Augustinian and Catholic mission of the university due to its overlap in interests with Catholic Social Teaching. Texts like Rerum Novarum could be used in fruitful dialogue with Marx. Rerum Novarum deals with issues of capital and labor, but offers a Catholic response to both capitalism and communism.

I recommend the Norton Critical edition (2012), which has a useful introduction.

Rachel Baard

Preacher, theologian, and educator, John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was among the most influential English converts to Roman Catholicism in the nineteenth century. Born in London to a middle-class family, he was educated at Oriel College, Oxford, where he later became an Anglican vicar at St. Mary’s University Church. There, his famous sermons and published writings placed him at the center of what would become known as the “Oxford Movement,” a growing effort within the Church of England aimed at reform on a variety of political and theological issues, from reducing state interference in church affairs to retrieving the Apostolic heritage of the Anglican Church and reestablishing a more prominent place for the Eucharist its liturgy. Confirmed as a Roman Catholic in 1845, Newman was appointed the first rector of University College Dublin, before later becoming rector of a religious community of priests in Birmingham. On the 200th anniversary of his birth, Saint John Paul II called him “one of the most distinguished and versatile champions of English spirituality.” He was beatified in 2010.

Cardinal Newman’s life and writings can be understood against the backdrop of the significant intellectual, spiritual, and social changes of nineteenth century Europe. If the onset of modern science and the emergence of certain forms of rationalism (e.g., A. Comte, J.S. Mill, H. Spencer) call into question the role of reason and authority in Christian faith, Newman’s most widely read works—Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), The Idea of a University (1852, 1858), Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864), and An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent (1870)—all deal with these issues in some way. On the one hand, Newman distinguishes faith from reason; on the other, he holds both to be necessary for the contemplation of truth. In a period that saw both a misplaced emphasis on Church authority and the complete refusal of it, Newman aims at a middle way that sees a place for ecclesial authority, while also preserving the dignity of conscience for the ordinary believer.

The most appropriate text for ACS 1001: Moderns is his Apologia Pro Vita Sua (Yale University Press, 2008). Originally published in 1864, Newman’s Apologia is a classic example of Victorian autobiography, and an important spiritual memoir of the modern era. It explains the reasons why Newman comes to faith against the current of nineteenth century skepticism, and in this sense it offers an excellent modern parallel to Augustine’s Confessions. It also gives an important counterpoint to the Enlightenment texts on the ACS 1001 syllabus which can tend to place faith and reason in an oppositional rather than a mutually reinforcing relation.

Karl Hefty

Practically everyone finds something to criticize in modernity, but Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is the most disturbed and disturbing of critics. He attacks modernity in all its forms, but in doing so he radicalizes certain modern assumptions – assumptions on full display in Hobbes’s Leviathan, for example – and thus attacks himself. This profoundly self-critical character makes Nietzsche a compelling choice for ACS, if one gives thought about how to teach him well in relation to our mission as an Augustinian university. Our Moderns course used to be called “Modernity and its Discontents”: the title applies to no one more than Nietzsche.

Born in Germany, formed by a liberal education whose breadth and rigorousness we can only try to imagine, Nietzsche was trained as a philologist and showed his brilliance early. A recommendation by his teacher Friedrich Wilhelm Fritsch secured him the position of professor at the University of Basel when he was only 24; as Walter Kaufman remarks, “his unusual success does not seem to have humbled him” (Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, 26). Nietzsche would eventually leave the university, however, for reasons of health as well as temperament. His spirit was ill-suited for ordinary scholarly research, to say nothing of grading papers.

Nietzsche’s writings testify to the transformations and upheavals in his mind and heart. While still teaching at Basel, he was an ardent follower of Richard Wagner; two great texts from this time are The Birth of Tragedy and Untimely Meditations, the latter being a series of extended essays, including On the Use and Disadvantage of History for Life. In time, however, the friendship with Wagner grew uneasy on both sides, until at last there was a break. For Nietzsche this led to a descent into skepticism – austere, self-lacerating at first, but ultimately cheerful. Writing as a “free spirit,” Nietzsche wrote some of the works with which he particularly identified himself, including Human, All-Too-Human and The Gay Science. His maturity somehow included both the profoundly visionary revelations of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and a comprehensive critique of modernity in Beyond Good and Evil and its more polemical sequel, Genealogy of Morals. Finally, there come works written in a white heat in the last year and a half of his productive life, including Twilight of Idols, Antichrist, and Ecce Homo. These are strident, bombastic, unfiltered – but for that very reason, important for considering Nietzsche’s self-understanding and the scope of his project.

Nietzsche can contribute a great deal to an ACS syllabus, but one has to be aware of certain challenges. Not only is Nietzsche a radical critic of modernity, he is no less one of Christianity. (The title of Antichrist is at least partly self-referential!) This could be seen as reason to avoid Nietzsche altogether, were it not true that any serious and thoughtful person today must eventually face his challenge. It is around us whether we like it or not. Nietzsche wrote that the Christian faith “has become unbelievable” (Gay Science #343) long before the churches of Europe began to be repurposed as bars and dance clubs. But Nietzsche also prompts moderns to reflect on their atheism in a far more serious and harrowing way than they are comfortable doing. His own famous or infamous statement, “God is dead,” (Gay Science #125) is, on reflection, deeply ambiguous. A god who does not exist cannot die, of course. And that death, whatever it may be, is, by Nietzsche’s description, a catastrophe of which most people – even unbelievers – are still unaware. For Nietzsche, everything in modern times still depends on Christianity for many things, especially its morality. Whoever denies God and looks forward to a safe, equal, autonomous, humane, and moral future, is profoundly mistaken about our situation, which is a slow decline into “the last man” and loss of our very humanity.

So while one would not in a million years consider Nietzsche as a “mission text” in ACS, he can be very important in the overall ACS syllabus. To read Nietzsche is to confront one of the greatest challenges for the Catholic intellectual tradition in late modernity. It is also to read a self-critique of modernity that is profoundly restless and, as such, a possible stepping stone to the alternative that refuses to die: Augustine and the Catholic intellectual tradition. That explains why Cardinal Ratzinger would discuss Nietzsche respectfully in his Introduction to Christianity and again take him up in an encyclical as Pope Benedict XVI. Indeed, not a few have been unsettled by Nietzsche at the beginning but find their way to Augustine in the end.

What text of Nietzsche’s works well in ACS? Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, and Genealogy of Morals have all been taught fairly regularly, which makes sense: they are all famous and mature works, but they come before his overheated final phase. In particular, these works are important for offering Nietzsche’s varying attempts to limn an alternative to modernity that in some way draws on the spiritual depth of the Bible but is “faithful to the earth” (in the words of Zarathustra). Nietzsche’s lifelong fascination and rivalry with the Greeks – Greek tragedy early, Greek philosophy late – must also be understood in these terms. The last chapter of Beyond Good and Evil is titled “What is noble?” and stands as the culmination of his attempt to overcome the utilitarianism of Socrates and his modern successors. All of these are available in translations by Walter Kaufman; The Portable Nietzsche (Penguin, 1977) and Basic Writings of Nietzsche (Modern Library, 2000) are collections, and there are stand-alone editions as well. (Kaufman has limitations as an interpreter but is good as a translator.)

There are, however, reasons for avoiding those major works in ACS. Zarathustra is strange, visionary, overwrought poetry that may be deep, but can also be baffling and weird, like a bad drug trip through the Gospels. Beyond Good and Evil is a much more self-controlled work, and it is remarkable, but it is also difficult for first-year students because it presumes and grapples with so much of the tradition. Both of the preceding books would have to be excerpted. Genealogy is more self-contained and could be taught as a whole, but it is taught often in the philosophy Foundations class and probably best avoided in ACS.

What I recommend instead, therefore, are Nietzsche’s earlier and shorter works. Human, All-Too-Human has been particularly successful for me. The book consists of many short aphorisms arranged into several thematic chapters. Students like reading and interpreting aphorisms, and these are very accessible yet thought-provoking. Nietzsche observes psychology, friendship, love, family, faith, and other things. Give students plenty of room to select aphorisms that mean something to them, and encourage them to thread together aphorisms that seem to illuminate one another. The translation Hollingdale for Cambridge is alright (1996).

One can teach a portion of this book for 1-2 weeks, having taught Pascal’s aphorisms for the same amount of time earlier in the semester. I have also paired the book well with Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, because Woolf is certainly aware of the problems discussed by Nietzsche (and of Nietzsche himself, though one would have to investigate whether she read him). Woolf’s modernist, stream-of-consciousness narrative is also intriguing to consider with Pascal and Nietzsche’s aphoristic style. Pairing this text with Emily Dickinson and/or T. S. Eliot may also be fruitful for similar reasons. Finally, Hobbes is a great author to link with Nietzsche, because Hobbes is certainly all about the human, all-too-human, and living for this life, and he anticipates what will be a great turn to power in Nietzsche’s own thought – and yet Hobbes is also the beginning of everything that Nietzsche will come to loathe in liberal-democratic modernity.

Another good text to consider is the Use and Advantage of History for Life, which offers students a chance to think about history differently and more deeply than they are used to doing. Its distinction among “antiquarian,” “monumental,” and “critical” history is the kind of simple idea with great explanatory power that our students appreciate as a springboard to further thought. The essay is also about the purpose of education, and no subject could be more timely, or untimely, in the university today. Finally, it is worth considering that the very fact we self-identify as “moderns” (if we do so) means we are defining ourselves in relation to history. Is that a good thing?

The translation by Preuss for Hackett is cheap and good enough (1980). An ACS syllabus could include the Use and Advantage of History for Life with many other 19th or 20th-century texts: essays on history (for example, from Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present, or Virginia Woolf’s “On Not Knowing Greek”), novels or stories that are about time, memory, or the weight of the past (Ellison’s Invisible Man, Joyce’s Dubliners), and other texts that use, abuse, or invoke history in various ways (consider Keats’ poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” or Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk). Those are, of course, a small sample of pairings that could be made.

Peter Busch

The writer Mary Shelley (1797-1851) was the daughter of proto-feminist and political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft (whose Vindication of the Rights of Women is also recommended for ACS) and anarchist political philosopher William Godwin, and wife of Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley.

While the broad strokes of Frankenstein, her most well-known and enduring work, are well known from movie adaptations, the impact of the novel comes in exactly those elements that cannot be reproduced on the stage or screen (because too much is visible on the stage or screen). For example, one of Shelley’s chief concerns is the question of humanity: What makes a person human? With only the words and our imaginations, we are able to imagine Frankenstein’s creature as looking mildly human, while sometimes forgetting that Victor is human; thus, Shelley is able to probe at the nature of humanity, a subtlety that is lost in film. Along the way, other big questions are raised, including the relationship between nature and science, the human’s role in the world, the relationship between individuality and social engagement, and the role of gender. What makes this novel scary, horrific, or at least troublingly engaging is that Shelley’s answers to these questions start at one pole, drift toward the other, and take the readers’ sensibilities with it in both directions. We identify with characters and ideas that we subsequently reject as horrifying. While at first we may empathize with the character of Victor, who only wishes to preserve life, we are dismayed by his abandonment of his creature, and then terrified by his inhumanity in the face of the creature’s request to be treated as human. Who needs lightning flashes and strange camera work: this is frightening!

Mary Shelley published her ghost story first in 1818; the 1831 edition included an author’s preface describing the genesis of the story. Even if students do not read the preface, the injection of this genesis into discussion can put into perspective what it takes to imagine such a story and what makes ghost stories scary.

This novel is wonderful on its own, especially in the “discontents” column of the Moderns semester. It might easily be taught with the first several chapters of Genesis (at least 1-3), as well as Milton’s Paradise Lost, which is directly referred to. Considering the subtitle of the novel, The Modern Prometheus, a consideration of any of several Greek tellings of the Prometheus myth might connect nicely (e.g., Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound). In its reflection on human nature and its questioning of the commitments of modernity, Frankenstein relates well to the Augustinian mission of ACS and speaks to the course’s theme: “Who am I?” I recommend the Penguin Classics edition of Frankenstein (2003).

Ely Levine

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) was born to aristocratic parents who escaped the guillotine during the French Revolution. He held various government offices and traveled to observe and write about England, Algeria, and, most importantly for our purposes, America.

Written after a trip to America in his mid-twenties (not so different from the age of our students), Democracy in America is Tocqueville’s masterpiece, a work that defies disciplinary boundaries and so works well in ACS: it comments on the politics, social life, and history of American democracy. Originally conceived as a trip to visit America’s prisons, which he did (including a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia), and a commentary on them, the work’s two volumes became a much more holistic observation of the contrast between aristocracy and democracy and the transition from one to another, which affected much more than politics – it impacted the whole of social relations. Democracy in America is wide-ranging: the first volume is more political, while the second is more socially observant. Some topics that are most relevant to the concerns of ACS include Tocqueville’s reflections on the Puritans and the New England townships as the birthplace of freedom and association, the relationship between democracy and religion (which he sees as complementary), and the pantheistic tendencies that he perceives in democracy. He also writes about democratic individualism, the threat of conformity and the tyranny of the majority, and democracy’s impact on the family.

Tocqueville provides a nice contrast with Hobbes on the relationship between politics and religion: while Hobbes argues that a connection between church and state in the person of the sovereign makes government stronger, Tocqueville praises the separation between church and state. Tocqueville also pairs well with both Pascal and Augustine. In fact, Tocqueville wrote in a letter, “There are three men with whom I spend time every day, Pascal, Montesquieu, and Rousseau.” Tocqueville articulates both an Augustinian and Pascalian sense of man searching for himself and not being totally able to find himself, although the search itself is something worthwhile. He writes, “But the nature of man is sufficiently veiled to leave much in impenetrable darkness, a darkness in which he ever gropes, forever in vain, trying to understand himself.” Like Augustine, Tocqueville sees humans, and particularly Americans, as restless, as caught between their desire for happiness and their inability to achieve that while on earth.

Tocqueville works well with the themes of ACS 1001: in his observations of the relationship between religion and politics he is especially attentive to the role of Catholicism. More importantly, like Pascal, he observes that religion is natural to man; it is not something that we can move beyond. In addition, Tocqueville is concerned with the common good: he offers a unique interpretation of American self-interest, noting how it can be harnessed in order to strengthen the common good.

I recommend either the George Lawrence and J.P. Mayer edition (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006) or the Harvey Mansfield and Delba Winthrop edition (University of Chicago Press, 2002).

Lorraine McCrary

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), a Russian novelist, is perhaps best known for War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He was a Christian, anarchist, and pacifist.

Tolstoy’s The Death Of Ivan Ilyich is the story of a man whose life was “simple, commonplace, and most horrifying.” Beginning with the excruciating banality of Ivan’s funeral, Tolstoy tells the story of Ivan’s transition from happy child to conventionally successful, but alienated, and—unbeknownst to himself—wretched adult as a prominent judge. Marrying for ambition, buying and outfitting a stylish house out of vanity and a desire for comfort, Ivan becomes more and more incapable of genuine connection with the people around him. His seemingly comfortable life is derailed, however, when one day, hanging a curtain, he falls off a ladder and a bruise develops into a cancer. Held at arm’s length by doctor, colleagues, and family, and longing for nothing so much as genuine connection and empathy, Ivan examines his life in a dialogue with his own soul, asking what it would have meant to live “as he should have.” The novella can be read in two or three classes, is often loved by students as their favorite reading of the semester, and makes an excellent end-of-year reading in that it encapsulates the reasons why a course like ACS exists: to encourage students not only to reflect on who they are and how they are living, but also to ask themselves what it means to live a life as they should.

The novella pairs well with Marx and with other critiques of capitalist consumption. In addition, it complements autobiographical reflections, such as Augustine’s Confessions, and other fictional reflections on a person’s life, such as Toni Morrison’s Home.

The Bantam translation (1981) is cheap and reads well.

Brian Satterfield

20th - 21st Century

American Catholic scholar and priest Thomas Berry lived from 1914 to 2009.  A self-termed “geologian,” Berry continued and greatly extended Teilhard de Chardin’s work of placing humanities disciplines, including theology, in conversation with modern discoveries in science, including the geosciences.  Berry became one, and perhaps the most important, of the founding thinkers in the late twentieth century’s new field of religion and ecology.     

Berry entered the Passionist order at twenty years of age and was ordained in 1942.  After earning his PhD at Catholic University, writing about Giambattista Vico’s philosophy of history, Berry studied in Germany and China and became a scholar of Indian and Chinese religion and culture, focusing especially on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism.  Berry was learned in multiple Eastern and Western languages and wrote early seminal books on Buddhism and Indian religions, yet beyond that focus he read with remarkable breadth in western history, philosophy, theology, the natural sciences, cosmology, and other disciplines.  He chaired the history of religions program at Fordham University from 1966-1979 and also taught in previous years at Seton Hall and St. John’s University.   Respected by academics from fields as wide-ranging as religion, history, economics, politics, and biology, Berry has been one of the foremost voices in the new field of religion and ecology and his thought has prompted the establishment of research centers, instructional programs, and scholarly work in the U.S. and Canada.

From the 1970s onward Berry became concerned about how to place human history generally, and the history of religions and cultures in particular, in conversation with both science and the increasingly apparent environmental and social crises of the late twentieth century.  Agreeing with Teilhard de Chardin that awareness of Earth’s evolutionary process alters the human understanding of our place in the universe and its continual unfolding, Berry educated himself in twentieth-century biological, cosmological, geological, psychological, and other sciences in order to more deeply ponder how scientific knowledge can converse with religion and ethics and influence our understanding of our place on the Earth and in the cosmos.  From both religious and scientific perspectives, Berry was fascinated by the interrelatedness of life and the ethical possibilities inherent in the consideration of that interrelatedness. 

Berry’s later books include The Universe Story, co-authored with cosmologist Brian Swimme, Dream of the Earth, Evening Thoughts, and The Great workThe Great Work (201 pages of text, published in 1999 by Bell Tower) discusses multiple angles of the reality that human cultures, beliefs, and technologies are wholly dependent on the modes of functioning of the Earth, and suggests that we have entered a period when our capacity for more wisely conducting human-Earth relations is crucial not only to our survival, but to our development and flourishing as a species.  The book addresses human prehistory, indigenous cultures, medieval and Enlightenment thought, and the swift developments of modern industrialized thought and practice with all of their ‘progress’ yet also their alienation of humans perhaps from themselves and one another, and certainly from the natural world.  Thinking historically, Berry’s estimation is that the greatest of all the ‘great works’ ever achieved by humanity will be the “transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner” (The Great Work, 3). “The future can exist,” Berry wrote, “only when we understand the universe as composed of subjects to be communed with, not as objects to be exploited” (ibid., x). Chapters of the book address topics such as the Earth’s history as we know it, the role of the university in the Great Work, ethics and ecology, politics, corporations, the extractive economy, and wisdom traditions of the human past.

Berry’s The Great Work fits appropriately in the ACS curriculum because it both respects and questions the great human stories of the past.  Although very aware of global cultures and their stories, the book focuses on the western story, asking readers to consider western scientific understandings of the Earth story along with our religious and cultural stories, and to ponder what kinds of cultural stories may carry us forward into a viable human future on planet Earth.  Berry is deeply respectful of the great western and eastern intellectual traditions of the past, yet particularly critical of the ways human thought and culture devolve into materialism and self-centeredness.  Berry recommended crafting a New Story that merges spiritual and scientific awareness and guides humans to develop ways of living that are compatible with the ecological realities of the Earth. 

The Great Work functions well in either the ACS 1000 or 1001 syllabus.  Chapters are short and, since the book was aimed at a non-scholarly audience, accessible to first-year students in spite of some degree of conceptual density.  Many chapters represent Berry’s key ideas and thus it is very feasible to teach one or a few chapters instead of the entire book.  Because of Berry’s learnedness in multiple disciplines, students will find in the chapters references to familiar great voices ranging from Plato to Locke, while also easily relating both to the book’s moral questions and its scientific awareness, which matches their own.  The book helps students in ACS 1000 or 1001 to consider the major ideas of the western past and their consequences, while asking “what is next for western and human culture?”

The Great Work can pair well with Bacon or Darwin, and offers interesting comparison and contrast with authors such as Hobbes and Locke, the American founders, Frankenstein, the Transcendentalists, or Wendell Berry, as well as with authors representing the Catholic intellectual tradition.  In fact, due to the book’s focus on both appreciating and questioning the western tradition of thought and practice, the book can stand in conversation with most of the works traditionally taught in either ACS 1000 or ACS 1001.

                                                                                                    Chara Armon

Wendell Berry (b. 1934) is an American poet, novelist and essayist. He is also a conservationist and farmer. His work on the land directly informs his work in literature. For this reason, he is an ideal author for any “Moderns” syllabi of ACS focusing on applied ethics, economics, science, the environment, or technology. His writing offers an opportunity to reflect back on “Ancients” readings in Genesis (especially chapters 1-4, 6-9, and 10) and Augustine, picks up themes from Hobbes, Locke, Pascal, and Marx, and exquisitely pairs with Slavoj Žižek’s essays in Violence.

Berry was born on August 5, 1934, in Henry County, Kentucky, where the families of both of his parents, John and Virginia Berry, have farmed for at least five generations since the 1800s. Berry graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1956. A year later he completed a Master of Arts and married Tanya Amyx. In 1958, the couple moved to California where Berry became a Wallace Stegner Writing fellow at Stanford University. There he taught and lectured on creative writing. In 1960, he completed his first novel, Nathan Coulter, which began a series of now five books (and several short stories) about the fictional town of Port William and its members (known as “the membership”). A Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship took Berry and his family to Italy and France in 1961. From 1962 to 1964, he taught English at NYU’s University College in the Bronx. In 1965, he returned to his home state and became a professor at the University of Kentucky. He purchased Lane's Landing, a Henry County farm, to live on and grow tobacco, corn, and small grains. It slowly expanded into a 125-acre homestead. Berry resigned from the University of Kentucky in 1977 to devote himself to writing and farming. Now 80, Berry still farms, resides, and writes at Lane's Landing.

Three pieces serve well to introduce students to Berry’s writing. The first is the twenty-page essay, “The Work of Local Culture,” originally written and delivered as the 1988 Iowa Humanities Lecture. In it Berry describes both the slow process of making earth and the rapid destruction of it that he has witnessed in his lifetime. For the former to take place, there needs to be time and peace for nature to go through uninterrupted generations of organisms’ living and dying (the raw material of soil itself). For this to happen, people need to protect not only the land and water (and their flora and fauna), but also the memory of how these live and thrive. If people forget how to take care of these things, then they will cease to exist, with the end of human life (which depends on healthy soil and water for food) following not far behind. The only antidote to this oblivion is community, where people learn and remember how to take care of their natural resources and of each other. The greatest dangers to community, Berry argues, are capitalistic market forces of efficiency, expediency, and disposability. These pull children away first from their families and then from their communities, leaving homelands vulnerable to neglect and ruin by others who lack either the knowledge of, or care for, the people and the land that have been left. The second piece is the novel Hannah Coulter, which is essentially “The Work of Local Culture” told in narrative form through its eponymous farm girl’s life story. The themes of economy, memory, sustainability, family, and love are central to both of these texts, which work well with Genesis, Augustine, Pascal, and Marx. The primary force that Berry describes as a threat to the work of local culture and to families like Hannah Coulter’s is the objective violence of capitalism which Žižek identifies in Violence, a work that itself builds upon Marxism. Berry’s texts also work well in a syllabus that includes Hobbes’ and Locke’s differing understandings of state creation, the propertied basis of economy, and the maintenance of civil peace.

The last piece is “Why I Am Not Going to Buy A Computer,” a short essay originally printed in Harper’s Magazine, which is accompanied by two pages of “Letters to the Editor” (mostly written in protest by indignant readers) and by Berry’s replies to them. Here Berry outlines the rules by which he lives and why, using the potential purchase of a computer as a test case for them. His prose is elegant, concise, and clear. The environmental and economic logic he employs in it, based on the idea of community seen in “The Work of Local Culture” and Hannah Coulter, is scrupulous. Through it Berry calls into question common preconceptions about how we live – and at what cost – just as Žižek’s essays do. Just as were the many Harper’s readers, students will at first be unable to accept Berry’s argument because of their personal reactions to his writing. Even though Berry is solely describing his own life-rules and the reasons behind them, students will read his writing as an indictment against and condemnation of their own practices and persons. For this reason, the essay is perfect for teaching persuasive essay writing, the logic of argument/counter argument, and rhetorical effectiveness. It also is important to assign with Berry’s biography in order to stem ad hominem arguments, and even to view alongside it a documentary on economic degradation, like Frontline’s “World Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground” (about the international environmental problem of e-waste), for example, in order to show students precisely the problems Berry seeks to ameliorate by not personally contributing to them.

These lessons on literary form, method, and content can carry through from beginning to end of a module on Berry’s writings, if ordered strategically. For example, one could assign “The Work of Local Culture” first, to which students often respond thoughtfully (and even enthusiastically), and then follow it with “Why I Am Not Going to Buy A Computer,” against which students will rail (but will need help in understanding why). When students conclude with Hannah Coulter, they often confess that it is only through reading the novel that they have come to understand and appreciate Berry’s essays.

Berry’s lessons carry through from the beginning to the end of the ACS curricula as well. There is an implicit (and, at times, explicit) Judeo-Christian understanding of human dignity and of the race’s collective responsibility for the created order (Genesis 1-3) and for each other in all of Berry’s writing. (His idea of “membership” in community is perhaps an application of St. Paul’s metaphor of “the body” in 1 Corinthians.) All of these things – his own ideas, their connections to other ancient and modern authors, and his re-presenting key Augustinian themes – make him a compelling author on which to end the year of ACS.

Hannah Coulter is published by Shoemaker & Hoard (2005); both essays are available online.

Kaley M. Carpenter

Albert Camus (1913-1960) was, like Augustine, from North Africa (an Algerian of French descent, a so-called “Pied-Noir”). He was a journalist, a political editorialist, a playwright and director, a novelist and essayist, and an activist. In 1957 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in a car accident in 1960 (with an unused train ticket in his pocket; he decided on the spur of the moment to accept a ride from his publicist, who was also killed in the accident). Although he denied the term applied to him, Camus is often identified as an “existentialist.” A sustained interrogation of the question of the meaning of life, and a radical attention to the details and nuances of human lived-experience (as opposed to theoretical or abstract reflection on the human condition in general), marked both his philosophy and his art.

Although he did not believe in God, Camus was not a stereotypical atheist; that is, he did not criticize religious beliefs or believers per se. (A short statement of his position can be found in the essay “The Unbeliever and Christians,” which is a set of notes for a lecture he gave at a Dominican Monastery in 1948). Camus wrote the equivalent of his master’s thesis on Plotinus and Augustine (“Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism”), and one way in which to understand Camus’ notion of “the Absurd” is to see it in relation to Augustine’s theological anthropology: for both Augustine and Camus the human condition is defined by “restlessness,” a quest for meaning and significance, but whereas for Augustine it is possible to find “rest” – in and with God – for Camus the restlessness is unrelieved. “The Absurd” is the relationship between, on the one hand, human beings who seek meaning and significance and, on the other hand, a world that refuses to yield any. Camus in his life and in his philosophy and art tried to “live” this tension. (He argued that Augustine failed to maintain the tension; Augustine had committed a kind of “philosophical suicide” in believing that there is a divine, revealed, response to the question of the meaning and significance of life.) Two texts that work well in ACS1001 are his novel The Plague (1947) and his play “The Just Assassins” (1949).

Published in the wake of the German occupation of France during World War II, The Plague (La Peste) is an allegorical novel set in Oran, Algeria in which the inhabitants of the city are besieged by the Black Death. The main character is Dr. Bernard Rieux, a humanist and atheist, who organizes the city’s medical response to the plague. Among the other characters we meet are Raymond Rambert, a young journalist from Paris who was working on an assignment in Oran when the quarantine is imposed (whose biography is strikingly similar to Camus’ own), and Fr. Paneloux, a Jesuit priest who initially preaches in a sermon that the plague is a punishment of the citizen’s sins. A key passage in the novel concerns the death of a small child that an (eventually successful) vaccine failed to cure. That death compels Fr. Paneloux to abandon his moralizing about the plague, but not his faith in God and God’s creation. Dr. Rieux and Fr. Paneloux come to work side by side to help the plague victims. The novel offers a sustained engagement with human suffering and its characters embody various responses to suffering. The novel is an excellent way to continue the discussion of the problem of evil and theodicy begun in the fall when reading Job or Augustine’s Confessions. There are several passages in the novel that read like riffs on significant passages in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov – the death of the small child by plague/Ivan’s cri de coeur about the suffering of children and animals – but the novel is much shorter and more accessible to students. Finally, that Camus himself and the characters Rieux and Rambert especially are atheists and yet are neither nihilists nor condescending to believers might offer an important and genuine instance of cultural “difference” for the typical Villanova student. The most readily available translation of the novel is translated by Stuart Gilbert, for Vintage International (1991).

In “The Just Assassins” (Les Justes), Camus brings the reader and audience into the headquarters and minds of a group of Russian terrorists plotting to assassinate the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. The play is based on an incident that took place in Moscow on February 17, 1905. As the Grand Duke’s carriage passed through the gates of the Kremlin that afternoon, his assassin, and the drama’s protagonist, the poet and revolutionary socialist Ivan Kaliayev,

stepped forward and threw a nitroglycerin bomb directly into Sergei’s lap. The explosion disintegrated the carriage and the Grand Duke died immediately, literally blown to bits. Scattered all over the crimson stained snow lay pieces of scorched cloth, fur and leather. The body of the Grand Duke was mutilated, with the head, the upper part of the chest and the left shoulder and arm being blown off and completely destroyed. Surrounded by the splintered bones of the skull was the very little that remained of the face. Some of the Grand Duke’s fingers, still adorned with the rings he habitually wore, were found on the roof of a nearby building and were recovered some time later.

Camus knew these details, and he builds the drama around the terrorists’ acute awareness of the brutality of their actions. The play mainly consists of passionate debates amongst the plotters – especially Kaliayev, the fictional Stepan Fedorov, and the historical Dora Dulebov – concerning the motives and justifications for revolutionary violence. It is a short work with an agitated, suspenseful, emotionally explosive mood throughout. Camus reconstructs the arguments and conversations that may have played out in the terrorists’ apartment in the days leading up to and following the assassination. The drama explores the question of whether, or to what extent, the love of justice permits, or requires, the destruction of human life. Can one love justice while hating certain of one’s fellow human beings enough to blow them to bits? In what ways do thoughtful, reflective human beings attempt to reconcile themselves to such actions? Must one injure one’s own humanity in order to be truly just? Camus is also intensely interested in the sorts of conflict that arise in a group committed to revolutionary violence and what those conflicts reveal about human relationships. The drama culminates in a prison interview (which actually took place) between Kaliayev and the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna following her husband’s assassination and shortly before Kaliayev’s execution. Camus portrays the Duchess as a morally powerful character who defeats Kaliayev with a kind of Christian Socratism. Yet Camus writes in the preface to the play, “My admiration for my heroes, Kaliayev and Dora, is complete.” The title of the play is not ironic, or not simply so. It is a drama about men and women who have committed themselves utterly to justice as they understand it. Here at least, Camus seems more interested in this commitment than in the question of what justice itself is. Like Augustine, he doubts profoundly the possibility of establishing heaven on earth by means of a (necessarily flawed) human justice. However, Camus seems to maintain an essential, or existential, openness to radical human possibilities of all kinds, provided that one truly recognizes and accepts the consequences of one’s commitments, as Kaliayev does. The play gets us to ask the deeply uncomfortable but very timely questions of why a serious person would choose to become a terrorist, and whether this could ever be an admirable choice. The play is collected in Caligula and 3 Other Plays, translated by Stuart Gilbert (Vintage Books, 1958). It is short enough to photocopy.

                                                            Andrew Bove and Greg Hoskins

W.E.B. DuBois

Chapter three, “Of Mr. Booker T. Washington and Others” from W.E.B. DuBoisOn the Souls of Black Folk works best in conjunction with Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Compromise speech of 1895. Students first read Booker T. Washington and spend time looking in detail at the assumptions that are essential to his plan to integrate former slaves into American society. In many ways, Booker T. Washington still embodies many of the same working assumptions that are embedded in the “American Dream.” It was, after all written for a white audience and is still lauded as an example of the ‘bootstrap approach’ to success. Many students resonate with Booker T. Washington and his emphasis on hard work and climbing the ladder of economic success.

And then ten years later came DuBois. DuBois (1868-1963), the first black Ph.D. from Harvard, was able to articulate better than most what it meant to be black in America and distinctively emphasized the importance of higher education in the journey toward equal status. He exposes the naive and dangerous assumptions that expect a people (black folk in this case) to climb a ladder that is missing its rungs of social equality, suffrage, and access to higher education. I use this chapter because of the way in which DuBois systematically strips Washington's argument bare to expose both the impossibility of its success and the inevitability of perpetual social disenfranchisement. In an abstract sense, this is a useful exercise that challenges students to see how one can examine the method of an argument, not the intention. Both of these men wanted the same outcome. But DuBois is skillful in showing how method is more important than intention. As a critical thinker, he is skillful at moving through every aspect of an argument in a systematic and insightful manner. It is also important for students to be in the presence of one of the greatest intellectual minds of the 20th century.

The discussions that come out of this pairing revolve around a critical assessment of the American Dream. It also leads into very difficult discussions about the kinds of barriers that were put in front of former slaves, and the extent to which those barriers still exist. The most important insights revolve around how white privilege is invisibly woven into the American Dream. DuBois makes it clear that if you do not have these central elements of equality, then the American Dream is just that: a dream. W.E.B. DuBois could see that in 1905 and we are still, 110 years later, struggling to catch up.

My ACS class focuses on issues of privilege and race: In addition to assigning Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois, I also have them also read material from Abraham Lincoln (as an anti-slavery voice) and George Fitzhugh (who is pro-slavery). DuBois contributes to the Augustinian mission of ACS by drawing attention to pervasive social injustice in American and beginning the conversation for how this injustice can be addressed.

The Souls of Black Folk is available online:

Tim Horner

T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) was born in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to England when he was a young man. He never returned to the U.S. (even to defend his dissertation at Harvard); rather, in 1927 he became a British citizen and an Anglican. He married twice in England – first a troubled marriage to Vivienne; second, a happy marriage to Valerie when he was much older. He was a banker and then an editor, writing poems, essays, and plays in the evenings and on weekends.

Eliot’s The Waste Land, Four Quartets, and Murder in the Cathedral are perhaps best suited to teaching in ACS. The Waste Land is the poem that made him famous. Written before his conversion to Christianity, it is a despairing take on modern life; it’s only hint of solace being “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.” The poem is replete with references to Eastern mysticism, as well as to the legend of the Holy Grail, among other things.

Four Quartets was written after Eliot’s conversion and more explicitly engages with Christian themes, as does Eliot’s much shorter poem, Ash Wednesday, which might be taught in a day. Four Quartets continue themes Eliot raised in The Waste Land, but offers a more hopeful Christian resolution to the problems of modern life. Four Quartets reflects on time and memory, on beginnings and endings, in ways that are directly influenced by Augustine’s own reflections in The Confessions. Moreover, Eliot’s poem was influenced by Dante and might work well with The Divine Comedy.

Murder in the Cathedral is about Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, immediately before his martyrdom due to a conflict with King Henry II over the rights of the church versus the rights of the civil government. He encounters three tempters who urge him to avoid martyrdom and seek temporal power and a fourth who tempts him to glory in his martyrdom. Murder in the Cathedral might work well with Hobbes, who also explores the relationship between church and state. It would also complement works that deal with glory and honor, such as The Iliad, the story of David, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or with martyrdom, most notably the gospels.

Eliot’s poetry and plays fit well with the mission of ACS. They show the need for redemption by exposing modernity’s flaws and, at least in his Christian works, explore the Christian understanding of redemption, making it fresh in all of its ironies: for instance, pointing out that it takes a dying man to bring us health. In the tradition of Augustine, Eliot grapples with how the demands of this world conflict with the demands of the next.

The Waste Land (Dover, 1998); Four Quartets (Mariner Press, 1968); Murder in the Cathedral (Harcourt, 1964).

Lorraine McCrary

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was the father of psychoanalysis. Freud was born to a Jewish family in Austria. He grew up studying great works of literature and was proficient in several languages, including Latin and Greek. As a college student he studied philosophy, physiology, and zoology. Over the past one hundred years, across many cultures, his name has become synonymous with dream interpretation, jokes, slips, the unconscious, the Oedipus complex, and therapy. His work not only had a profound impact on our study of the mind and how to improve mental health through talking therapy, but also on numerous other disciplines (philosophy, religion, sociology, anthropology, literature) in which Freud wrote. Freud’s writings were voluminous, and they are far too many to mention. His writings and teachings attracted numerous followers during his lifetime and caused great controversy between them, which still rage today. Freud’s books were burned by the Nazis when they took control of Germany in 1933. He and his family were forced to flee to London from Vienna in 1938. Only a year later, Freud died of throat cancer.

The work I have found most successful in the ACS classroom is Civilization and Its Discontents. Written late in his career (1929), this book takes a psychoanalytic approach to the nature of culture and its relationship to the individual. Freud claims that we are doomed to be unhappy under the rule of civilization, because it is inevitable that civilization represses and prohibits our primitive instincts. Such instincts are aggressive and destructive. Because these instincts are repressed, civilization is to blame for the creation of neurosis and guilt. The work is critical of our attempts to deal with such sicknesses that distract us from their nature, rather than treating them as the result of the repression of civilization, and poses an alternative solution. Freud is asking: What constitutes the common good? Can such a good contribute to our humanity? And where does this common good come from? What must we give up in order to attain it? All these questions place it within the mission of ACS.

Texts that can be paired well with it include Hobbes’ Leviathan, Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Pascal’s Pensees, and Moliere’s Misanthrope, all of which ask what the nature of man is and how society and politics influence that nature.

The authoritative translation is by James Strachey (Norton Publishing, 2010).

Alan Pichanick

C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) was an Irish novelist, apologist, and scholar of medieval literature. After serving in WWI, Lewis studied English, classics, and philosophy at Oxford (1919-1923), earning “firsts” in all three areas. He was elected a Fellow of English Language and Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford (1925-1954) and ended his career as the Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English Literature at the University of Cambridge (1954-1963). Called “Jack” by his friends, he was a core member of a group of literary enthusiasts known as The Inklings, which met informally at a pub to read and discuss their current literary projects. His most famous works are his seven children’s novels collectively entitled The Chronicles of Narnia and his apologetic work Mere Christianity, which originated as radio broadcasts from WWII. His conversion from atheism to Christianity and his expertise in and love of literature make him an ideal fit for ACS.

The Screwtape Letters (1942) record a fictional dialogue between two demons on effective strategies for damaging and destroying the faith of Christians and dissuading non-believers from embracing Christianity. An inverted morality tale, it creatively underscores the value and necessity of spiritual vigilance and growth. It works well with Milton’s Paradise Lost and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Surprised by Joy (1955) is Lewis’s intellectual and spiritual autobiography. In it he relates his journey from atheism to Christianity. It works well with Augustine’s Confessions thematically and theologically.

The Four Loves (1960) is an analysis of four types of human love: affection, friendship, eros, and charity. It explores the spiritual dynamics of interpersonal relationships in an engaging, incisive, and relatable style. It would work well Aristotle’s reflections on friendship, as well as with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and other texts on the nature of love and friendship.

Additionally, I would recommend Lewis’s essays (especially “The Weight of Glory”) and his Preface to Paradise Lost, especially for those who read Milton in ACS 1001. His deeply theological fictional Space Trilogy—Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, explores themes of creation, fall, sin, and redemption and would work well for ACS. Mere Christianity, while a classic exposition of the Christian faith, would work better in THL 1000. Finally, Till We Have Faces, Lewis’s most mature and masterful novel, touches on themes of love, jealousy, and the (de)formation of the self, but its length makes it difficult to cover.

The new HarperOne editions of Lewis’s work are affordable and winsome. Recommended biographies of C.S. Lewis include: Roger Green and Walter Hooper’s C. S. Lewis: A Biography (Mariner, 1994), Alan Jacobs’ The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis (Harper, 2005), Alister McGrath’s C. S. Lewis—A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet (Tyndale, 2013), and George Sayer’s Jack: A Life of C. S. Lewis (Crossway, 2005).

Mark Scott

Toni Morrison (b. 1931) is a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning novelist of books such as Beloved, The Bluest Eye, and Song of Solomon. She has taught English at different universities, including Princeton, where she taught in the Creative Writing Program.

Toni Morrison’s Home (Vintage International, 2013) tells the story of an African-American Korean War veteran, Frank Money, who returned to a segregated United States. He grapples with traumas from his childhood at the hands of his grandmother, his experiences at war, and his feelings toward his sister, all while on a mission to rescue that sister. As the title suggests, the text explores the meaning of home and its implications on one’s life, experiences, and future. While finding many reasons to reject various homes, Morrison returns her character to his childhood home, though re-formed and reconceived. Home shows students that even brand new books can be read critically and introspectively, although teachers choosing this book should be prepared for a pronounced lack of familiarity among students with the 1950s generally and with Civil Rights issues specifically.

In many ways, this is a classic hero adventure story, although Frank is anything but the classic hero. He leaves home with nothing but disdain, but returns with a better understanding of how he fits in. In this sense, this book pairs well with the Odyssey and similar epics. It also might work well with T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, which reflects on beginnings and endings and on one’s home and one’s end. Similar to Augustine’s Confessions, Home explores the story of one person over his life, from childhood to adulthood. Moreover, while never diagnosed, Frank suffers from PTSD and also has a drinking problem. The impact of this combination is very similar to Augustine’s restless heart. The difference is in how he eventually finds his quiet.

                                                                                    Ely Levine

H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962) was perhaps the most important Christian ethicist in 20th Century America. Along with his older brother Reinhold, Niebuhr came to stand for a neo-orthodox (or post-liberal) version of Protestant Christianity. In Christ and Culture (1951) Niebuhr surveys the ways in which Christians have negotiated what he calls the “enduring problem” between Christ, who was without sin, and culture – which Niebuhr defines as the total process of human social activity infused more or less with sin (exclusion, oppression, injustice, etc.). He describes five ways in which Christians have negotiated this problem: Christ against Culture, Christ of Culture, Christ above Culture, Christ and Culture in paradox, and Christ as transformer of Culture. The Amish are an illustration of the Christ against culture model; Niebuhr offers Augustine as an exemplar of the transformer model.

Of particular value in ACS1001 are the Christ of Culture model, and the Christ as transformer of Culture alternative. In the Christ of Culture model religion merely “blesses” mainstream cultural values (perhaps today: individualism, liberal capitalism, multicultural relativism, and so on); there really is no tension between Christ and culture. What Niebuhr sees represented in Augustine is an active engagement in the positive reform of culture into a more humane and just one. The text is useful as an illustration of the contemporary relevance of Augustine (and it would allow him to have an explicit presence in ACS1001). If the text is read in excerpts, the introduction, plus the chapters on the Christ of Culture model and on the Christ as transformer of Culture model should be read. The text can be studied at the beginning of the semester with the aim of defining over the course of the semester just what is modern “culture” and what might be a Catholic-Christian engagement with it. It could also be read at the end of the semester as a way of synthesizing the picture of modern culture derived from the various texts read. A reliable edition of the text is the 50th Anniversary edition (Harper & Row, 2001).

Greg Hoskins

Marilynne Robinson (b. 1943), the American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, essayist, and scholar, teaches at the prestigious Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop as the F. Wendell Miller Professor of English and Creative Writing. She is the recipient of numerous honorary doctorates and writing awards. While her fiction and non-fiction range widely, they display a sustained interest in religion and the transcendent dimensions of human experience. Though an accomplished scholar of English and religion, she is best known for her novels, particularly Gilead.

Gilead (2004), the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, tells the story of John Ames, a Congregationalist minister from the small town of Gilead, Iowa. In the twilight of his life “Reverend Ames” marries Lila, 35 years his junior, and they have a child together, Robert Ames. Knowing that he will not live long enough to see his son grow up, he writes him an extended letter as a way to speak to him from beyond the grave. In the letter Ames shares his joys and struggles, his perception of God in the mundane moments and minutia of life, and demonstrates the possibilities of grace in the face of heartache, turmoil, and conflict. Ames’s letter to his young son is the text of Gilead. The novel celebrates the transcendent in everyday life and emphasizes the surprising ways that grace bursts into reality, especially in the broken places.

Its autobiographical design connects naturally with Augustine’s Confessions. Its meditative, introspective tone relates directly to the course question “Who am I?” Its protagonist offers insightful and uplifting exhortations throughout the text, for example: “There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient” (Gilead, 243). Finally, Gilead is explicitly theological without sermonizing or moralizing, although it touches on moral issues (e.g., abolitionism, segregation). It focuses on the deep relationships forged in a town with a proud history (despite its decline and cultural isolation), which exemplify the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love, 1 Corinthians 13:13) in the context of the mystery of existence.

Online commentary on Gilead by former Gallen Fellow Scott Moringiello:,,

The work of other Augustine and Culture Seminar Program fellows is included in two volumes: Jason Stevens, ed., This Life, This World: New Essays on Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, Gilead, and Home (Brill, 2015) and Joseph Lane and Shannon Mariotti, eds., A Political Companion to Marilynne Robinson (University of Kentucky Press, 2015).

Mark Scott

Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), was the daughter of Victorians, who influenced her life and her art. Her father was a noted Victorian writer and historian; her mother was a noted beauty. Woolf herself was a member of the Bloomsbury group of intellectuals in London between the World Wars. She was a writer of incandescent essays and fiction and an early champion of educational, economic and professional rights for women. She founded and operated Hogarth Press with her husband, Leonard. Woolf’s life was haunted by mental illness. She died by suicide, walking into a river, weighted down by stones in her pockets.

A number of Woolf’s works address issues important to ACS, in a challenging but engaging manner. In A Room of One’s Own, Woolf famously argues that women require 500 pounds a year and a room of their own – money, space and time – to compete with men in the writing marketplace and in the canon. The book is written in modernist, stream of consciousness style, and so it can be a bit of a challenge for undergraduates, even though Woolf illustrates her points with symbolic anecdotes that consciously adopt the strategies of fiction. Consequently, it would be wise to read only one or two chapters of the book, which operate as free-standing essays. Of particular use is Chapter 1, in which Woolf re-imagines an actual visit she made to a woman’s college. She contrasts the vast resources available to the men’s college to the meager resources of the women’s college in two famously described scenes of meals at the respective colleges. Chapter 3 is also notable in presenting Woolf’s imaginary creation, Judith Shakespeare, the sister of William. Since Judith lacks the opportunities of her brother, in Woolf’s telling, her talents result in failure and tragedy.

Of Woolf’s essays, three in particular stand out as valuable resources for ACS: “On Being Ill”; “Professions for Women”; “The Death of the Moth.” “In “On Being Ill,” Woolf argues for the appropriateness of illness and the body as a topic for serious writing. “Professions for Women” talks about the challenge she identifies for the women writers of her time: the need to move away from nineteenth-century ideals of female perfection and purity, as emblemized by the figure of “The Angel in the House.” In “The Death of the Moth,” Woolf uses the occasion of the struggles of a trapped moth as the starting point for a meditation on life and death. This essay was published the year after Woolf committed suicide. While Woolf’s novels are beautifully written, they are probably not texts that ACS students would appreciate.

Because of her lively intellect and broad range, Woolf would work well in conversation with other writers commonly taught in ACS. As a modernist, her ideas engage with those of Kafka, Freud and Joyce. Her brief biography of the imagined Judith Shakespeare might be productively read with William’s writings or with a section of Greenblatt’s biography, Will of the World. Her discussion of the limits of female education and opportunities would work as a text parallel to Mary Wollstonecraft Vindication of the Rights of Woman or Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages, which focuses on the lost possibilities of Ben Franklin’s sister, Jane.

Woolf’s work relates to the Augustinian mission of ACS in several ways. The idea that every human being is worthy and capable of reaching a unique vision is central to Woolf’s feminism. The Augustinian emphasis on the power of reading and books is central to Woolf’s vision, as well. Moreover, Augustine’s notion of the divided self and the struggle with oneself is present, especially in “Professions for Women.” And Woolf highlights the necessity of mentors and companions, especially in the two recommended chapters of A Room of One’s Own.

Oxford World’s Classics editions of Woolf are readable and provide useful notes (A Room of One’s Own, and Three Guineas, 2008). Alternatively, pdf copies of the essays are available online.

Ruth Anolik