The Personalist Project

Class details

Philosophy of the Human Person

Jules van Schaijik

Spring 2013

Where

519 N. High St., West Chester, PA

When

Sundays between 8 and 10 pm

Class sessions

1/11
Introduction: A Developing Sense of Self
1/25
Dignity and Unrepeatability
2/8
Interiority
2/22
Selfhood and Objective Truth
3/8
Selfhood and the Good
3/22
Recovering the Heart
4/12
Person, Body, and Sexuality
4/26
Created Persons, God and Immortality

Description

At the center of today’s deepest and most divisive controversies lies the question about the nature and dignity of the human person: What does it mean to be a human person? How must we treat others and ourselves to respect our personhood? What is the significance of the body and of sexuality? Is freedom compatible with obedience, or dignity with dependence? This course addresses such fundamental questions. It is the most foundational one we offer.

More about the class

It is designed for personal enrichment, not for academic credit. No exams and no homework. Anyone who is interested and willing to think along will benefit from it. We try to leave lots of room for questions and discussion.

As to content, the class stands in deliberate continuity with the perennial philosophy (i.e. thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas) but draws mainly from more recent Christian thinkers (such as Newman, Pieper, Wojtyla, Hildebrand, Crosby) because they are better attuned to the particular concerns and questions of contemporary man.

Participate online or in person

Classes will be held at our home in West Chester, between 8:00 and 9:30 pm on the dates listed above. Each lecture will be recorded and posted online a day or two later for those who can't come in person. Enrolled students can listen to these lectures at their convenience, and discuss them online. (I am also available via email, of course.)

Topic for each class

  • Introduction: A Developing Sense of Self
  • Dignity and Unrepeatablility
  • Interiority and Truth
  • Freedom and Goodness
  • Recovering the Heart
  • Person, Body and Sexuality
  • Autonomy and Dependence
  • Created Persons, God and Immortality

Reading material

No reading is required or necessary to follow the course, but if you like to dig deeper, I recommend you begin with one of these:

  • John F. Crosby, The Selfhood of the Human Person. The course relies very heavily on this book, and so reading it will reinforce and deepen your grasp on most of the material covered
  • C.S Lewis, The Abolition of Man. A very enjoyable read on the nature of objective values, and their importance for the flourishing of persons. 
  • Josef Pieper, Leisure the Basis of Culture. Especially the second part of this book, on "The Philosophical Act," is very good on the relation between inwardness and transcendence.
  • Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility. The gist of this book, harmonizes very well with Crosby's Selfhood. I suggest especially chapter 3, on chastity, shame, and continence.
  • Dietrich von Hildebrand, The Heart. In this book, von Hildebrand makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the person, by restoring "the heart" (the seat of out affective life) to its rightful place next to the intellect and will.

The Thought of John Henry Newman

Jules van Schaijik

Fall 2012

Where

519 N. High St., West Chester, PA

When

Tuesdays between 8 and 10 pm

Class sessions

9/11
Newman’s Life & Times
9/25
Faith and Reason
10/9
Bigotry, Wisdom, and Development
10/23
Why Theology at a University?
11/13
The Aim of a Liberal Education
11/27
Real and Notional Assent
12/4
Faith and Certainty
12/11
Doctrinal Development

Description

The recently beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman, 1801-1889, is considered by many to be the most important Catholic thinker of the modern period and a pioneer in Christian Personalism. His insights on conscience, the individuality of the person, on reasoning, friendship, the dignity of the laity, and so on, anticipated and paved the way for the developments of 20th century Catholic thought. This course is an introduction to his life, writings, and major themes.

More about the class

While drawing from many of Newman's religious writings, including the Apologia Pro Vita Sua and  Parochial and Plain Sermons, the course will center on four of Newman's most important and enduring philosophical works:

(Don't want to buy the books? All of Newman's works can be found online at www.newmanreader.org.)

The course is for personal enrichment, not academic credit. There will be no tests, papers or grades. The readings are optional, But the course will be much more valuable to those who can manage it.  After all, it is Newman we are dealing with. Not just a giant among thinkers, but a master of the English language as well. (George Eliot memorized entire sermons of his, just for their beauty.)

Participate online or in person

Classes will be held at our home in West Chester, between 8:00 and 9:30 pm on the dates listed above. Each lecture will be recorded and posted online a day or so later for those who can't come in person. Enrolled students can listen to these lectures, and participate in an online discussion about them. (They can also contact me via email, of course.)

Want to get a head start?

If you would like to dive into the subject right away, I highly recommend Ian Kerr's John Henry Newman: A Biography. It is a large book, but very well written, often using Newman's own words, and it discusses Newman's thought as well as his history. Newman's sermons are another excellent place to start. O'Connel has a good selection here, and Copeland has one here.

Courtship in the Christian Vision

Katie van Schaijik

Spring 2012

Where

519 N High St, West Chester, PA

When

Fridays between 8 and 10 pm

Class sessions

1/17
Introduction
1/31
What is love?
2/14
Love and its counterfeits
3/13
Sexuality
3/27
The stages of courtship
4/17
Being single / Love & suffering
5/1
Conclusion: frequent questions

Description

This lecture series draws on the insights of Christian personalism—especially the writings of Dietrich von Hildebrand and Karol Wojtyla on spousal love and human sexuality—and shows what they imply for courtship: the way a man and a woman meet, fall in love, and approach marriage. It considers the question of what conjugal love is, how to recognize it and distinguish it from its counterfeits; how it grows and develops, what it means for our lives, and what we do with our suffering in its absence.

More about the class

The first four lectures will lay the theoretical foundation for the more practical lectures that follow.

Those who live too far away to participate in person will be able to follow the course online.  We will establish a web page for that purpose, where we will post podcasts of the lectures, suggest readings, and open a forum for questions and dicussion.

The series is for personal enrichment, not academic credit, for adults college age and up.  Married adults who want to deepen and clarify their understanding of spousal love or learn to guide their older children are more than welcome.  

Reading materials are optional.  There will be no tests, papers or grades.

About the teacher

Since taking a class on the nature of love in her junior year at Fanciscan, followed by a long, personal conversation with Alice von Hildebrand, through her own courtship, 3 years of graduate studies in philosophy, and more than 20 years of marriage, this topic has been at the center of Katie van Schaijik's intelletual interest.  She has given numerous talks on the subject, including at Franciscan University, Ave Maria University, Notre Dame, and the University of Pennsylvania.  The material for this course is taken from a forthcoming book on the subject.

Alice von Hildebrand says:

The curse of modern men is often to be so absorbed by what is 'time bound' that we lose sight of things that will echo in eternity.  The topic of courtship is very high on the list of things that matter…This course, offered by a very dear friend and one of my talented students (among thousands), is one that (given her superb philosophical training and her gift of communicating truth) will offer insights that, if lived, will guarantee the success of one of the very great human experiences: marriage.  I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

The Nature of Love

Jules van Schaijik

Spring 2009

Where

519 N. High St., West Chester, PA

When

Fridays between 8 and 10 pm

Class sessions

1/5
The centrality of love in human life
1/19
Characteristics of love in general and the different kinds of love.
2/2
Distortions and counterfeits of love
2/16
The transformation of love through Christianity
3/2
Love and the development of persons
3/16
Marriage, sexuality, virginity
3/30
The fruitfulness of love
4/13
Wrap-up and review

Description

Love plays a central role in human life. It is both our origin and our ultimate end. All desire it, and no one can be happy without it. But what exactly is it? How do we recognize and attain it? What are the different kinds of love? How can we distinguish between a genuine love and its many look-alikes or corruptions? How does Christianity change our understanding of love? And how is love related to sexuality, and to new life? It is questions like these that are addressed in this course.

More about the class

Readings will be taken from the following books

  • Plato, Phaedrus, Symposium
  • Kierkegaard, Works of Love
  • Scheler, Ressentiment
  • von Hildebrand, The Nature of Love, Purity
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Pieper, Love
  • Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility

Personalist Ethics

Jules van Schaijik

Fall 2008

Where

519 N. High St., West Chester, PA

When

Fridays between 8 and 10 pm

Class sessions

9/15
The Call and Challenge of Goodness
9/29
The Good as the Source of Happiness
10/13
What is Virtue?
10/27
The Relation between Virtue and Action
11/10
The Role of Duty in the Moral Life
11/24
The Subjective Intention and the Objective Nature of a Moral Act
12/8
A Personalist Critique of Utilitarianism
12/22
Conscience & Truth, Freedom & Law, Persons & Absolutes

Description

In this course we discuss fundamental ethical norms and principles, paying particular attention to the interplay between these and the dignity of persons. We hope to show how the demands of morality are profoundly conducive to the happiness and flourishing of persons, both as individuals and in communion with one another.

More about the class

The dignity of human persons is closely bound up with the fact that we are moral beings faced with and challenged by the call to be good and live well. We thrive as persons only if we respond positively to this call. In today's culture, however, many question or even deny this link. They perceive rather a conflict between traditional morality and the freedom and dignity of the human person.

In this course we will discuss fundamental ethical norms and principles, paying particular attention to the interplay between these and the dignity of persons. We hope to show how the demands of morality are profoundly conducive to the happiness and flourishing of persons, both as individuals and in communion with one another.

We will reflect on basic ethical questions such as: What is moral goodness? How does it arise? How is it related to freedom? What is virtue, and how does it differ from vice? What makes an act right or wrong? Are there any moral absolutes? But we will also address, for instance, the tension that exists between individual freedom and objective laws and values, and how that tension can best be resolved. We will look at ways of preserving the freedom of conscience in the face of moral absolutes. We will examine how a belief in objective truth can coexist with tolerance.

The course is roughly divided into three parts. The first two sessions will deal with the nature of the good and human motivation. The next three will focus on the moral being or character of the person, and the last three at moral acts and the norms that govern them.

Note that this is a general ethics course, focusing on the most fundamental ethical norms and principles. Specific ethical issues (such as abortion, stem cell research, the morality of war, etc.) will surely come up by way of example, but they will not be the focus.

Tentative list of reading material*

  • Plato, Gorgias
  • John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism
  • Selections from Plato's, Republic
  • Selections from Aristotle's, Nicomachean Ethics
  • Selections from Kant's, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
  • Selections from St. Thomas' Summa Theologica
  • Selections from Peter Singer's Practical Ethics
  • Selections from Dietrich von Hildebrand's Ethics (out of print)