Upcoming in Spring 2017: A New Course on the Virtues


Essential to the New Evangelization is the task of helping men and women to understand how human happiness is to be found through the attainment and exercise of the interior goods that are the virtues.

cassandraausten-janeausten_c-1810Next semester, the Augustine Institute’s Academic Dean, Dr. Christopher O. Blum, will offer a new course on the virtues so that students can gain additional confidence as guides to the good life and teachers of the art of living.

“Many of our students,” Blum observed, “are called upon daily to offer counsel and teaching about how to live well, and oftentimes what they need to do is simply to accompany their students and parishioners in the task of thinking through how to live reasonably and to be at peace.”

The new course, entitled Virtue, Happiness, and the Common Good, will take the form of a close reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, for centuries regarded as the ideal text for gaining a solid grasp of the rudiments of the art of living. Students will also be invited to put their thinking about the good life in conversation with St. Thomas Aquinas and with a handful of carefully-selected essays from commentators on Aristotle, including Alasdair MacIntyre’s now-classic After Virtue.

Closely following the text of the Nicomachean Ethics, the course will treat the quest for human happiness, human action as a product of habit and voluntary choice, the virtues of self-command, sociability, and common life, and the intellectual virtues. With Aristotle, students will think about friendship as a privileged expression of virtuous activity, and then pass to concluding reflections about the place of contemplation in a happy life and the essential tasks required to hand on virtuous habits to our children.

A special feature of the course will be the use of literary texts to prompt critical reflection about the good life. Students will write essays in which they bring Aristotle’s doctrine to bear upon the interpretation of characters and individual actions in Jean Racine’s Phaedra, Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and Shakespeare’s King Lear.

“My goal in assigning these literary works,” the Dean explained, “is to challenge students to make Aristotle’s thoughts and considerations their own as they road-test his theory of the virtues with reference to these dramatic and thought-provoking texts.”

Virtue, Happiness, and the Common Good will be taught on the Institute’s campus in Greenwood Village, Colorado, on Wednesday afternoons from January 18 through April 26, but will also be available via distance education. Auditors are welcome. For more information, contact the Institute’s Registrar, Mrs. Barbara Marchbank, at registrar@augustineinstitute.org.

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