Formally inaugurated in 1895, the School of Philosophy has accepted 406 doctoral dissertations on issues confronting every major philosophical discipline and every major figure in the history of philosophy. The School continues this endeavor against the background of a broad consensus on the definitive importance of two perennial questions: What is the human good? What are the ultimate principles of being and knowledge? The awareness of these questions and the study of their possible answers constitute an end and an ethos in light of which the School chooses to concentrate on the careful reading of primary sources in the history of philosophy.
Specific to the Catholic intellectual tradition is an abiding concern for the relation between faith and reason, the intelligibility of nature, the reality of organic form or soul, the inquiry into causal hierarchies, and the possibility of an ethics and political philosophy based on rational insight into human nature. Accordingly, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas form a basic framework in relation to which Neoplatonism, the Islamic contribution, the ferment of late Scholasticism, the emergence of early modern philosophy and natural science, the attempts at a synthesis of the natural and the human within German idealism, the impact of Nietzsche, and the analytical and phenomenological movements are studied.
Despite its richness and diversity, modern philosophy is paradoxically marked by an anti-philosophical tendency. With notable exceptions, modern thought is characterized by skepticism concerning the very possibility of philosophy as search for truth about ultimate principles and human good and by inattention to the meaning of practical wisdom in nonphilosophical life. Cultivation of an intellectual awareness adequate to this situation is a principal goal of the School of Philosophy.