In his papal encyclical, Fides et Ratio, St. John Paul II calls attention to the crucial need for the collaborative efforts of faith and reason. So mutually necessary are such efforts that the Holy Father compares them to two wings enabling one to “soar” towards truth. Implied in his image is an interdependence between Christian faith and human reason. By the latter, he has in mind a reason that can in its sphere progress in seeing things deeply, broadly, and truly. In elaborating further, he also observes that faith deprived of reason can devolve into mere emotion and that faith tied to weak reasoning “runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition.” At the same time, however, each “without the other is impoverished and enfeebled.”
Still more particularly in Fides et Ratio, St. John Paul II evinces an awareness of “the great tradition”, points to its importance, and urges a rootedness in it. He is also aware of the existence of ancient and modern dimensions in our tradition and that Western thought as a whole is not monolithic. Moreover, while ancient and modern thought are to be approached with respect, it is also appropriate and even necessary to do so with a critically discerning eye as well as a sympathetic heart.
Lastly, both St. John Paul II and his successor, Benedict XVI (Regensburg Address), alert their audiences to the existence of high-order contemporary crises brought on by a diminished understanding of the reach and power of human reason. For both pontiffs, especially desirable is an education informed by an awareness of the “grandeur of reason”, a sapiential approach to learning, and studies aimed at a broad overview and integrated grasp of those matters that are of surpassing importance to human beings.
“… I do love wisdom alone and for its own sake, and it is on account of wisdom that I want to have or fear to be without other things, such as life, tranquility, and my friends. What limit can there be to my love of that Beauty, in which I do not only not begrudge it to others, but I even look for many who will long for it with me, sigh for it with me, possess it with me, enjoy it with me; they will be all the dearer to me the more we share that love in common.” — St. Augustine, Soliloquies, I. 13, 22.
- To awaken wonder in our students and to foster in them a love of and fledgling steps toward WISDOM.
- Through study and discussion of great books of Western civilization, to assist students to grow in an awareness of three foundational perspectives therein (Classical, Christian, Modern).
- Through consideration of disputes among some of the greatest minds, to occasion in students reflection upon questions and issues of pressing importance as well as advancement towards a broad overview and an incipient grasp of those matters that are of greatest import to human beings.
- To occasion progress in correct interpretation of great texts through attentive reading, assiduous study, probing discussions and, when warranted, reasoned dissent from the teachings of particular authors.
- To assist students to grow in awareness of prominent issues in what thoughtful persons have referred to as a “crises in the West.”
- Through the experience of careful reading, regular study, frequent conversations, and engaged writing, to enable students to grow in depth, clarity, subtlety of reflection and articulate expression.
- To promote in our students the proper balance of disciplined study and play along with habits of life conducive to bodily health, social grace, and a refined use of leisure.
- Through cultivation of intellect, community living, the joys of friendship, to provide to all an atmosphere conducive to the continuing growth of piety and principled living.
LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR
Welcome to the Honors College at Belmont Abbey! I am eager for you to learn more about the unique community of scholars being formed here. As a student in the Honors College, you will spend four years with other intellectually and morally serious young men and women studying works by many of the greatest thinkers in the Western Tradition. Engaged in this undertaking, you will be presented with the opportunity to engage in what is rightly considered the highest form of human friendship: a shared life dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom.
If the possibility of such an endeavor is attractive to you, I urge you to explore the Honors College further and consider joining us. For information contact Dr. Wysocki at email@example.com.
Dr. Joseph Wysocki, PhD ’04
Director of the Honors College
Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs
Associate Professor of Government & Political Philosophy