Catholic Intellectual Life

At Notre Dame, an Arts and Letters liberal education is also a Catholic liberal education.

This Catholic dimension of our identity shapes our educational efforts in two key ways.

First, in contrast to the great secular research universities and private colleges, Notre Dame places the formal study of theology and philosophy at its educational core. The University requires each student to take two courses in each subject, with the conviction that the study of God is as reasonable, as intellectually demanding, as the study of human psychology or the contemporary economy. Precisely because we offer a Catholic liberal education, no religious or intellectual question—certainly not the most profound existential questions—is bracketed at Notre Dame or limited by a cramped understanding of critical reflection.

This insistence on the integration of reason and religious faith is a hallmark of Catholicism. The French Catholic philosopher Simone Weil once wrote that “if one turns aside from Christ to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.”

A second distinctive quality of a Catholic liberal education at Notre Dame is the opportunity—in each of our Arts and Letters departments—to cultivate some dimension of the Catholic intellectual tradition, a tradition responsible for the founding of first universities during the medieval period and an inexhaustible cultural resource from the earliest days of Christianity.

Students might study Dante in the College’s Italian studies program, the sociology of religion in the sociology department or the ethical implications of differing definitions of poverty in the economics program. They may stage a play with an explicit connection to Catholic notions of social justice, devote themselves to analyzing the cognitive development of children, or focus their attention on a rare tapestry. They may focus intensively on language acquisition, a priority for the College, precisely because Catholicism is the world’s most multicultural and multilingual intellectual tradition.

In all these endeavors, students and faculty together explore the traditional concern of liberal education in a distinctive and enriching Catholic context.

This context, finally, is not simply academic. The College, in conjunction with the University, seeks to nourish and integrate the spiritual as well as intellectual lives of students and faculty. In response to Catholic social teaching in particular, the College of Arts and Letters fosters research and study that furthers social justice and serves the common good.

Both within and beyond the classroom, students and faculty alike strive to advance social justice and to serve church, community, and the world.

Undergraduate Programs

Among the majors and minors offered by the College’s 20 academic departments, undergraduates can pursue a number of programs that focus in particular on understanding and addressing vital concerns within Church and society, including:

Graduate Programs

The College houses a number of graduate programs devoted to preparing students to serve the Church and world in meaningful ways, including:

Centers, Institutes, and Special Programs


Catholic Intellectual Tradition



Liberal Arts at Notre Dame

The Liberal Arts at Notre Dame


Arts and Letters News

  • Global Affairs Scholar to Join Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs, Department of Sociology

    Tamara Kay

    Tamara Kay, a scholar with extensive experience in Latin America and Africa, will join the new Keough School of Global Affairs as associate professor of global affairs, according to Scott Appleby, Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School. Kay will hold a joint appointment in the Notre Dame Department of Sociology. Read More >

  • Rev. 'Monk' Malloy, Former Notre Dame President, Concludes His Three-Volume Memoir

    Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C.

    The three-volume memoir of the University of Notre Dame’s president emeritus, Rev. Edward A.“Monk” Malloy, C.S.C., will be completed next month with the publication of Monk’s Tale: The Presidential Years: 1987-2005 by the University of Notre Dame Press. Read More >

  • Three Questions with Political Philosopher Patrick Deneen

    Patrick Deneen

    A member of the University of Notre Dame political science faculty since 2012, Patrick Deneen is the David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies. He teaches and writes about the history of political thought, American political thought, religion and politics, and literature and politics. Books he has published on these subjects include The Odyssey of Political Theory, Democratic Faith, Democracy’s Literature, The Democratic Soul, and Redeeming Democracy in America. Read More >

  • Video: 2016 Seniors Reflect on Their Liberal Arts Education

    Sunrise O Shag Icon

    Congratulations to the Class of 2016! This video, screened at the Arts and Letters Diploma Ceremony, features several seniors reflecting on their time at Notre Dame and in the College of Arts and Letters. “The College of Arts and Letters has really given me this great base that has allowed me to think and critically reflect on what kind of life I want to live,” said Seamus Ronan, a political science and peace studies major. “I feel prepared for whatever life brings my way.” Read More >