Catholic Intellectual Life

Library

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

  • Video: David Gibson on the Sociology of Deception and Long-Term Lies

    David Gibson

    “How do we keep secrets and tell lies for decades at a time?” asked David Gibson, associate professor of sociology in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters. In this video, Gibson discusses his pioneering work toward a cohesive sociology of deception, analyzing secrets kept by corporations, government agencies, and other organizations. Read More >

  • Video: Uncovering the Ancient City of Butrint

    Butrint, Albania

    “We’re here to look for treasure,” said David Hernandez, director of the Butrint Archaeological Research Project. “And I think of this as an intellectual treasure, really, and a cultural treasure. It’s a very special city.” Hernandez, who has directed field projects at Butrint since 2004, is an assistant professor of classics and concurrent assistant professor of anthropology at Notre Dame. Read More >

  • Notre Dame Launches Online Theology Program for Hispanic Catholics

    Camino

    The University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life (ICL) has launched a new online adult faith formation program for Hispanic Catholics. The program, Camino, is a collaborative initiative of ICL’s Satellite Theological Education Program and the Southeast Pastoral Institute. Read More >

  • In Memoriam: Donald R. Keough, Chair Emeritus of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees

    Donald R. Keough

    Donald R. Keough, chair emeritus of the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees, chair of Allen & Company, and former president and chief operating officer of the Coca-Cola Company, died Tuesday, February 24 in Atlanta with family members at his side. He was 88. “Don Keough was a celebrated business leader, a transformative philanthropist, a devout Catholic, a devoted husband and father, and a friend to so many who today mourn his passing,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. Read More >