Catholic Intellectual Life

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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

  • Famous Filmmaker from Poland to Deliver 2015 Nanovic Forum Lecture

    Krzysztof Zanussi

    Krzysztof Zanussi, a leading figure in contemporary European cinema, will deliver the 2015 Nanovic Forum Lecture at 5 p.m. Wednesday, September 9, in the Eck Visitors Center Auditorium at the University of Notre Dame. Read More >

  • Video: Meet Art History Major Seán Cotter

    Seán Cotter

    Majors in art history gain a broad understanding of Western art along with opportunities for in-depth examination of particular periods, such as ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and modern art. “There’s something I really love about the challenge that comes with the unexplored,” said Cotter. “I love the tradition that can emerge from that, and I love that I’m part of that tradition.” Read More >

  • Army Officer Earns Economics Ph.D. in Record Time

    Carl Wojtaszek

    Two years and nine months. That’s how long it took Army Maj. Carl Wojtaszek to complete his Ph.D. in Notre Dame’s Department of Economics—a little more than half the typical time. An assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point since 2008, Wojtaszek received a prestigious, yet finite, award from the Army—full funding to pursue his advanced degree, but a three-year time limit to complete it. Read More >

  • Unique Collaboration Brings Scholar of Ancient Philosophy to Campus

    Diego De Brasi

    An Italian-born, German-speaking scholar of ancient philosophy will spend the 2015-16 academic year at the University of Notre Dame, supported by the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Notre Dame’s Institute for Advanced Study and Workshop on Ancient Philosophy teamed up to help secure the post-doctoral fellowship for Diego De Brasi, an assistant professor of classical philology at the University of Marburg, Germany. Read More >