Course Descriptions

Borromeo Seminary Institute Course Descriptions



Philosophy Department


PL 210 Ancient Greek Philosophy

Dr. Beth Rath

This is the first in a four part series on the history of philosophy. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to some of the most prominent thinkers in the ancient world, to become familiar with their most influential works, and to appreciate their contribution to Western philosophy. This course will provide the necessary foundation for studying medieval, modern, and contemporary philosophy in the future. Students will also learn to read and comprehend classic philosophical texts and will learn to write philosophically.


PL 225 Medieval Philosophy & Logic

Dr. Joel Johnson

This course explores central themes and problems in medieval philosophy. In particular, we consider medieval thinkers’ attempts to address questions pertaining to faith and reason, the problem of universals, and human knowing. We pursue our examination of medieval philosophy mainly through reading and discussing primary texts. Additionally, this course includes a unit on basic Aristotelian logic.


PL 240 17th/18th Century European Philosophy

Dr. Beth Rath

This course explores central themes in political philosophy and natural theology from the 17th and 18th centuries. The philosophers we study include: Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Descartes, Leibniz, Hume, and Pascal.


PL 246 19th/20th Century Philosophy

Dr. Joel Johnson

This course surveys some of the major themes and thinkers of the last two centuries of Western philosophy.  For the Nineteenth Century, it follows the collapse of Hegel’s speculative idealism, the rise of atheistic humanism in Feuerbach and Marx, and the radically different critiques of idealism and humanism found in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.  For the Twentieth Century, it covers phenomenology, existentialism, and personalism.


PL 304 Philosophy of the Human Person

Dr. Beth Rath

Philosophy of the human person, or philosophical anthropology, may be understood as the study of what human persons are, who human persons are, and, perhaps, what human persons are for. A central point of debate within the Western intellectual tradition is whether humans are teleological kinds of beings or more like machines. In other words, is the human person a body and a mind that somehow interact and express rational purposiveness and self-directedness, or are humans merely packages of genes and neurophysiological processes? How one answers this question and other questions pertaining to who and what human persons are has implications for one’s conception of the self, human freedom, immortality, and many social and ethical issues. These sorts of questions will be taken up the course.


PL 308 Philosophy of God

Dr. Beth Rath

This course uses philosophical reasoning to make sense of central tenets of the Nicene Creed. We will explore questions pertaining to God’s existence, God’s attributes, the Incarnation and Atonement, and the problem of evil. Our strategy, in part, will be to put pressure on central tenets of the Creed and then attempt to respond to these objections using philosophical argumentation. We will not prove Christian beliefs to be true; rather, we will aim to see what light philosophical argumentation can shed on them. The course includes readings from historical and contemporary philosophers.


PL 368 Ethical Theory

Dr. Joel Johnson

This course is an introduction to ethics or the formal study of moral discourse.  Its purpose is to provide the student with a solid grounding in conscience, freedom, law, responsibility, exemplarity, virtue, and guilt.  In addition, the study of ethics also considers the common good and solidarity as central to Christian social political philosophy.  The class will explore various ethical theories from Aristotle, Aquinas, John Stuart Mill, Kant, G.E.M. Anscombe, Alasdair MacIntyre, Karol Wojtyla and Peter Singer.


PL 391 What Does Science Prove? (replaced Philosophy of Nature)
Topics at the Intersection of Science and Religion

Dr. Beth Rath

One popular idea circulating in the mainstream is that religion and science are fundamentally incompatible. In this course, we will try to relieve the alleged science OR religion dilemma. To do this, we will focus on the question of what science actually proves with respect to theological claims. Answering this question requires us to focus on three smaller questions. First, what are the relevant theological claims? Second, what are the scientifically informed challenges to the relevant theological claims? Third, what sort of evidence does the latest scientific data provide? This last question is the core of the course. To answer the scientific challenge to religion requires figuring out what claims the latest scientific research actually supports. In addition to answering the challenges posed by some scientists to religion, we also identify those areas in which science seems to provide strong evidence for religious claims.

Some of the themes that we investigate in this course include: the origins of the universe, cognitive psychology of religious belief, human uniqueness and immortality, artificial intelligence, moral responsibility and neuroscience, and the historical Adam.


PL 395 Metaphysics

Dr. Joel Johnson

Metaphysics, as conceived by the dominant Western philosophical tradition, that of Aristotle and his followers, is the study of being qua being. It aims to answer questions of the following sort: What exists? What does it mean to say that something exists? What explains the existence of the things that exist? And, how are existing things related to one another?

The aim of this course is to introduce students to this metaphysical tradition by way of a few of its central texts. We begin the semester by considering several accounts of the relation between the inquiring human subject and the world and locating the Aristotelian position among these accounts. We then consider the central concepts and theses of Aristotelian metaphysics and those of some of its rivals. Finally, we conclude the course with a short primer on the metaphysics of beauty.


PL 396 Epistemology

Dr. Joel Johnson

The aim of this course is to introduce students to a few rival accounts of the nature of knowledge, the sources of knowledge, and the limits of knowledge by means of the writings of a few of the great philosophers in the ancient, medieval, and modern philosophical traditions. Over the course of the semester, we consider answers to basic questions of epistemology, questions such as: What is knowledge? Do we have any knowledge? If we do have knowledge, how did we get it?


Theology Courses


TRS 238 Catechism of the Catholic Church

Fr. Mark Latcovich
Overview of Roman Catholic theology based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as a look at various themes and issues since the Second Vatican Council that find their roots and explanation in the Catechism. Emphasis on scripture, grace, sacraments, sin, redemption, the role of Jesus, the Magisterium, ethical norms, and morality.


TRS 200 Hebrew Bible

Fr. Mark Ott
The historical and cultural environment of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), its nature, composition, and its religious and theological development.


TRS 205 New Testament Introduction

Sister Marie Belz, OSU
This course is an introduction to the study of the New Testament in the Roman Catholic tradition. The development and composition of the New Testament as a part of the Catholic Canon of Scripture; the historical, cultural, and religious environment out of which it arose; and the various theologies and their impact on the Catholic Biblical imagination will be interpreted in the light of the Catholic Church, and expose the student to the authentic Catholic exegesis rooted in the tradition of the Church and exemplified by contemporary Catholic Biblical Scholarship.


TRS 360 Catholic Moral Theology

Fr. James Bretzke, S.J. STD

Catholic Moral Theology provides methods for making informed and prudential moral decisions grounded in experience, Scripture, church teaching, and rational discourse.   It also addresses contemporary interpersonal and social problems in light of moral theory within the Catholic tradition.


TRS 328 Franciscan Movement

Franciscan movement from its birth in the life of Francis of Assisi to its contemporary manifestations. Historical and spiritual aspects of the Franciscan phenomenon and its import for the Church today.