This semester I will be taking 15 hours of class. While I am a student at Holy Trinity Seminary, I am also a registered Graduate Student at University of Dallas and will be taking my classes there. I’ll walk from the seminary to campus each day.
This semester I am taking mostly introductory classes, so I have been told the classes will be filled with freshman and sophomores fulfilling their general university requirement. This school requires all undergrads to complete classes in philosophy, Catholic theology, and literature… Crazy! I did not have any say in my schedule, because all Pre-Theologians (my classification) take the same 48 hours course load during their time at HTS. The only place I have wiggle room in in foreign languages, where I decided to start a semester early. Here my course load:
PHI 1301: Philosophy and the Ethical Life
PHI 2323: The Human Person
PHL 3357: Logic
THE 1310: Understanding the Bible
MSP 1301: First Year Spanish 1 (recommended because I haven’t taken it in 3 years)
If you had asked me at any point in the past few months how I was feeling about seminary, my answer would typically be “I’m excited to go but not at all looking forward to studying philosophy.” My academic career thus far has consisted of engineering and business curriculum, and my general mode of thinking is “How can I solve this problem?” I love problems with answers, issues that can be fixed, and optimizing systems. I have no love for writing and in general avoid things that are not obviously practical. Philosophy seems to fall into the category of everything I don’t like.
I had a philosophical enlightenment last night, however, and can say now that I am looking forward to learning philosophy.
After night prayer, and after the most rousing “be holy” exhortation I’ve ever heard (by our rector), I was in a particularly mellow but joyful mood. I noticed a copy of First Things magazine sitting in the hallway and sat down to read it. This time of reading had a profound impact on me.
1. I am a self-described “doer.” I thrive on action and don’t do “nothing” very well. Seminary formation has been suggesting (forcing) on me that peacefully sitting and “embracing aloneness and solitude” is a good and necessary practice. It’s been a hard concept to embrace, and one I’m sure I’ll keep fighting against… But something about just sitting down in a quiet hallway and reading was invigorating and calming. This is way different than my typical frantic pace of blog reading on my phone while doing 15 other things.
2. As I read through the pages, the tone of discourse and level of reason really enraptured me. They discussed political theory, religious involvement in society, and social concerns and did so based on philosophical or “liberal arts” ideas of what is good and best. The columns effortlessly sourced Aristotle, Dostoevsky, Karol Wojytla, and Karl Marx to argue for and against particular courses of action. These were not standard news articles that explain facts and poll data, they were ideologically reasoned discourses. It’s been a long time since I encountered something like this and it was a breath of fresh air.
3. This excites me because starting in two days I will begin a heavy dose of academic philosophy. God loved me yesterday by igniting a desire to be conversant in philosophy so I can know how and why we think… I want to be able to reason and do so from a point of view steeped in historical thought. I actually want to engage these classes I will be taken so I can speak at the level I was reading. I’m still dreading the papers I will have the write and the endless theoretical questioning that will occur, but I’m more willing to accept them as a means to become steeped in this discipline.
We’ll see in a month if I the excitement is still there.