Welcome From the Chair
Welcome to the Program of Liberal Studies, Notre Dame’s Great Books department.
Because we are an unusual major, we draw an unusual body of students. Conventional wisdom might suggest a safe major, while PLS might seem to represent the road not taken. Our students believe that it makes sense to devote their college years to reading and discussing what Matthew Arnold called “the best that has been thought and said,” from Homer to Milton to Dostoevsky to Ralph Ellison, and from Plato to Augustine to Aquinas to Kant and Wittgenstein. As a result, we attract more than our share of intellectually engaged and even voracious students. They are known around campus for their tendency to carry seminar discussions with them to the dining halls and dormitories. They trust that the skills that they acquire—skills of critical thinking and clear oral and written expression—will provide a strong foundation and prepare them for a variety of successful career paths. The experience of our alumnae and alumni suggests that this trust is well placed.
While intellectually curious, they are not merely bookish. Our students are also athletes, actors, musicians, activists; in other words, they have interests as broad and varied as those of the Notre Dame student body.
The world-renowned ancient philosophy scholar Pierre Hadot once wrote, in his Spiritual Exercises: "Every era has to start this task afresh: learning to read and reread 'old truths.' We pass our lives in 'reading,'... but we no longer know how to read, that is to stop, to free ourselves from our concerns, to return to ourselves, to leave aside our quest for subtlety and originality, to meditate calmly, to ruminate, to let the texts speak to us. It is a spiritual exercise, one of the most difficult: 'People,' said Goethe, 'do not realize how much time and effort it takes to learn to read. It took me eighty years, and I am not even certain whether I have succeeded.'" In the Program we are privileged to carry on conversations with the men and women who have left us some of the wisest and most beautiful works of the human mind and spirit. They live on in their works, and their works continue to enrich our lives.
Join this adventure of mind, soul, and heart!
Professor and Chair,
Program of Liberal Studies