Course Description

Natural Law, Ethics and Public Policy

The personal history of every man is to a great extent defined by the search for the answer to one question: “what should I do to be happy?”. This course offers an encounter with the great thinkers of Western Civilization, and focuses on what they consider to be the achievement of happiness for themselves as well as for the whole of society. In the course of their lives, many of these thinkers reached a profundity that inspired whole generations. Socrates´ determination to suffer an injustice rather than to commit one is a message that has resounded throughout history for more than 2000 years and evokes a reaction from a young man or woman even today. This course invites the student to set off on an adventurous search after the lost treasure—the treasure of wisdom about the good, the true and the beautiful as articulated throughout history.

How is a young man to organize his life in order to be happy in Aristotle´s view? How should modern society be organized according to John Rawls and Thomas Aquinas? What is the nature of law? What is the relation between law and ethics? Can one argue both that abortion is morally wrong and that it should not be criminalized and still be consistent in his argumentation? What should a critically thinking man think about the statement of a recent candidate to presidency in Slovak Republic: “morality is that which the society agrees to be such”? In searching for the answers to these questions, the student will discover not only the inexhaustible intellectual treasure of Western civilization but also a deeper understanding of his own self. It is only by this method that he can succeed in ordering his own thoughts, in realizing and eliminating contradictions and groundless prejudices, and in exploring the untouched corners of his soul. The student will better understand the structures and institutions which help him flourish in community.

Objectives:

  • inform students about the problems central to moral, political and legal philosophy
  • introduce students to the thought tradition of natural law
  • inspire hope and trust in the general attainability and accessibility of the truth in ethics, politics, law and public policy
  • develop a capability to argue soundly toward political conclusions from ethical premises

Christianity and Culture

The Christian life is not the walk of a solitary person but a communal pilgrimage with a specific relation to the world. Man is neither deified nor wholly detached from the physical world. The Christian endeavor is to relate to the world in such a way that distraction is avoided and love—the end of Christian life—is cultivated.

It is a mistake to view the relationship to the world in a narrow-minded way: Christian life is not only about churches and monasteries, but also about libraries, universities, hospitals, art and even politics. Christianity is the foundation of Western civilization, a fact valid for every single man regardless of his religious convictions. Is there any part of this base left still intact? How much needs to be uncovered? If we are unable to embrace these roots, then we become unable to understand ourselves and unable to adopt the right attitude towards other individuals and cultures.

For a Christian—and also for any other life that is to be lived well—literature is as essential as oxygen is to a fire. It nurtures the spirit, and through it we can touch the lives of the previous generations. Thanks to their recorded stories we can collect the fragments of their wisdom that would otherwise end up in oblivion.

The work of St. Augustine enables us to observe the Christian struggle in Northern Africa, where Christianity is no longer the dominant culture. Augustine´s letters, sermons and accounts represent precious treasures which give us not only the testimony of the past but also give us a chance to create Christian civilization at our moment in history.

Christian culture is not only that which St. Augustine defended. The pilgrimage of Dante to Paradiso or Don Quixote’s quest for the dreamt-of Dulcinea or More’s longing for utopia—just to mention few of the most famous texts—each introduce an unmatched opportunity to understand Christian culture and European culture through the stories of its various historical contexts, so that we can learn from them even today.

Objectives:

  • to master the essential masterpieces of Western Civilization
  • to understand better the civilizational impact of Christianity and its relation to society
  • to become inspired for one´s own societal engagement from the best of past ages
  • to develop an understanding of the role of the liberal arts in a fulfilled human life

Colloquia on various topics

Dorothy Sayers, an English writer, once asked: “Is it not a fatal error of our education that though we succeed at teaching students the subject but we never teach them to think about it? They can manage everything except for the art of learning.”

All the courses that we offer at the Collegium of Anton Neuwirth are tailored to teach the students this art—the art of critical comprehension. Colloquia offer opportunities for students to test their capability to ponder, formulate ideas and present them in public.

Every week there will be a one and a half-hour long colloquium focused on different topics. Most commonly it will address topics that cause a stir in our society, but occasionally it will focus on topics discussed in the courses. Often there will be an interesting guest from academic, political or cultural life present that will start the debate with a reflection on his experience as applicable to the topic. At times it will be one of the students who will present the topic. Active participation on the part of students is expected and encouraged.

Objectives:

  • to offer the student the possibility to apply his or her capabilities and knowledge acquired in the courses to discussion on recent issues
  • to introduce interesting figures of political and cultural life from Slovakia as well as from abroad
  • to improve communication and presentation skills
  • to participate in actual societal discussions

Weekend meetings

To acquire true knowledge it is necessary to have intellectual enthusiasm but it is not enough. To grow as a mature personal and as a Christian leader involves the capability to defend Christian principles, not primarily by brilliant speech in the media or groundbreaking study or commentary, but first of all by leading a convincingly Christian life.

Life in a community of like-minded young people can bring you many new friendships but can also be an opportunity to exercise the most difficult virtues: those necessary to human relationships.
The weekend meetings on various topics (including team building, a seminar about art, leadership training, Easter retreat, and volunteering) offer the opportunity for enjoying interesting experiences and for forming the habits, skills and knowledge necessary to a future Christian leader.

Weekend events will be organized monthly with the exception of the examination period, with a majority of them taking place at the Collegium of Anton Neuwirth. The meetings will be enriched by the presence of an interesting and insightful guest who has a connection to the given topic. The weekend meetings will be a great chance to meet with accomplished people from the many spheres of public life, to work for the common good, and to experience special moments in a circle of friends.

Objectives:

  • to get to know each other and reinforce friendly relationships among the Collegium members
  • to train leadership skills
  • to volunteer for the common good
  • to refresh spiritual strength

Life in Community

To acquire true knowledge it is necessary to have intellectual enthusiasm—but it is not enough. To grow as a mature personal and as a Christian leader involves the capability to defend Christian principles, not primarily by brilliant speech in the media or groundbreaking study or commentary, but first of all by leading a convincingly Christian life.