In A.D. 2011 the Congregation for Catholic Education, at the direction of Pope Benedict XVI, issued its Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy. The terms of this Decree apply to schools and departments of theology and philosophy residing in Roman Catholic Universities which are selected by dioceses for the theological formation of presbyteral candidates, diaconal candidates, and lay ministers.
The Decree consists of two parts. The first part is made up of the sixteen paragraphs constituting its new material. The second part consists of those parts of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana (A.D. 1979, Pope John Paul II) addressing these same issues and which are, either, retained in whole or are modified in the current Decree.
The purpose of the articles which appear here is to present the parts of this document in sequential order and to offer additional commentary. The articles here will begin with the presentation of the first paragraph of the first part of the Decree. Subsequent articles will present/address the next part of the Decree. Scrolling down through the articles will bring the reader, in reverse order, to all parts of the document already considered.
“Decree, Part II: NORMS OF APPLICATION [Ordinationes; Articles 51, 52, 52 bis, 59, 60, 61, 62, 62 bis, 65. 66]
“Art. 60 [Curriculum of Studies in an Ecclesiastical Faculty of Philosophy]
“The disciplines taught in various cycles are:
“1° In the first cycle:
a) The obligatory basic subjects:
– A general introduction which aims, in particular, at showing the sapiential dimension of philosophy.
– The main philosophical disciplines: 1) metaphysics (understood as philosophy of being and natural theology), 2) philosophy of nature, 3) philosophy of man, 4) moral and political philosophy, 5) logic and philosophy of knowledge. Given the particular importance of metaphysics, an adequate number of credits must be accorded to this discipline.
– The history of philosophy: ancient, medieval, modern and contemporary. Careful examination of the various currents of thought are to be accompanied, when possible, by the reading of texts of the more important authors. Depending on requirements, a study of local philosophies is to be added.
The obligatory basic subjects must constitute at least 60% and must not exceed 70% of the number of credits of the first cycle.
b) The supplementary obligatory subjects:
– A study of the relationship between reason and Christian faith – that is, between philosophy and theology – from a systematic and historical point of view, paying attention to safeguarding both the autonomy of each field as well as their interconnection. [Footnote 43]
– Latin, so as to be able to understand the philosophical works (especially of Christian authors) written in that language. The student’s knowledge of Latin must be verified within the first two years.
– A modern language other than one’s mother-tongue, the knowledge of which must be verified before the end of the third year.
– An introduction to the methodology of study and of scientific research, which serves also as an introduction to the use of research tools and the practice of argumentative discourse.
c) The optional additional subjects:
– Principles of literature and the Arts;
– Principles of some of the human sciences or some of the natural sciences (for example, psychology, sociology, history, biology or physics). In a particular way, care must be taken to establish a connection between the sciences and philosophy.
– Some other optional philosophical disciplines: for example, philosophy of science, philosophy of culture, philosophy of arts, philosophy of technology, philosophy of language, philosophy of law or philosophy of religion.
“2° In the second cycle:
– the special disciplines established in various sections, according to the diverse specializations offered, along with practical exercises and seminars, including written Licentiate thesis.
– Beginners or advanced ancient Greek, or a second modern language other than that required for the first cycle or an advanced study of the same.
3° In the third cycle:
The Statutes are to determine if special disciplines are to be taught and which ones, together with the practical exercises and seminars. It is necessary to acquire a knowledge of another language, or to acquire an advanced knowledge of one of the languages previously studied.
“Footnote 43] Cf. Fides et ratio, n. 75, which rejects “the theory of so-called ‘separate’ philosophy” that “claims for philosophy not only a valid autonomy, but a self-sufficiency of thought,” re-affirming also a sort of independence: “philosophy’s valid aspiration to be an autonomous enterprise, obeying its own rules and employing the powers of reason alone”.”
“1° In the first cycle: a)…Careful examination of the various currents of thought are to be accompanied, when possible, by the reading of texts of the more important authors…”
A primary source text is the first written articulation of an idea of enduring importance. A primary source text can also be a later text which appropriates the first written articulation of an idea of enduring importance and uses that idea in a new context; thus, generating a new idea of enduring importance. An example of a primary source text in the first sense would be the first creation story in Genesis (1:1 through 2:4a). An example of a primary source text in the second sense would be the appropriation of this six day and night creation story by René Descartes (A.D. 1596 to 1650) and his use of the structure of this creation story in the framework and content of his six part Discourse on Method. The first introduces the idea of all natural beings and entities as the creation of God. The second uses the idea contained in the first as a means to propose and support a modern technological agenda by speaking of man as “the master and possessor of nature”.
The study and comprehension of philosophy is aided decidedly by a systematic and structured reading aloud of primary source texts in a group of persons committed to dialogue. These readings are then followed by a dialogue about the content of the primary source texts which have been read.
Dialogue is the use of disciplined speech for the purpose of displaying truth. Dialogue differs from rhetoric, which also utilizes disciplined speech, but for the purpose of persuasion. The rhetorician uses techniques of speech to encourage or coerce others to agree with his or her proposed idea. The person using dialogue uses disciplined speech to clearly display the idea s/he wishes to display and then leaves it to the other participants to decide to accept or not accept the thought displayed. For example, a rhetorician might repeat his idea a number of times, hoping that the repetition might lead others to agreement. The dialectician attempts to state her idea clearly the first time and leave it at that.
Dialogue differs also from mere talk, conversation, chewing the fat, shooting the breeze. Dialogue eschews the use of disciplined speech for the purposes of entertainment, self-esteem, or other forms of aggrandizement.
An interesting result of the reading of primary source texts and subsequent dialogue about the content of those primary source texts is that the participants to the dialogue often come to understand the essence of the meaning the original authors sought to convey. Further, this result often occurs with texts which are considered to be significantly difficult to understand. The combination of reading the original text aloud in a structured systematic manner, and the use of disciplined speech by group participants to share the insights they have about the contents of those texts often produces this beneficial result.