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Loyola University Chicago

Department of Philosophy

Department History

Much of the following, including most of the graphic images, comes from the Loyola University Archives, thanks to the kind assistance of the late Brother Michael Grace, S.J., Archivist.


Part One: From "Rational Psychology" to "Philosophy of Man"

The story of philosophy in the curriculum antedates that of the department of philosophy itself. When St Ignatius College (later Loyola University) received its charter in 1870, philosophy was part of the program for a bachelor's degree. The historical basis for including philosophy in the curriculum is the Ratio Studiorum, the commonly used term to designate the educational system of the Jesuits.

The Ratio Studiorum (Original title: Ratio atque institutio studiorum per sex patres ad id iussu R. P. Præpositi Generalis deputatos conscripta, 1586.)

This is an abbreviation of the official title, Ratio atque Institutio Studiorum Societatis Jesu, dating back to the sixteenth century. The method of teaching the higher branches of learning (theology, philosophy, and the sciences) was an adaptation of the system prevailing in the great Catholic universities of the time, especially in Paris, where St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, and his first companions had studied. The Ratio of 1599 provided for study of the texts of Aristotle in philosophy and St. Thomas in theology. The "revised" Ratio of 1832 provided for the use of "textbooks" in place of the original writings. These textbooks were organized according to the division of the areas of philosophy as found in the German scholastic textbooks of Christian Wolff, with variations based on the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (a Dominican) and their interpretation by Francisco Suarez, S.J. (a Jesuit).

The 1884 catalogue of Loyola's College of Arts and Sciences describes the Bachelor of Arts degree as including logic, metaphysics, ethics, and natural philosophy. At that time, "philosophy" included mathematics, mechanics and astronomy, and religion (all of these areas were required). By 1909 philosophy for students in their sophomore year included dialectics and applied logic; in junior year, general metaphysics, cosmology, and psychology; in senior year, natural theology, ethics, and applied ethics. A course of study, available to those with a Bachelor of Arts, led to a Master's degree (provided that the faculty believed the candidates' character warranted the advanced degree) and included formal logic, epistemology, philosophy of man, and the structure of society leading to its betterment. By 1911, the philosophy requirement achieved the general shape it would retain for a number of years: logic and epistemology, ontology (general metaphysics), cosmology, rational psychology, and natural theology (the last three considered "special metaphysics"), and general and applied ethics. Two faculty members taught the whole philosophy curriculum.

Arnold Damen, S.J. (1815-1890) Founder of Ignatius Academy, later Loyola University Chicago

Although Philosophy was part of the curriculum from the beginning of St. Ignatius College, the first mention of a "department" appears in 1931. Between 1884 and 1931 there was little variation in the size of the department (related, of course, to the small total enrollment). This is evidenced in the meeting of March 16, 1931 of the combined "Philosophy and Psychology Department" involving three full-time faculty; this meeting recommended that the two departments be separated. The following fall, five faculty discussed identifying the subject matter of the two courses, "general psychology" and "rational psychology," still listed as Philosophy courses.

It was not until March 8, 1934 that the original proposal of Rev. John McCormick, S.J. (Head of the Philosophy department) that "Rational Psychology," a required course, be transferred to the Psychology department (first headed by Rev. Charles Doyle, S.J.) was implemented, in order that the Psychology department could have a presence in the required curriculum. This arrangement continued until February 15, 1966, when Rational Psychology was "returned" to the Philosophy Department (then chaired by Francis J. Catania), restructured and renamed as "Philosophy of Man." In the 1950's, the Philosophy requirement had been Logic, Metaphysics, Natural Theology, Ethics, and Social Ethics (with Rational Psychology being taught by the Psychology Department). In 1967, Philosophy of Man replaced Logic as the first course; the remaining courses being Metaphysics, Natural Theology renamed as Philosophy of God, one course in Ethics, plus an elective Philosophy course. This remained the requirement until 1971.

Cudahay Science Building (1909), one of first on Lake Shore Campus.

The minutes of Philosophy Department meetings from 1931 up to the present are replete with discussions of the curriculum: should all undergraduates be required to take philosophy; what courses to require, what electives, what courses for the major, what should be taught in the courses, and so on. These were issues across all the Jesuit colleges in the United States at that time. At Loyola, as at other Jesuit Colleges and Universities, Philosophy was the principal vehicle for transmitting the Catholic intellectual tradition as well as for providing a language and modes of reasoning that would enable students to discuss ethical issues with those who did not share their faith. At Loyola there was no "Theology Department" as such; instead there were required courses in "Religion," with one two-hour course required for each semester a student was registered. However, this positioning of Philosophy was a matter of continual review. In 1941, for example, the Jesuit Philosophical Association requested a report from all philosophy departments on the theme: "The Function of Philosophy in Jesuit Colleges." Rev. William Wade, S.J., of St. Louis University wrote the position paper inviting reactions. The December 3, 1941 meeting of Loyola's department includes the following entry: "The Department fully agrees with Fr. Wade's recommendation that a return be made to the study of texts of Aristotle and St. Thomas as insisted upon in the Ratio Studiorum of 1599 instead of following the exclusively "textbook" methods specified in the unofficial Ratio of 1832." The fact is, however, that this very point was revisited in the department meeting of February 4, 1942, where courses using the texts of Aristotle and St. Thomas were advised only for "the better students" in "special sections."

While graduate courses and a Master of Arts degree go back to the nineteenth century, the first mention of a Ph.D. program in Philosophy is found in the Graduate School catalogue of 1933. One of the issues in offering a Ph.D. program was the availability of faculty to teach in it. The first faculty were all Jesuits, the whole curriculum being taught by two to five professors even when the Ph.D. program was first introduced. By 1942 (when Rev. John Wellmuth, S.J. became Chair), the department numbered 14 (6 Jesuits and 8 laypersons); in 1947 (Rev. J.V. Kelly, S.J., Chair) 20 faculty (10 Jesuits, 10 laypersons); in 1950 (Rev. Jeremiah O'Callaghan, Chair) 24 faculty (10 Jesuits, 14 laypersons); in 1959 (Rev. Robert Mulligan, S.J., Chair) 27 faculty (14 Jesuits, 13 laypersons); about the same size through the1960's (Rev. F. Torrens Hecht, S.J., Chair, followed at the end of the decade by Dr. Francis J. Catania). The trends seem clear: as the University grew, the philosophy faculty grew as well, with the number of laypersons becoming larger. In 1950, the department proposed dropping the Ph.D. program from the catalogue. The words "drop from the catalogue" turned out to be significant, since some fifteen years later the Chair, Fr. Hecht, was able to argue that the Ph.D. program be "reinstated" rather than be approved as a "new" program.

John McCormick, S.J. (1870-1941), the first chairman of the Loyola philosophy department

If we track what was being taught from 1870 to the 1950's, we find that the Ratio Studiorum provided the central rationale for the importance of philosophy in the curriculum, reflecting not only the fact that St. Ignatius College/Loyola University is Jesuit, but also that its first faculty were Jesuits educated under the rubrics of the Ratio. As the size and diversity of the faculty grew, influences on the content of courses became diversified as well: the addition of more laypersons, at first many with backgrounds in and from Jesuit universities; then more from non-Jesuit universities but most (including Jesuits) with research Ph.D. degrees in their own backgrounds who expanded the sources from which the courses were developed. Interestingly, one impetus for development of courses comes from the Ratio itself, which explicitly declared that changes in the curriculum could be introduced according to the special needs and circumstances of different countries and times. Here we may recall Fr. Wade's proposal that the philosophy curriculum return to the 1599 Ratio's emphasis on original texts and away from reliance on "textbooks." Under the Chairmanship of Father Mulligan, the department minutes record a dramatic increase in the number of visiting scholars, professional meetings, and concerns about the variety of opinions within the department. But with the actual Philosophy courses broadening and no longer centering on issues drawn from the texts of Aristotle and Aquinas, questions began to arise, within and outside the department, about the continued prominence of Philosophy in the curriculum. By 1968, Loyola's Philosophy department had grown to 33 faculty (6 Jesuits, 2 other priests, 25 laypersons), the largest Philosophy department in the country, with the first layperson (Dr. Catania) to chair a Philosophy department in a Jesuit university.

In this story, "Rational Psychology" might be thought of as symbolizing a traditional, "textbook scholasticism." Its virtues were embodied in a coherent, systematic course of study, expressing the pedagogical principle that the student of philosophy benefits from learning one systematic position well, in the light of which other positions could be assessed. "Philosophy of Man" might be thought of as symbolizing not a break with, but rather a development of the past. The image here is a curve in a road that straightens out in a somewhat different direction. Intellectual virtues became more exploratory, evoking the theme of "opening windows" in Vatican Council II, which encouraged the faculty to bring diverse positions alongside each other and nudge their students to discover underlying issues through critical comparison.

Part Two: Issues of "Required Electives"

Once the connection, real or perceived, had been loosened between the philosophy requirement and the Ratio Studiorum, the Philosophy Department found itself in a defensive position. Its privileged position in the university's "core curriculum" was subject to critique from both within and without the department. From the outside, science departments moved to increase the number of hours required for their majors in order to meet professional standards; replacing "core curriculum" hours with science hours seemed to be a way to do this. The fate of "Rational Psychology" is a case in point. This course, originally part of the Philosophy sequence, had been taught by the Psychology Department for more than 35 years. During that time the character, objectives, and faculty preparation of the Psychology Department had changed as the department moved into the mainstream of the discipline, becoming more behavior-oriented, statistical, experimental. The original objectives of "Rational Psychology" as part of the scholastic textbook tradition (where it dealt with the origin and destiny of the soul, the scholastic doctrine of "species," union of soul and body, as explained in the Philosophy Department minutes [December 13, 1931]) fell outside of the 1960's discipline of Psychology and of the preparation of the department's faculty. In those early days Rational Psychology was required of all undergraduates and was considered a "Philosophy" course even though it was administered by the Psychology Department. When it was proposed that the Philosophy Department "take back" the course, what exactly was it that was to be "taken back"? The name "Rational Psychology" belonged to the older, scholastic tradition which the Philosophy Department (as, in its own way, too, the Psychology Department) felt it had moved beyond. But the content of the course, namely, reflection on the nature of the human person, was a decidedly philosophical task. The Philosophy Department's taking back the course raised two significant issues: (1) how to describe the "new" course, entitled "Philosophy of Man," that was to be taught by the Philosophy Department, and (2) what to do with the three credit hours in the required undergraduate curriculum represented by Rational Psychology.

The Lake Shore campus as of 1977

The Lake Shore campus as of 1977.

These two questions brought to the surface a curricular issue that was of deep importance not only for the Philosophy Department but also for the College of Arts and Sciences, the other undergraduate colleges of the university, and even the Board of Trustees itself: who "owns" the required Philosophy courses? Not surprisingly, the Philosophy Department claimed to have the professional expertise with respect to what counted as philosophy; the colleges claimed the right to determine what would be required for degrees that they administered, and the Board of Trustees claimed the right to protect the University's mission, in this case the implementation of those aspects of the Ratio Studiorum that were embodied in the Philosophy requirement.

At the same time, the Philosophy Department was going through its own internal struggle as the university's changing, much more diverse faculty faced questions about how to justify its large share of the required curriculum. The original justification of Philosophy, as conveying to students a rational structure of understanding that was consistent with the religious and theological traditions of the university as well as a means of discussing ethical issues with those who did not share their faith (embodied in scholasticism and neo-scholasticism), focused on the common, consistent, systematic content of the courses. The minutes of department meetings in the 50's record discussions of common examinations based on the use of common textbooks, equivalence to Loyola's courses of courses that transfer students brought to Loyola, and the place of "outside readings" in the required courses. As the department faculty recognized the diversity of its members and the expertise each brought to his/her teaching, emphasis shifted away from common content, understood as common philosophical positions, toward discussion of common issues. As one member of the department in the 50's put it with respect to the use of common examinations, each faculty member reading (and interpreting) the "common examination" taken by his/her own students is equivalent to writing his/her own examination questions.

Discussion of the structure and content of the Philosophy requirement continued into the 60's, reflecting the growth in size and diversity of the University as a whole and in the Philosophy Department itself. Taking over the teaching of "Rational Psychology" became a symbol of the more general changes taking place. Issues arose not only of course content, but also of the increasing requests by other departments of the College of Arts and Sciences for enhanced places in the core curriculum. Since it was no longer clear that the Philosophy courses that were actually taught reflected the original objectives of the "Ratio Studiorum," which linked the study of Philosophy to Catholic doctrine, it seemed that Philosophy no longer held a privileged position warranting such a relatively large role in the required curriculum. Under these circumstances, there was no chance that the Philosophy Department could add a sixth course (Rational Psychology or its replacement) to the five required courses it already administered. Instead, the question was what if any philosophy courses would be required of all undergraduate students. This question remained in flux over the next twelve years until in 1979 (under the Chairmanship of Kenneth Thompson) the required Philosophy curriculum took the form it carried into the 21st century.

The first move came in the middle '60s from the Philosophy Department itself, which decided to remove "Logic" and "Social Ethics" from the required set and to replace them with "Philosophy of Man" (the former "Rational Psychology" now transformed) as the first course and "an elective in Philosophy" as the last course: Philosophy of Man, Metaphysics, Philosophy of God, Ethics, and an elective chosen by the student from a range of Philosophy courses. This structure of 15 required hours remained until 1970.

Dumbach Hall at the beginning of the third millenium.

But the hold that Philosophy had on the curriculum by virtue of its connection to Loyola's mission underwent some change in understanding. A motion introduced in the Department meeting of February 21, 1968 expressed the issue: remove Philosophy from the required curriculum since its original justification (as a handmaiden to Scholastic Theology) no longer held. If Philosophy was to remain as part of the required curriculum, it must justify itself on the basis of its own value. The issue reflected the freedom of the individual to teach what he/she was professionally prepared to teach regardless of the demands of a required curriculum. This issue was compounded in the minds of some by the perceived expectation on the part of parents who sent their children to Loyola to be educated in their Catholic faith and in the philosophical foundations of that faith. This internal discussion, together with the interest on the part of other Arts and Sciences departments to reduce Philosophy's share of the required curriculum, led the Department to drop the "required elective" and to propose a 12 hour requirement to the Board of Undergraduate Studies. This 12-hour proposal received no support by the Board, which instead voted that the Philosophy requirement be reduced to 9 hours: Philosophy of Man and two other courses. This action of the Board of Undergraduate Studies went to the University Board of Trustees for final approval. The Department Chair appeared before the Board to explain Philosophy's presence in the required curriculum. The Trustees accepted the Board of Undergraduate Studies' action, which was supported by the Vice-President and Dean of Faculties and consistent with the Guidelinesissued by the 1969 Jesuit Educational Association workshop regarding requiring Philosophy in Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The Trustees asked the Philosophy Department to propose how the 9 required hours (Philosophy of Man and two other courses) would be implemented.

It should be noted that in those days, the Board of Trustees was intimately concerned with curricular matters whenever the Board perceived that the University's mission was at stake. For instance, along with the Philosophy requirement, the Board also reviewed recommendations from the Academic Vice-President concerning elimination of the undergraduate comprehensive examinations and the dropping of Latin as a requirement for the A.B. degree.

Part Three: A Pluralistic Department

The action of the Board of Undergraduate Studies and the subsequent correspondence with the Vice-President and Dean of Faculties in proposing a nine-hour Philosophy requirement included a reference to the Philosophy Department's pluralism as a reason for cutting the hours. Because they held a range of attitudes about the purposes and values of a philosophic education, the department faculty members worked out a structure to accommodate that range.

Statue of St. Ignatius, west entrance Loyola University (Photo F.J. Catania)

The impetus came from those who wished to respond to parents expecting their children to receive an approach to Philosophy consistent with their religious beliefs. Thus was born the sequence: "Philosophy in a Christian Tradition" and included courses in Man, Being and God, and Ethics. In all, four such sequences of three courses were proposed, the others being: "Contemporary Philosophy" (Man, Religion, and Ethical Theories); "Historical Sequence" (Man in Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, and Classical Modern Philosophy); and "Approaches to Philosophy" (Approaches to Man, to Truth, and to Value). In fact, the Department was so interested in correctly labeling the sequences that it proposed four separate "Philosophy of Man" courses, each with its own course number corresponding to the approach the sequence would take. The Board of Undergraduate Studies, however, rejected the separate "Philosophy of Man" designations (presumably for administra- tive reasons) and reaffirmed its original "Philosophy of Man and two other courses", while allowing the department to offer the courses in the sequences. These sequences were in effect until 1979, with a fifth sequence, "Philosophy and the Sciences" (Science, Technology and Man, Science and Knowledge, and Cosmology) being added in 1976.

The March 23, 1977 Department minutes report a motion made in the Academic Council of the College of Arts and Sciences to reduce the Philosophy requirement to six hours; the motion was defeated in the Council by one vote. The Council asked all departments having or desiring a presence in the core to provide a detailed rationale for each of the courses proposed for core credit. This inspired a long series of meetings in 1977 to consider the form, content, and justification of Philosophy's presence in the core curriculum.

The document of November, 1977, proposing the revised core included the following statement of objectives: "The core curriculum program in Philosophy is designed to help students develop the reflective ability and logical skills necessary for clear and careful reasoning, to acquaint them with basic and perennial philosophical questions and with classical and contemporary literature, and to encourage them to develop their own critically informed responses to these questions." The Department discussion culminated in solidifying the required courses to three "core areas": "Man" (eventually 'Human Nature'), "Knowledge and Reality;" and "Action and Value." The student was expected to take one course from each area, with several offered under different subheadings reflecting at least some of the undergraduate majors (e.g., Business, Health Care, Psychology, Science). The detailed rationale for each core-eligible course was so well-argued that its form was presented asa model for other departments to follow in their submission. The core proposal was accepted by the Academic Council and approved by the Dean in February, 1978.

With the main structure of the Philosophy requirement "settled" (despite recurring proposals on the part of Deans and other departments to "revise the core curriculum") for the rest of the century, the Department turned more fully to develop its scholarship and its doctoral program under the successive Chairmanships of Kenneth Thompson, Rev. Robert Harvanek, S.J., John Bannan, Arnold Vander Nat, and the current Chair, Paul Moser.

September, 2001


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