The study of philosophy at St Patrick’s College Maynooth enjoys a long and august tradition. Philosophy has been taught here since the foundation of St Patrick’s in 1795, and it includes amongst its associates (both alumni and staff) such figures as Thomas Hussey (first president and friend of Edmund Burke), Charles William Russell (who translated Leibniz, was a friend of John Henry Newman, and after whom the Russell library is named), Peter Coffey (Neoscholastic philosopher, student of Mercier, and author of a number of manuals of philosophy), Nicholas Callan (noted scientist and engineer who taught natural philosophy at St Patrick’s) along with more recent figures such as Cahal Daly, Desmond Connell, Philip Pettit.
Philosophy at St Patrick’s College situates itself within the perennial tradition in philosophy whilst at the same time addressing contemporary concerns. Faithful to the root meaning of philosophy as “the love of wisdom”, the Faculty of Philosophy seeks to awaken and nurture this sense of wonder in students, as it raises fundamental questions about human existence, such as the nature of the human person, happiness, justice, the good life, knowledge, freedom, and being itself. It helps students to think these questions through in a clear and rigorous manner so that they can learn how to lead “the examined life”. The strength of philosophy at St Patrick’s lies in its promotion of the distinctive contribution that Christian philosophers have made to philosophy whilst at the same time making use of that contribution to further discussions in which both Christians and non-Christians are engaged. Thus staff and students are at home in all of the traditional areas of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic) along with the thinkers of the great tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas etc); yet at the same time we engage, and deeply converse with, more contemporary philosophers (Heidegger, Russell, Quine, Wittgenstein, Przywara, Stein, von Balthasar, Marcel, Marion, Girard, Agamben, Kearney, Desmond, McDowell etc).
An education in philosophy from St Patrick’s College Maynooth will ensure that the student is conversant with key themes and figures in the history of philosophy whilst becoming equipped to make a contribution to on-going concerns in contemporary thought from within a distinctively Christian vision of reality that is dynamic and plurivocal.
The study of philosophy develops critical thinking skills that are useful for many career paths. While certain students go on to an academic career in philosophy, all students are encouraged to become philosophical, by acquiring the skills to build arguments, examine assumptions, and evaluate worldviews.
Our internationally recognized scholars in the Faculty of Philosophy have published their articles in scholarly journals and their books with academic presses. They present papers at international philosophy conferences. They are committed to making the voice of philosophy heard in the public square. Echoing the words of a former Dean of the Faculty, Professor Thomas A.F. Kelly, they believe that “the voice or voices of the university must be heard in all matters of public concern, and this means not just having relevant expertise, but a viable and accurate, ethical and logical Weltanschauung, which includes a theory of what constitutes best practice in the art of decision-making. The dictum ‘know thyself’ is as relevant to organisations as it is to individuals.” Finally, the members of the faculty are happy to offer their expert guidance to students at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
We offer degrees at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and we encourage any student interested in philosophy to contact us.
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