Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Adventures in Philosophy at Notre Dame

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Adventures in Philosophy at Notre Dame

Article excerpt

Adventures in Philosophy at Notre Dame. By Kenneth M. Sayre. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. 2014. Pp. vii, 382. $38.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-268-01784-0.)

This is a valuable account of the transition of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame from one in the 1930s when it served the founding purpose of the university to its heterogenous present. It is more than that for it is also a chronicle of the secularization of a once Catholic university, and at yet another level, the book may also be read as an autobiographical account of Kenneth Sayre's experience at the university, beginning with his arrival in South Bend in 1958. The story is told focusing upon the contributions of distinguished faculty members who are taken to represent each phase of the transition, beginning with Leo Ward and continuing with Joseph Bochenski, Ralph Mclnerny, Ernán McMullin, Alvin Planting, Philip Quinn, and Alasdair McIntyre, all somewhat different in their philosophical orientation. Brief biographical sketches are provided for each. There are also a dozen pages devoted to John Jenkins, the current philosopher/president of the University of Notre Dame.

When Sayre arrived at the University of Notre Dame in 1958, the philosophy department was heavily Thomistic or Scholastic in orientation. Having recently completed his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University after previous work at Grinnell College, Sayre found this orientation mystifying. He came with little or no knowledge of the Catholic faith, or of its supporting philosophy and theology. Within Catholic intellectual circles it is common knowledge that some philosophies open one to the Catholic faith, whereas others close it as an intellectual option. It is further acknowledged that there is no such thing as Catholic philosophy, although there may be Catholic philosophers. Sayre makes no attempt to disguise his amazement that any intelligent person would embrace a philosophical position on the recommendation of an ecclesiastical authority. The reference, of course, is to Pope Leo XIII's Aeterni Patris and its endorsement of a fledgling Thomistic movement for its relevance to both philosophy and theology in their confrontation with the skeptical philosophies of the Enlightenment. …

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