School of the Announciation - Centre for the New Evanghelism School of the Announciation - Angel Statue
at Buckfast Abbey - Devon


Foundations of Philosophy for Faith

4-day summer school and 1-year online course

Building on the success of its short summer schools in Finding Faith through Philosophy, the School of the Annunciation offers a one-year course in Foundations of Philosophy for Faith. This is an exciting opportunity to find out why the Church teaches that philosophy is so important for the new evangelisation and for understanding Catholic faith and life.

The 4-day introductory residential takes place 24 - 27 July 2017 at Buckfast Abbey.

You may apply for the one-year course either before or at the end of this 4-day introduction at Buckfast Abbey.

Philosophy sessions - Diploma course 2015

St John Paul II, the great philosopher pope of modern times left us a wonderful teaching on the relationship between faith and philosophy in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, faith and reason. We begin the course by looking at some of the themes in that inspiring teaching. We also remember the often-used phrase of that beloved Pope, ‘Do not be afraid’. ‘Do not be afraid’ is a motto for all prospective students: Do not be afraid of entering into an introductory course like this! The method of teaching is built upon the experience of the staff who for many years have been introducing students to philosophy and its importance for Catholic faith. On this course you will experience great support from the teachers in your learning, and you will find that you will benefit enormously from sharing with the other students on the course. As St John Paul II tells us, we are all philosophers by nature: that is, we are all called to be lovers of wisdom by the God who created our nature as reasoning beings, beings created in His own image and likeness as persons who ask questions about ourselves and about the meaning and origin of the whole of creation.

In our world today numerous questions come up in the media and in the discussions of individuals and groups living in a pluralist society in which many values seem up for grabs and the age-old foundations of morality underpinning the social and political world are dismantled without any clear thought or agreement being had on what should replace them. There can be a lot of ‘politically correct’ speak about this and that, and attitudes we should have, but any thinking person knows that this often seems just paper thin; what are the foundations in reason of all this pc talk? People ask where truth is to be found and, even, if it can be found. Other people say, ‘yes, there is truth, but the only objective truth you get is in science and the scientific view of the human person’.

These are at root all philosophical questions: questions about truth, the good and the bad, and about the ultimate meaning of life and the world. In fact they are the great philosophical questions asked across time and cultures. Philosophy is about asking these questions and trying to use reason to find answers to them in a clear, intelligent and well-organised way that gets beyond the slogans and the emotions that can blind debate.

The Church has for centuries seen the crucial role of philosophy in dialoguing and debate with the surrounding cultures in which evangelisation has taken place. This is as true today as it has always been.

A One Year Three Module Course

 What past students on this course have to say:

"The passion and commitment of every staff member at the School shines through. Thank you all."

 "Very good teachers, good handouts, well-planned classes, good discussions..."

"Programme included valuable free time to socialise and share ideas. Excellent facilities at Northgate House."

"So important to situate our learning in prayer. Gives time for reflection. Adoration – such a blessing to have this."

"A privilege to share the spiritual life of the monks for a few days. I took full advantage."

The course method is blended learning. You will come for a short period of classes and face to face work with highly qualified and skilled lecturers who are committed to the Catholic faith and to its vision of the vital importance of philosophy. This residential period takes place in the beautiful setting of Buckfast Abbey. Those who are already students at the School of the Annunciation know what a precious and wonderful experience this is. The Benedictine prayer life of the monastery, including daily Mass, Vespers and Compline is central to the time students and staff spending together at Buckfast, which is so steeped in monastic history. The natural beauty of the location and the wonderful hospitality of the site make for a unique residential time of prayer, learning and community fellowship.

When the residential period is over your learning is closely supported through the study materials, which include both texts and online moodle resources such as video lectures. Besides being guided in your study by the specially designed online site, you are also guided personally in your learning and preparation of essays by individual tutors working with you via email and skype.

The course comprises three modules:

 1)      Philosophy, Faith and Evangelisation: An Introduction

2)      The human mind created for truth

3)      Metaphysics: the nature of reality

These three modules cover essential basic aspects of philosophy that are key for understanding the Church’s insistence on philosophy for evangelisation, life and the study of Catholic theology. They are also foundational areas studied by anyone wishing to appreciate the great tradition of philosophy that, beginning with the ancient Greek thinkers, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, develops through great medieval thinkers like St Thomas Aquinas and reaches down to our own day.

What do the modules cover?

1)      Philosophy, Faith and Evangelisation: An Introduction

We are created by God as beings who ask questions. We ask questions in order to know the truth about reality, about the reality of the whole universe and about ourselves within it. We also ask questions in order to know how we ought to live, about right and wrong, about what is good and what is bad. As human beings we also encounter beauty and we long for meaning, purpose and love in our lives as individuals and as communal beings. Philosophy across the ages has sought to answer these questions and explore them in ever greater depth.

Our Catholic faith is truly a ‘philosophy of life’ and one which we believe is not made by human hands, but is given to us by God Himself in his self-revelation to us in Jesus Christ, encountered through the ages in his Church. The Catholic Church has, since the beginning seen the age-old human philosophical quest as coming to fruition, to its goal, in Catholic faith. In the module we will see what the Church teaches about the importance and significance of philosophy, as we study such teachings as St John Paul II’s great work Fides et Ratio. Since philosophy has been bound together with Christian faith for most of its history, the study of how Catholic faith views philosophy is a very good introduction to philosophy itself, and to some of the key areas of philosophy which we will examine briefly in this introductory module.

2)      The human mind created for truth                 

Course Leader: Dr Andrew Beards

Dr Andrew Beards

Dr Andrew Beards leads the teaching team for this course. Andrew pursued studies in philosophy and theology in Rome, the UK, Canada and the US. He has had over twenty years of experience in teaching at HE level, teaching undergraduates, masters and doctoral students.

Andrew has a doctorate from the University of Calgary, Canada and a Pontifical Doctorate from the Lateran University, Rome.  He is an internationally known scholar, having published articles in many academic journals. Dr Beards has also been a speaker at conferences in Europe and the US.

Click here to read more

In the Gospel of St John among the great themes that strike one is that of Christ as the Truth. In St John’s Gospel Christ is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). St Augustine writes that “I have met many who wanted to deceive, but none who wanted to be deceived” (Confessions X, 23, 33). His point is that, as human beings we are made for truth. We cannot avoid this or escape this. We may become sceptical and say we cannot discover truths, that we are ‘postmodern’ and cannot find the truth – but those are claims to know the truth! And no one in his daily life wants to be deceived or believes he is deceived when he moves around in his immediate environment or does thousands of daily tasks.

In this module we will look at how we come to know reality. Traditionally this area of philosophy is called ‘epistemology’. We will study, in the light of the tradition that stretches from Aristotle, through St Thomas Aquinas to modern writers influenced and inspired by them, how the mind is created for truth and knowledge of reality or being. For the dialogue and debate of modern evangelisation this study of philosophy is very important as in our culture we find people who, at one extreme, say you can only have subjective opinions, and, at the other, those who say only science gives truth. We will see how neither of these views is really coherent and how the human mind can be open to the revelation of the God who created it for truth.

3)      Metaphysics: the nature of reality

In professing the Creed as Christians we proclaim belief in God, we also profess that He is the creator and that there is life after death for human beings. Our faith teaches many other things besides about reality: that Christ is one Divine person in two natures; that the Blessed Sacrament is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord. This is why St John Paul II taught that a philosophy must have a ‘truly metaphysical range.’ That means that a sound philosophy supportive of Catholic faith must embrace a sound metaphysics. ‘Metaphysics’ is knowledge of reality, of being, had through philosophical reflection and argument. So Metaphysics is crucial both for evangelisation and for authentic Catholic teaching on theology and catechesis. Why is the universe here? What is a human being? are among the metaphysical questions, questions about reality.

In the module we will study how the great tradition of metaphysical knowledge, of philosophical knowledge of reality, which begins with Aristotle and develops with St Thomas Aquinas, is still as relevant today as ever it was. We will study how recent philosophers and theologians in this long tradition can help us understand how metaphysics meshes with scientific knowledge and other areas of knowledge we have of the world. We will examine how crucial metaphysical knowledge is to understanding the world and ourselves as created by God for ultimate union with the Triune God as our destiny.

What books do I need for the course?    

You need only two key texts. The other study materials are provided for you on the secure site on the School of the Annunciation webpages for which, as a student, you will be given a password.

The two key texts are:

  • Daniel J. Sullivan, An Introduction to Philosophy (Tan Books, 1957).
  • Andrew Beards, Philosophy the Quest for Truth and Meaning (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2010).

When does it start?   

The course begins with a residential study period at Buckfast Abbey. The residential begins at 5.30pm on Monday 24th July 2017 and finishes at lunch-time on 27th July 2017The residential programme is designed to include talks and seminars in the context of experiencing the rhythm of daily prayer of the resident Benedictine monastic community.

How much will it cost?    

The fee for the one-year course is £777. This covers everything, including your residential stay at Buckfast Abbey, tutoring, online-learning, and administration costs.

For those applying for the 4-day course only, the fee is £345. If you decide during the 4-day course to join the one-year course, we will ask you to make up the difference in fee.

For both options, there is a non-refundable application fee of £50.

For information about bursaries, click here.

How much time will I need to spend on study every week?   

We ask you to devote at least five hours study to the course per week.

How long will each module take?   

Each module will take approximately 12 weeks to complete.

What work do I need to do?  

For each module you will be asked to write a 2,500 word essay. You will be guided as you work towards this by your tutor.

What level is the course?  

The course is at the level of a first year university course. An added advantage of doing the course is that it will exempt you from three modules of the School of Annunciation’s Diploma, if you wish to go on to take that course.

How do I apply?  

To apply online, please click here. Alternatively, to apply by post, please download and print an application form here.

Cancellation Rights: You have a 14 day cooling-off period which starts from the date of application.