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What is art? Why do we human beings make it? What is its connection to beauty? These are the simple yet profound questions that will drive the inquiry of this course. In pursuing answers to these questions we will discover that art has not always been understood as it is understood today, and that indeed, even granting the many treasures of modern art, much that is valuable has been lost in the transition from the pre-modern conception of art to the modern one. In order to retrieve what has been lost, a reimagining of the arts is needed according to the Catholic Imagination. To be clear about what this course is not: this is not a course in art appreciation or the history of art, as such things are commonly understood. We will not be considering Da Vinci’s development of perspective or Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro. This is a course in the philosophical principles undergirding the conception of art in the Catholic intellectual tradition. It is not, therefore, a survey course in which a variety of philosophical approaches to art will be examined. Moreover, we will be considering all the fine arts. When we hear the word “art” in modern English we typically think first, and perhaps only, of the art of painting. But this course will consider the full panoply of what we commonly call the “fine arts,” though we will also consider why it is best to prefer the term “mimetic arts” to “fine arts.”


  • Unpack Aristotle’s definition of art as a mimêsis, an imitation or representation of human beings in action that produces a “cognitive delight” in the spectator or reader
  • How St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of beauty implies that the beautiful (like truth and goodness) transcends the material
  • How the narrative or storytelling arts accord with our definition of both art and the Catholic Imagination
  • How the visual arts are best understood by analogy to the narrative arts
John A. Cuddeback


Dr. Daniel McInerny received his B.A. degree in English from the University of Notre Dame before going on to complete his M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Among his other academic appointments, from 2003 to 2009 he was an associate director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. He joined the philosophy department at Christendom in the fall of 2019. His scholarly work focuses on questions at the intersection of art and the moral life.



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