The Phoenix Institute 2018 Notre Dame Summer Seminar for the Study of Western Institutions June 30th - July 28th


This year, The Phoenix Institute Summer Seminars for the Study of Western Institutions will include three basic activities:

  • Two mandatory courses to be attended by all students;
  • A program of academic and cultural activities; and
  • The Gerhard Niemeyer Graduation Seminar, to be attended by all third year students.


The Opening Seminar is designed to provide a proper introduction to the summer course as a whole. Students will meet their professors, classmates and coordinators; review the calendar of curricular and extra-curricular activities; learn all they need to know about life at Notre Dame; etc. The Seminar will take place in the morning of Sunday, July 1st. Participation in the Opening Seminar is compulsory for all students.


Dr. V. Bradley Lewis
Associate Professor, School of Philosophy
Catholic University of America, USA

We take it for granted that democracy is the only really legitimate form of government; however, contemporary social critics have pointed out a variety of modern challenges to democratic practice, for example, destructive individualism, economic inequality, and a moral relativism that undermines authority and law and human rights. This course aims to address these problems by considering the possibility that some pre-modern political theories often thought to be incompatible with modern democracy can actually provide a firmer basis for modern democratic politics. St. Thomas Aquinas (1125-1274) was the most influential thinker of the Medieval period and his political philosophy remains an important source of political ideas in the western tradition. Aquinas's theology recontextualized elements of the classical tradition, especially the thought of Aristotle in a new Christian synthesis and communicated that tradition to the rather different political world of the thirteenth century, but beyond that into the present. We spend the first two weeks of the course on Aquinas's most important political writings, which concern the legitimacy and basis of political authority, the nature of law, the sources of valid law and ways in which laws can fail to bind through injustice, the right to property, killing and war, and religious freedom. We will then turn to one of the greatest 20th century Thomist philosophers, Yves Simon (1903-1961), who taught at Notre Dame from 1938-1948. Simon's 1951 book, Philosophy of Democratic Government, aimed to construct a theory of modern democracy informed by Aquinas's ideas which he thought could provide a sturdier philosophical basis for modern politics than the classical liberal theories of early modernity.

Dr. Bradley Lewis. Ph.D. Government and International Studies, University of Notre Dame. M.A., Government and International Studies, University of Notre Dame. B.A., Government and Politics, University of Maryland. Associate Professor at the School of Philosophy of The Catholic University of America. Associate Editor of The American Journal of Jurisprudence.

Dr. Ryan D. Madison
Associate Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture
Concurrent Instructor of Philosophy
University of Notre Dame

Aristotle and Shakespeare seem to agree that humans are by nature social creatures and that politics, at its best, enables the realization of justice, harmony and friendship between citizens within a regime. On this view, politics is intimately concerned with the summum bonum, that is, with happiness, flourishing, and the good life for humans. However, while the desire for happiness and a shared life is natural, politics operates within the realm of law, custom, and convention. This raises a complex question about the proper relation between convention (nomos) and nature (physis). It is only within the conventional rules established by politics, an order that shapes human relationships and determines our judgments about the just and the good, that humans can achieve their true ends. Politics hold out the promise of happiness, establishing well-ordered rules and conventions that enable fulfilling relationships; but it can equally threaten the very opposite, perverting our sense of justice, friendship, and love and becoming the principal cause of our misery. History in fact provides more examples where politics becomes the enemy of the very relationships it is charged with promoting. This course will examine the underlying reasons why politics so often fails to deliver upon its promise by examining Aristotle's two great works, the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics, along with the plays of William Shakespeare. We will focus on the relation between nature and convention, justice and mercy, love and friendship, and the virtues necessary for living well within society. We will also examine how politics often plants the seeds of its own destruction by sowing envy, greed, hatred, suspicion and discord, creating the conditions for injustice, tyranny, violence, and war. Beginning with Hesiod's Works and Days, which identifies fundamental themes such as nature and convention, love and strife, wealth and labor, and friendship and family, we then turn to Aristotle's detailed accounts of these concepts. Throughout the course, we will explore how Shakespeare sheds light on these themes in the comedies As You Like It, Measure for Measure, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice and in the tragedies King Lear, Macbeth, and Coriolanus.

Dr. Ryan Madison. Ph.D. in Philosophy, Loyola University. B.A. St. John's College. Associate Director of the Center for Ethics and Culture, University of Notre Dame. His research focuses on metaphysics in ancient and medieval philosophy as well as the intersection of politics, law, economics and religion in late medieval and early modern thought.


The Gerhart Niemeyer Graduation Seminar is the academic activity through which Phoenix senior students (Third Year) complete the Institute’s Program in Advanced Social, Economic and Political Studies.

In 2018, the Seminar discussion sessions will be held between Thursday, June 28, and Saturday, June 30.

Third Year students are expected to arrive on Campus on Wednesday, June 27 (three days before the rest of the group).

The Graduation Seminar will cost $90.00 USD.


The Seminar will be held in the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana. The University is about two hours by car from Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport and about 90 minutes from Midway International Airport. Coach USA maintains a bus shuttle several times daily between campus and both Chicago O'Hare and Chicago Midway airports. The South Shore Line trains run directly from the Chicago Loop (corner of Michigan and Randolph) to South Bend Regional Airport in South Bend (about a two-hour trip). From the airport, the Notre Dame campus is approximately a 15-minute ride by car.


The cost of the program is 3,300 USD and it includes the full tuition fee, double/triple-occupancy accommodations, 20-meals Plan (TBC), and the fees for the use of all the libraries and recreational facilities available on the Notre Dame campus.

The full cost of the program's tuition fee must be covered by June 15th, preferably earlier. Admission to the campus will only be possible after full prior payment of the tuition fee. Cash payments will not be accepted.

A 300 USD nonrefundable initial payment will be needed for registration.

Enrollment to both Summer Programs is limited. If interested in attending, you should apply by May 1st, 2018, preferably earlier. Applications will be considered as they arrive*. The first step to apply is by filling out the pre-registration form.

*Applications received after May 1st will still be processed by the Phoenix Institute, in the understanding that they will only be reviewed and considered after the first admission list is exhausted.


The University of Notre Dame will not require foreign students to get a student visa in order to participate in our summer programs (a regular B2 visa will suffice).


Because of the high cost of medical treatment in the United States, all students must purchase a medical insurance policy prior to arrival at the University of Notre Dame.

The Phoenix Institute cannot provide for any medical care or medical costs and insurance coverage.

Participants, who have not sent the Institute prior written proof of their medical insurance coverage, will not be admitted.


Apply to our Summer Programs.