Essays and Columns by Fr. James V. Schall

More articles by Fr. James V. Schall
Articles, essays and columns by Fr. Schall generally available for free appear below; those more academically-oriented which may be purchased at cost can be found via GoogleScholar

Published on Ignatius Insight (Ignatius Press)

From the Catholic World Report

From the Homiletic & Pastoral Review

From the Catholic Social Science Review

From First Principles Journal

From Modern Age

From Policy Review


From The Catholic Thing

Interviews with James V. Schall

Advent Interviews with Ken Masugi, senior fellow of the Claremont Institute.

James V. Schall on the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI

Books by Fr. James V. Schall

The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical & Political Essays
Catholic University of America Press (November 2008)
The "Catholic mind" seeks to recognize a consistent and coherent relation between the solid things of reason and the definite facts of revelation. Its thought aims to understand how they belong together in a fruitful manner, each profiting from the other; each being what it is. The Catholic mind is not a confusion of disparate sources. It respects and makes distinctions. It sees where things separate. It is in fact delighted by what is.

This delightful book is not polemical, but contemplative in mood. Schall shares with readers a mind that is constantly struck by how things fit together when seen in full light. He brings to his work a lifetime of study in political philosophy, a wide-ranging discipline that, in many ways, is the most immediate context in which reason and revelation meet. The Mind That Is Catholic respects what can be known by faith alone. But it also considers what is known by faith to be itself intelligible to a mind actively thinking on political and philosophical things. The whole, at the risk of its own contradiction, does not exclude the intelligibility of what is revealed.


The Life of the Mind: On the Joys and Travails of Thinking Intercollegiate Studies Institute (April 2008)
In The Life of the Mind, Georgetown University’s James V. Schall takes up the task of reminding us that, as human beings, we naturally take a special delight and pleasure in simply knowing. Because we have not only bodies but also minds, we are built to know what is. In this volume, Schall, author of On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs (ISI Books), among many other volumes of philosophical and political reflection, discusses the various ways of approaching the delight of thinking and the way that this delight begins in seeing and hearing and even in making and walking. We must be attentive to and cultivate the needs of the mind, argues Schall, for it is through our intellect that all that is not ourselves is finally returned to us, allowing us to live in the light of truth.
The Order of Things
Ignatius Press (October 2007)
Father James Schall, the well-known author and professor of philosophy at Georgetown University, inquires about the various orders found in the cosmos, the human mind, the human body, the city, and he seeks to reflect upon the unity of these orders.

In a world in which the presence of reason and order are denied - presumably in the name of science - in favor of chance explanations of why things are as they are, it is surprising to find that, in the various realms open to the human intellect, we find a persistent order revealed. At first sight, it may seem that this reality can be explained by chance occurrence, but after a point, there is a growing sense that behind things there is, in fact, an order. This order can be traced in the many areas that are open to the human mind. As Aquinas has noted, the order within the cosmos points to an order outside of it, since the cosmos cannot be the cause of its own internal order.

Philosophers have long inquired about the curious fact that the order of things implies not a mere relationship of one thing to another, but a hint that the universe is created with a certain superabundance. Why is the universe, and the things within it, not only ordered but, ordered with a sense of beauty?

Not only is there an order in things, but also the human mind seems attuned to this order as something it delights in discovering. This relationship implies that there is some correspondence between mind and reality. What is the relationship between the mind and reality? The Order of Things explores this question. Relying on common sense and the experience available to everyone, Schall concludes that it requires more credulity to disbelieve in order than to experience it. Finally, Schall explores the fundamental cause of order, what it is like? Having looked at the order of the created universe, it is not surprising that the revelation of the Godhead is itself ordered in terms of an inner relationship of Persons.

The Regensburg Lecture
St. Augustines Press (April 2007)
The uproar over the supposedly anti-Islamic quotation in it occluded the meaning of Pope Benedict XVI's September 12, 2006, University of Regensburg lecture. Including its full text in an appendix, Schall expands upon its themes. Thirteenth-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus' "offensive" words concern the first, religiously motivated violence and the nature of God. The second theme is the loss of European Christian identity; the third, the "dehellenization" of the West. Benedict frames all three issues as matters of reason and religion. Crucial to his argument is the realization that, because of the Incarnation, Christianity doesn't conceive of God as dealing unreasonably with humanity, and as it is unreasonable to force religious belief, violence for religious ends is proscribed. Making the other themes urgent is the educational practice of reserving reason for secular disciplines only, which is why, Schall thinks, the pope made his remarks where and to whom he did. The university and professors can help reverse dehellenization by reconnecting reason and religion in teaching. -- Booklist
Roman Catholic Political Philosophy
Lexington Books (October 2006)
In Roman Catholic Political Philosophy author James V. Schall tries to demonstrate that Roman Catholicism and political philosophy---revelation and reason--are not contradictory. It is his contention that political philosophy, the primary focus of the book, asks certain questions about human purpose and destiny that it cannot, by itself, answer. Revelation is the natural complement to these important questions about God, human being, and the world. Schall manages to avoid polemicism or triumphalism as he shows that revelation and political thought contribute to a fuller understanding of each other.


Sum Total Of Human Happiness
St. Augustines Press (October 2006)
This is a book on the truth of things, including the truth found in things that are wrong or even evil, the “alternative world.” But it is primarily a book about the many things that are, the infinity of particular things, as well as the highest things, both of which come to us primarily by gift and superabundance. The wonder, indeed the amazement, of our `1existence is not that there is so little, but so much. And it is intrinsic to this “so much” that, through our minds and our experience, we are open to these things that are not ourselves. The mind is capax omnium, capable of knowing all things.

What interests Fr. Schall is the delight of things that are. Aristotle taught us that a proper pleasure is found in each of our many disparate activities. He suspected that the greatest pleasure is in thinking not about what we concoct from our imaginations to think about, but what is there in the world before us. This immense variety of what is is given to us to think about. The world is not evaporated of intelligence simply because it is not our intelligence that we find there as the organizer of what is.

The “sum total of human happiness,” as Samuel Johnson has taught, is not simply the “one necessary thing,” but all things, including the unnecessary ones, the ones that include ourselves. We exist as if we are being gently, sometimes violently, drawn outside of ourselves. We have “restless hearts,” and we are glad. We are not merely unsettled by what passes and changes, but by what does not. We can love things so much we are sad . . . sad because we are not yet ready for them, for all that is. There are “haloes” in Hell. And the highest things exist “for their own sake.” Even damnation praises God by reminding us of how important are our powers to choose, or reject, what is good, what is.

We seek happiness in all we do, as Aristotle said. But we do not set out to grasp the “joy” that is given to us. This joy is a “by-product,” as Josef Pieper well said. The thesis of this book is, rather, even when we seek all these things, these delightful things, as we should, what we are seeking is that one light in which all things, including the ones before us, are. In the end, St. Thomas is right, “the universe would not be perfect if only one grade of goodness were found in things.” This is the root of our delight, as it is the root of our being, of our standing before what is.

On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing
Intercollegiate Studies Institute (January 2002)
Although Schall's title might seem to promise a romp through the Elysian Fields with Epicurus and Nietzsche, nothing could be further from the truth. Recruiting philosophy and literary theory into an inspirational narrative, Father Schall (A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning), who teaches at Georgetown University, contends that "unseriousness" derives from the realization that while humankind is not the highest thing in existence, human beings are good. Humanity's joy, then, comes in its celebration of being-in-the-world; those enjoyable activities, which might seem like wasting time, are in fact related to "our transcendent destiny," our spirituality. Taking passages from Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante and Chesterton, Schall argues that our lives have a particular gravity, but that they are unserious compared to the seriousness of God. Our lives are merely, then, responses to an order that exists beyond us, and Schall demonstrates through readings of philosophers ranging from Aristotle to Peanuts' Charlie Brown that various unserious behaviors playing, dancing, singing, writing provide the skills to connect to that transcendent order. For example, he observes that "[e]ssays keep us alert to the wonder of things," and "[l]etters keep us in touch when we are not literally before those whom we would see face to face." Schall weaves together his meditations with theological interludes in which he explores briefly such topics as redemption, salvation and eschatology. Although these reflections do not break any new ground or open up any radically different channels of discussion, Schall's book will appeal to fans of C.S. Lewis, Chesterton and Peter Kreeft. -- Publisher's Weekly
Reason, Revelation, and Human Affairs
Lexington Books (February 2001)
This book is intended to serve as an introduction to the thought of James V. Schall, arguably one of the best, perhaps even the only, authentically Thomistic political scientist writing today. In contrast to main currents in contemporary Thomism, Schall remains conversant with the great tradition of political philosophy and therefore appreciates the complex and relatively imprecise nature of political reflection. In this book, the distinguished theorist addresses a wide range of subjects, including the question of overpopulation, the thought of Charles McCoy and Leo Strauss, the role of Christianity in political philosophy, and the challenges that the democratic project pose to human beings' perception of the truth. As a meditation on practical and theoretical political questions, self-consciously proceeding from the perspectives of both nature and grace, the book provides a unique picture of what a genuine Thomistic political science might look like.
Schall on Chesterton: Timely Essays on Timeless Paradoxes
Catholic University of America Press (June 2000)
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was one of the most original minds of the twentieth century. He was a gifted journalist, essayist, biographer, poet, novelist, playwright, philosopher, debater, and defender of common sense, of Christianity, and of the Catholic faith. He was truly an influential man of his time, writing thousands of essays and hundreds of books. Today he remains one of the best and most quoted writers of the English language.

In this book of essays, Father James V. Schall, a prolific author himself and a prominent Catholic writer, brings readers to Chesterton through a witty series of original reflections prompted by something Chesterton wrote-timely essays on timeless issues. Like Chesterton, Schall consciously leads the reader to the reality of what is, of what is true and what is at the heart of things. It is a handbook of how to take up almost any essay or chapter or paragraph of Chesterton's many works and, upon further reflection, come to realize that he was a profoundly wise man who still teaches vividly and accurately a century after he wrote. Schall easily captures Chesterton's fondness of life and laughter, and at the same time, makes readers aware of Chesterton's extreme insight and rigorous understanding of ideas and truth.

Included in this book is an introductory chapter on Chesterton as a "journalist," which is how he identified himself, and a concluding chapter that provides an extended reflection on Chesterton's world. Forty-one essays comprise the heart of the book. They range widely in subject matter, from the Catholic Church as the "natural home of the human spirit," through such topics as virtue and honor, horror and detective stories, toys and Christmas, right and wrong, to the shocking conclusion that indeed "dogmas are not dull."


A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning (Isi Guides to the Major Disciplines)
Intercollegiate Studies Institute (April 2000)


Another Sort of Learning
Ignatius Press (April 1988)
"James V. Schall has written a delightfully odd book about books, because he believes that (1) to be educated is to confront the great questions about what is; that (2) many modern students, in or out of school, never learn to raise, much less answer, the great questions, thus are uneducated in the deepest sense; and that (3) great books, past and present, which wrestle deeply yet non-technically with these questions rather than passively mirroring popular culture with its myopia and prejudices, can fill this vacuum for anyone, in or out of school. It contains unusually sane reflections on education, unusually reflective reviews of books, and unusually discriminating booklists. Just the book I have wanted to give my students for years."
— Peter Kreeft, Boston College

"For years I have meant to write such a book as Another Sort of Learning, suggesting how the rising generation might acquire some measure of wisdom despite the intellectual vices or indifferences of the Academy; but I am happy that Schall has forestalled me. It is full of much valuable wisdom."
— Russell Kirk, Author, The Conservative Mind

Jacques Maritain: The Philosopher in Society (20th Century Political Thinkers)
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (March 1998)
The engaging and inquiring mind of French philosopher Jacques Maritain reflected on subjects as varied as art and ethics, theology and psychology, and history and metaphysics. Maritain's work on the theoretical groundings of politics arose from his diverse studies. In this book, distinguished theologian and political scientist James V. Schall explores Maritain's political philosophy, demonstrating that Maritain understood society, state, and government in the tradition of Aristotle and Aquinas, of natural law and human rights and duties. Schall pays particular attention to the ways in which evil appears in political forms, and how this evil can be morally dealt with. Schall's study will be of great importance to students and scholars of political science, philosophy, and theology.


At the Limits of Political Philosophy: From
Catholic University of America Press (August 1996)
Illustrating the contribution of the Roman Catholic tradition to political philosophy, this work includes the discussion of the "brilliant errors" that have arisen in the history of political philosophy. A discussion of the death of Socrates and the death of Christ is also included here.
Idylls and Rambles: Lighter Christian Essays
Ignatius Press (April 1994)
The English or French essay has been in many ways the most delightful of literary expressions. Moreover, the essay has been particularly adapted to Christianity, to its concreteness, to its awareness of the importance not just of ideas or thoughts, but of little things, particular moments wherein salvation and joy more especially take place. Idylls and Rambles takes its title from the two journals of Samuel Johnson, The Idler and The Rambler. Johnson was the most insightful and original of men. Too, this book takes its form, the number of its chapters, from Belloc who loved the essay and who wrote so charmingly and profoundly about everything he saw. These particular essays are moments Father Schall has seen, people he has known. They are often lightsome, yet they bear the sense that it is in joy that our most perplexing moments occur for joy, more than sadness perhaps, leads to the highest things in which we exist.

''Hurrah for Fr. Schall. He is keeping alive in our time one of the noblest, and most ancient, forms of literature, namely, the short essay. But if 'noble' and 'ancient' suggest solemn, think again. 'He who has the faith has the fun,' said Chesterton. We readers are the beneficiaries of this maxim in Fr. Schall's essays. There is fun and substance, and serious reflection, and all of it in good prose, and all of it suffused with the spirit of a robust Christian orthodoxy.'' Thomas Howard, Author, Chance or the Dance

Liberation Theology in Latin America
Ignatius Press (October 1982)

Book Reviews by James V. Schall, SJ

Book Reviews