Foundations of Virtue: Aristotle and Aquinas


This course is a study in recovering the Aristotelian tradition of the natural law as the foundation of virtue. Students will work through short excerpts from various works of Plato and Aristotle, and delve into an analysis of key texts in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, finishing with a look into Aquinas’s explanations of the natural law, happiness, the beatific vision, and virtue in his Summa Theologiæ.

Taught by Tim Jacobs.

Runs 7/4-8/26/22.

Note: due to the start of term beginning on a holiday, classes that are scheduled to meet on Monday will not meet for the first time until the week of 7/11; professors will schedule a make-up class somewhere during the term to cover the missed class time.

Auditing: participate in readings and live class sessions, but no graded assignments and no course credit
Full course part-time: individual classes on a for-credit basis; you can later apply them toward a Certificate or Degree
Full course full-time: for-credit courses (at least four per term) toward our Certificate or M.Litt in Classical Protestantism


This Philosophy course will be taught by Tim Jacobs, and will run from July 4 through August 26. The syllabus is available here.

Modern moral philosophy and theology have been fractured since the Enlightenment. Outside the Church, moral relativism has run amok. Within the Church, Protestants in particular have hamstrung their response to ethics by falling into biblicism. More recently, there has been a promising renaissance of Aristotelian virtue ethics, the primary form of ethics promoted throughout church history. But this renaissance has often failed to grasp the prior foundations of virtue as understood by its greatest Christian exponent, Thomas Aquinas. This foundation is all about what things are, for this determines what they ought to do. Virtue is rooted in the natural law, in God’s design of man and his designs for man.

This course will provide students with the foundation they need to rightly understand virtue. Students will engage excerpts from Aristotle’s Physics, Metaphysics, Categories, On the Soul, and Plato’s Republic as they study the anatomy of the soul, before considering the classical conception of the common good in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Politics. In the latter part of the course, students will explore Aquinas’s Christian adaptation of Aristotle in his Summa Theologiae and Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, exploring the purpose of life, happiness, the beatific vision, and virtue. Students will walk away with a firm grasp of the foundations of virtue, and well-prepared for a future class on virtue in the Reformed tradition.

Tim Jacobs is a Lecturer in Philosophy at The Davenant Institute, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of St. Thomas, TX. He also holds an MDiv and ThM from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He specializes in ancient and medieval philosophy, virtue, natural law, metaphysics, and classical logic, and has published several articles as well as contributed to Four Views on Christian Metaphysics, Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia, and Lexham Bible Dictionary. He lives with his wife and three kids in California. Follow him at

Online only, runs 8 weeks, meeting 2.5 hr./wk. via Zoom. Students will also have the option to participate in class discussion on the Davenant Common Room Discord server. Register to reserve your spot and schedule will be set after a poll of participating students; if the class time does not fit your schedule, you will be eligible for a full refund.

This is a graduate-level course. Although a BA is not a necessary pre-requisite for this course, students should come prepared to do graduate-level work.