Classical Liberal Arts Core

Classical Liberal Arts Core

A Shared Experience

Who do you want to be? It’s a different sort of question than the usual, What do you want to do?, a question at the heart of a classical liberal arts education from Hillsdale College. In addition to a major area of concentration, all Hillsdale College students enroll in a structured core of courses that takes about two years to complete. Together, they follow a journey through literature, philosophy, theology, history, the fine arts, and the natural sciences, and begin to see the world as a cohesive whole. “Liberal learning produces cultivated citizens with minds disciplined and furnished through wide and deep study of old books by wise authors,” writes Mark Kalthoff, Ph.D., Hillsdale alumnus, Dean of the Faculty, and Henry Salvatori Chair in History, “It does so by leading forth students into a consideration of what has been called, ‘the best that has been thought and said.’”


The Hillsdale Core

The Hillsdale core considers the spiritual and intellectual inheritance of the Western Tradition, and provides a fuller perspective on the world and its workings. Students pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree will meet additional requirements in foreign language; students pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree will put additional emphasis on laboratory science and mathematics study.

Classical Logic and Rhetoric

Prepare and analyze arguments, practice decision-making, develop critical thinking about matters of certainty as well as probability, and learn why logic and rhetoric are classically viewed as sister arts of inherent import to the liberally educated student.

Great Books in the Western Tradition

Receive an introduction to representative Great Books in the West from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, meeting works like the Bible and authors such as Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Ovid, Augustine, and Dante.

Great Books in the British and American Traditions

Continue your study of the Western literary tradition with English authors like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Wordsworth, Dickens, Yeats, and Eliot, and American authors like Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, Dickinson, Twain, Frost, Hemingway, and Faulkner.

The Western Philosophical Tradition

Receive a general overview of the history of philosophical development in the West from its inception with the Pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece to the 20th century Anglo-American and Continental traditions. Meet thinkers and innovators like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Mill, and Nietzsche.

The Western Theological Tradition

Be instructed in the basic teachings of the Christian faith in order to see how religious belief informs self-understanding, provides a comprehensive view of reality, and by instilling a vision of human life, its purpose and proper comportment, shapes the larger culture.

Western Literature Survey

Choose one course from a selection of options: continue your study of the Great Books with selections of European literature from the Renaissance to modern times; study Greek and Roman literature and culture and its influences on the West; or spend time with European drama from the Renaissance, Neoclassical, Elizabethan, Spanish Golden Age, English Restoration, and early German Romantic periods.

The Western Heritage to 1600

Acquaint yourself with the historical roots of the Western heritage and explore the ways in which modern man is indebted to the Greco-Roman culture and the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The American Heritage

Follow the history of “the American experiment of liberty under law” from our colonial heritage and the founding of the republic to the increasing involvement of the United States in a world of ideologies and war.

The U.S. Constitution

Receive an introduction to early American political thought and its crowning political achievement, the United States Constitution. Learn basic American political concepts like natural rights, social compact theory, religious liberty, limited government, separation of powers, and the rule of law.

Social Sciences Survey

Choose one course from a selection of options: receive an introduction to the study of economics and its relationship to political systems; examine markets, prices, profits, production, costs, competition, monopoly, wages, rent, and interest; take a broad survey of the contemporary science of psychology; or study historical, conceptual, and cross-disciplinary perspectives on sociocultural structure and dynamics.

Fine Arts Survey

Choose one course from a selection of options: survey the visual arts of architecture, painting, and sculpture from the prehistoric through Medieval or Renaissance through modern periods; receive an introduction to the repertoire of Western music and music theory at an entry or intermediate level; or learn to appreciate Western theatre and how dramatic structure, style, purpose, and effect are the keys to understanding the relationship between author, performer, and audience.

Core Principles in Biology

Learn how life evolves and adapts in continually changing environments. Relate such principles to current issues such as diet and health, extinction and habitat loss, genetic modification of people and other organisms, and the emergence of novel diseases, among others. Above all, see how empirical biological mechanisms can help us understand and predict the connections between people and the natural world.

Great Principles of Chemistry

Consider the implications of the “big ideas” of chemistry and the evidence for them—the atomic nature of matter, bonding, intermolecular forces, structure and shape, chemical reactions, and transfer of energy—and the relationship of fundamental principles of chemistry to current and emerging global issues. Discuss the nature of empirical scientific methodology and the strengths and limitations of science as a way of knowing in the context of a liberal education. Examine primary or secondary sources that shed light on the process and context through which key advances have occurred.

Great Principles of Physics

Explore the fundamental Laws of Nature (Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation; Maxwell’s equations regarding electricity, magnetism, and light; Einstein’s special and general theory of relativity; quantum mechanics and the Standard Model), their character, the principles that run through them, and how they apply to observable phenomena, and see how these laws play an important role in the fields of astronomy and cosmology.

Mathematics and Deductive Reasoning

Learn Aristotelian logic and deductive reasoning, mathematical arguments and proof, and study axiomatic systems like Euclidean geometry as you explore the nature of mathematics.

Physical Wellness Dynamics

Practice a basic physical wellness program through physical conditioning, strength development, and nutrition; build a knowledge base of the physiological effects and adaptations of exercise, nutrition, and stress on the mind, body, and spirit.

Center for Constructive Alternatives Seminar

Choose one week-long lecture seminar from the Center for Constructive Alternatives, an on-campus lecture series held four times annually. Subjects are varying, and have recently included topics such as Markets and Policy, American Generals, The Liberal Arts and Education Today, Big Tech, Jane Austen on Film, and American Foreign Policy.

Senior Year Capstone

Synthesize critical concepts across the core curriculum and see their purpose in relation to a life pursuing the good.

Empowered to Succeed

“Strength Rejoices in the Challenge” at Hillsdale, and the academic demands upon Hillsdale students are significant, but they aren’t met without equal support. Small class sizes and regular office hours allow students to build relationships with their professors as well as their peers. Academic Services offers support in the form of tutoring, academic counseling, and other resources, and the College’s deans, chaplain, and health services staff are regularly available for additional academic, spiritual, and health-related matters.