Philosophy and Tolkien

What are the virtues? What is beauty? What is love? Is war a necessary evil? Does God exist? The life and writings of J. R. R. Tolkien lends themselves superbly to the study of intriguing philosophical questions that don’t seem to go away.

As a student, you can take the course as a major or as a minor. If you take it as a minor, you will write on the first four topics. If you take it as a major, you will write on the first four topics, and then choose four of the last six topics.

Paper Topics:

1. Thinking with The Hobbit
2. Tolkien on the magic of language
3. Tolkien on freedom and responsibility
4. Tolkien on the good life
5. Tolkien and the philosophy of religion (major only)
6. Tolkien and the philosophy of beauty (major only)
7. Tolkien and the philosophy of love (major only)
8. Tolkien on war and evil (major only)
9. Tolkien on nature and environmentalism (major only)
10. Tolkien and the philosophy of hope (major only)

Jason will direct you towards initial research materials for each topic. From there, you can branch out and explore the world of your topic! For more information, or for a more detailed syllabus, contact Jason.

Some of the primary sources you will explore include: J. R. R. Tolkien’s books The Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit, and Tree and Leaf; and J. R. R. Tolkien’s essays and letters ‘A Secret Vice’, ‘On Fairy-Stories’, and The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Some of the secondary sources you will explore include: The Hobbit and Philosophy by Gregory Bassham (ed.); Splintered Light by Verlyn Flieger; The Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter Kreeft; Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth; and The Ring and the Cross by Paul Kerry (ed.).