The Ontology of Beauty

May 3, 2024
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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James Matthew WilsonUniversity of Saint Thomas, Houston

Open to current graduate students and faculty. Advanced undergraduates and others interested in participating should contact This event is in-person only. All registrants will receive copies of the selected readings, which should be read in advance of the class. An optional wine and cheese reception will follow. 

The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar once claimed that if modern man denies the reality of beauty, he will lose the capacity for love and prayer, and indeed truth, goodness, and being itself will be lost to him. This seminar will explore von Balthasar's less than obvious claims by returning to Plato and exploring the way in which beauty was "lost" in western thought before it was recovered by the provocative manifesto of French philosopher, Jacques Maritain. Beauty, Maritain proposed, could save the world from unintelligibility and prepare it for salvation.


The readings consist of selections from Plato, Jacques Maritain, and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Both the required and recommended readings will be distributed to participants via Dropbox and PDFs. If you prefer, you can pick up a printout of the readings at Gavin House (1220 E. 58th Street) Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm once they are ready. Please email David Strobach at to let us know you are coming.


1:30-2:00 | pre-event pastries and coffee

2:00-3:20 | Session 1

3:20-3:40 | Coffee break

3:40-5:00 | Session 2

5:00-5:30 | Reception

James Matthew Wilson is Cullen Foundation Chair in English Literature and the Founding Director of the Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing, at the University of Saint Thomas, Houston.  An award-winning scholar of philosophical-theology and literature, he has authored dozens of essays, articles, and reviews on all manner of subjects secular and divine, and especially on those where we see the two in their intrinsic relation, as truth, goodness, beauty, and being disclose themselves in art and culture, in the political and intellectual life, in our quest for self knowledge and the contemplation of God.