CCCG Faculty Fellow Profile: Dan Philpott

Author: Center for Citizenship & Constitutional Government

Daniel Philpott 2

Daniel Philpott is a CCCG faculty fellow and professor of political science. In his research and teaching, Dr. Philpott focuses on issues of religious freedom, reconciliation, the political behavior of religious actors, and Christian political theology. 

Dr. Philpott is the author of Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations, Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation, and Religious Freedom in Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Modern World Today. He also co-authored God’s Century: Resurgent Religions and Global Politics and has edited several books about religion, politics, and peacebuilding. 

Dr. Philpott earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1996 and specializes in religion and global politics. He became interested in politics at a young age and was drawn both to activism and academia. 

“As I went on in grad school, I came to love the research, the questions, and the pursuit of truth,” he said. “But I’ve always had an activist side. I still like to be involved in the politics of the world.”

Dr. Philpott’s work in reconciliation and peacebuilding took him all over the world, from Yugoslavia to Kashmir to the Great Lake region of Africa. 

“There was something about the mission of reconciliation work that drew me in. It combined my love of politics and policy with my Christian faith because reconciliation was a way to bring the Christian message to politics,” he said. “The work I was doing on the ground drove my academic interests, but that academic interest was very much informed by what I had done on the ground.” 

As he continued his involvement in peace building, Dr. Philpott’s research focused on forgiveness and justice in political contexts, including post-war Uganda. In 2001, he joined the University of Notre Dame.

“There’s just an incredible community of Christian scholars here to learn from and trade ideas with, and there’s nowhere else like Notre Dame,” he said. 

In the fall, Dr. Philpott taught the undergraduate class “Catholicism and Politics,” which explores the intersection of Catholic doctrine and action within the political order. Surveying political attitudes in the early, medieval, and modern Church, the course also applies these approaches to contemporary political issues. 

This spring, Dr. Philpott will teach “Why the Church?” for undergraduate students. Developed in response to studies showing dramatic religious disaffiliation among millennials and Gen Z, the course explores Catholic apologetics in response to causes of this disaffiliation. Dr. Philpott centered the course around the medieval method of examining questions, requiring students to consider both sides of an argument and evaluate perspectives based on the strength of reasoning, just as Thomas Aquinas did in his Summa Theologica

The course engages students in arguments for and against the Church’s positions on topics such as science, sex and marriage, politics, and the Church’s role in historical injustices, while also exposing them to “positive apologetics” framed through beauty and the lives of the saints. With each topic, the course attends to the political dimensions of various reasons for disaffiliation.

In April 2021, Dr. Philpott received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Studies Association for his significant role in exploring religion in the study of global affairs.