Faculty Profile

John Kenney, PhD

Professor of Religious Studies
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Ph.D. Brown University
A.B. Bowdoin College

I studied ancient philosophy at Bowdoin, majoring in Classics and Philosophy. I did graduate work in Philosophy at the University Pennsylvania, and then completed my Ph.D. at Brown in Religious Studies. After a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard, I taught for 15 years at Reed as Professor of Religion and Humanities. I came to Saint Michael's to be Dean of the College in 1995. Since 2006 I have been teaching full-time as Professor of Religious Studies. I also offer courses in the Humanities Program

Areas of Expertise:

Early Christianity, Ancient Philosophy

Courses I Teach:

  • Ancient and Medieval Civilization
  • Christianity Past and Present
  • Medieval Christianity
  • Understandings of God
  • Augustine of Hippo: Life and Thought

Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maine, 1973

National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship (1984-85): "The Foundations of Neoplatonic Theology."

National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship (1991-92): "The Theistic Epistemology of St. Augustine."

Burlington Northern Foundation Faculty Achievement Award, Reed College, 1990

Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award, Saint Michael's College, 2008

I am co-director of the Platonism and Neoplatonism Group of the American Academy of Religion.

My research centers on Early Christianity and Ancient Philosophy. My first book examined the development of ‘pagan monotheism’ among Platonists, especially Plotinus. I have written studies on Gnosticism and early Christian philosophy, and edited a volume on Philo of Alexandria, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher. I am now studying St. Augustine, having published two books on his thought. What Augustine had to say about God and the soul seems to me challenging and arresting and profound, and well worth trying to grasp on its own terms.

John Kenney, professor of religious studies, is author of a chapter, "Faith and Reason,” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, ed. by Eleonore Stump and David Meconi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). He also presented a paper, “Plotinus and the Apophatic Augustine,” during a conference organized by the University of California, Berkeley, Department of Philosophy on “Defining Platonism” in September, 2014. In May 2014, John presented another paper, “Augustine’s Early Ontology,” at the North American Patristics Society Annual Meeting in Chicago.
(posted December 2014)

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