Philosophy and Religion

Changes effective Fall Term 2017

Cook D'Amato French Greenberg
McLaren Musgrave Rubarth Smaw

Socrates said, "the unexamined life is not worth living." The disciplines of philosophy and religion examine our lives by investigating the most basic concepts and categories of our self-understanding: true and false, right and wrong, real and imaginary, sacred and profane.

Courses in the history of philosophy introduce students to the ideas of great thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Kant, and Nietzsche. Undergraduates learn by doing -- by engaging in argumentative dialogue with these philosophers. Nonmajors acquire valuable skills of analysis and argumentation while learning to ask fundamental questions about identity, meaning, and value. Thematic courses range from ethics and social philosophy to the mind-body problem. Advisors encourage students to acquire background in a special interest by taking courses in other disciplines. A philosopher of science, for example, needs to study biology, just as a student interested in aesthetics must learn about art, music, and literature.

Religious studies examines the history, beliefs, practices, and role of religion in creating and shaping the world's cultures and societies. The department offers courses in Western and Asian religions, courses in scriptures such as the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as well as more advanced and thematic courses such as Religion and Film, Women and Religion, and Buddhist Philosophy. The objectives of the Religious Studies major are to explore the history of religions, to comprehend religious beliefs along with their philosophical and psychological underpinnings, to appreciate the varieties of religious experience and to assess the role that religions have historically played in shaping society's values.

The department offers majors and minors in both philosophy and religious studies.


Ten (10) courses are required.


  • One Philosophy course, from any of the following:
    • 100-level PHI course
    • 100- or 150-level rFLA course taught by PHI faculty
    • RCC taught by PHI faculty
  • PHI 223 Introduction to Formal Logic
  • PHI 230 Greek Philosophy
  • PHI 231 History of Modern Philosophy
  • PHI 490 Senior Seminar OR PHI 499 Senior Independent Study

Five (5) electives in PHI are required, with at least three (3) at the 300 or 400 level.


Ten (10) courses are required.


  • REL 113 Asian Religions
  • REL 125 Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) OR REL 217 Jewish Life and Thought
  • REL 126 New Testament OR REL 218 Christianity: Thought and Practice
  • REL 490 Senior Seminar OR REL 499 Senior Independent Study


Six (6) electives are required: four (4) at the 300- or 400-level and at least four (4) in REL.

  • ANT 259 Contemporary Middle East and North Africa
  • ANT 365 Real and the Supernatural in Latin America
  • ARH 218 Art and Archaeology of Egypt and the Near East
  • CLS 232 Greek Mythology
  • CLS 306 Classical Archaeology
  • CLS 322 Classical Religion: Paganism
  • ENG 231 The Bible as Literature
  • PHI 317 Philosophy of Religion
  • POL 306 Muslims in Western Politics
  • POL 307 Islam and Politics
  • PSY 313 Psychology of Religious Experience
  • REL or PHI courses not taken to fulfill above requirements



Six (6) courses are required, all in Philosophy.

  • One PHI course, from any of the following:
    • 100-level PHI course
    • 100- or 150-level rFLA course taught by PHI faculty
    • RCC taught by PHI faculty
  • PHI 230 Greek Philosophy
  • PHI 231 History of Modern Philosophy
  • Three (3) electives in PHI are required, with at least two (2) at the 300- or 400-level.


Six (6) courses are required.

  • REL 113 Asian Religions
  • REL 125 Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) OR REL 217 Jewish Life and Thought
  • REL 126 New Testament OR REL 218 Christianity: Thought and Practice
  • Three (3) electives: two (2) at the 300- or 400-level and at least two (2) in REL.

Course of Study


PHI 103 Introduction to Philosophy: Presents aims, methods, and content of philosophy through important figures and perennial problems. Asks: How do we know ideas are true? What is reality? Does God exist? Why is there evil? Is mind distinct from body? Are we free or determined? What is our highest good? How do we know right from wrong? What distinguishes beauty? What is place of individual in society?

PHI 108 Ethics: Introduces moral philosophy (defining value) and metaethics (justifying ethical beliefs) and applies them to common problems. Ponders what actions are morally good -- and what makes them that way.

PHI 140 Friends and Others: Examines ways classical and contemporary philosophers have analyzed friendship so that students can develop and express their own understandings.

PHI 212 Philosophy of the Arts: Covers both theory of art and theory of aesthetic. Addresses 2,400 years of writings on imitation, significant form, expression, death of art, taste, psychic distance, beauty, and the aesthetic.

PHI 214 Philosophy in Literature: Investigates perennial philosophical issues in conflicts of literary characters and ideas. Considers works of Voltaire, Dostoevsky, Barth, Ellison, Camus, and Flannery O'Connor.

PHI 215 Social and Political Philosophy: Explores moral grounds for state, place and value of freedom, nature and justification of property, and rights of individual to classical and contemporary thinkers.

PHI 218 Argumentation and Media-Manipulation: Critical Thinking for the 21st Century: Introduces principles of critical thinking and their application to both traditional argumentation and the highly sophisticated use of persuasion in television and other mass media. Examines misleading and manipulative arguments in ethical, political, religious, and philosophical discourse, including the use of persuasion in advertising and journalism. Examines the logic and grammar of images, the use of tacit messages, and other attempts to influence beliefs or otherwise affect behavior that may or may not be in overt propositional form. Develops critical viewing habits.

PHI 223 Introduction to Formal Logic: Examines principles of deductive reasoning expressed in symbolic form. Begins with Aristotelian categorical syllogisms, then considers truth-functional propositional and quantificational logic.

PHI 226 Philosophy of Education: Compares differing views on aims and methods of education. Touches upon theories of human nature underlying educational models, education versus indoctrination, moral dimensions of education, "liberal education," and ideals of educated men and women.

PHI 230 Greek Philosophy: Chronicles development of philosophical thought in ancient Western world from 6th century BC until 300 AD, focusing on classical Greece and Rome. Students read primary sources in four areas: pre-Socratic philosophers, Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, and Late Hellenistic philosophy (Stoics, Skeptics, Epicureans, and Cynics).

PHI 231 History of Modern Philosophy: Investigates important philosophers in Britain and on the Continent during 17th and 18th century. Considers Continental rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz), British empiricists (Locke, Berkeley, Hume), and Kant as mediator of these two traditions.

PHI 240 Topics in Philosophy: Delves into philosopher's work, issue or concept, or specific tradition. Varies. May be repeated for credit. Suitable for first- and second-year students.

PHI 242 Zombies, Serial Killers, and Madmen: Subjects our everyday intuitions about cognition in moral reasoning and individual responsibility to scrutiny using the principles of logic and critical thinking. Investigates the modern phenomenon of zombies, serial killers and madmen in order to answer important moral/legal questions such as: Is rationality a necessary prerequisite for responsibility? What are we to do with irrational people who commit heinous acts?

PHI 290 Medical Ethics: Discusses moral problems of health care and medical technology: abortion, euthanasia, treatment of defective newborns, genetic screening, and human experiments.

PHI 300 International Law: Provide students with an understanding of the sources of international law, America’s position on various issues in international law, including piracy, terrorism, corporate corruption, genocide, etc., and a philosophical understanding of various issues in international law.  As we study each of these issues we will pay special attention to America’s philosophical position to see how it impacts America’s behavior in the international community.  The goals of this course are fourfold: (1) to give students a philosophical and legal understanding of the sources of international law, (2) to give students an understanding of America’s position on various issues in international law, (3) to give students a glimpse into what philosophical and legal studies are like in graduate school; and, finally, (4) to provide students with the knowledge and skills to engage in conversations and research about complex issues in international law.

PHI 302 American Philosophy: Emphasizes pragmatists -- from C. S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey to Richard Rorty today. Prerequisite: one PHI course.

PHI 308 Topics in Ethics: Takes on varied topics in moral philosophy. Seminar. Prerequisite: PHI 108 or consent.

PHI 309 Environmental Ethics: Considers duties to and value of animals, plants, entire species, ecosystems, and Earth as whole. Also connects environmental ethics to way we do business and live our lives. Prerequisite: ENV 189.

PHI 310 Existentialism: Links existentialism and phenomenology, two similar European movements of late 19th and 20th century. Tackles Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Jaspers, Husserl, and Heidegger. Discusses fundamental existential problems -- meaning of life, nature and priority of self -- as well as phenomenological method. Prerequisite: PHI 231 or consent.

PHI 311 Philosophy of Science: Analyzes presuppositions, methods, and leading concepts of natural sciences. Questions notions of truth and progress in science. Investigates how scientific account of the world relates to everyday understanding of life. Recommended for science majors. Prerequisite: one PHI course or consent.

PHI 312 Feminist Theory: Feminist theory foregrounds women and gender issues, taking the experiences of women seriously and using gender as a tool for critical analysis. Examines a variety of approaches. Prerequisite: one PHI or WMS course.

PHI 313 Contemporary Analytic Philosophy: Traces major 20th-century movement from Moore and Russell through Wittgenstein, Austin, and Ryle. Prerequisite: one PHI course.

PHI 314 Topics in Philosophy: Probes philosopher's work, issue or concept, or philosophical tradition. Varies. Suitable for juniors and seniors. Prerequisite: one PHI course.

PHI 315 Gender, Rights, and Relativism: Explores tensions between respecting cultural traditions, and respecting human rights, paying special attention to the role of gender, as many cultural traditions disproportionately affect women. Prerequisite: PHI 108.

PHI 317 Philosophy of Religion: Challenges students to subject religious beliefs to rational tests. Explores nature and existence of God, evil, relation of faith to reason, miracles, mystical experience, religious language, and meaning and verification of religious ideas. Prerequisite: one PHI or REL course.

PHI 319 Evil and the Search for Meaning after the Holocaust: Highlights philosophical, theological, and fictional works about Holocaust by Sartre, Camus, Buber, Arendt, Frankel, and Wiesel -- from 1945 to present. Prerequisite: one PHI or REL course.

PHI 320 Postmodernism: Takes on postmodern challenge to notions of truth, objectivity, and unity of self. Looks into limits of language and rationality, critiques of culture and technology, and impossibility of "grand theory." Students read representatives from French, German, and American tradition, such as Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, Irigaray, Adorno, Horkheimer, and Rorty. Prerequisite: PHI 231 or consent.

PHI 325 Philosophy of Law: Examines concept of constitutionality, "strict constructionism," nature and limits of law, justification of punishment, judicial reasoning, capital punishment, legal responsibility (strict liability and the insanity defense), legislating morality, and paternalism. Prerequisite: one PHI course.

PHI 348 Philosophy of Mind: Follows philosophical antecedents of contemporary psychology. Considers nature of mind, mind-body problem, and purpose. Prerequisite: one PHI or PSY course.

PHI 398 Directed Study for Juniors

PHI 490 Senior Seminar: Focuses on theme or philosopher. Requires substantial paper. Prerequisites: philosophy major/minor and senior standing, or consent.

PHI 498/499 Senior Independent Study



REL 113 Asian Religions: Explores forms, beliefs, and rituals of Hinduism, Buddhism, and religions of China and Japan through primary sources.

REL 125 Hebrew Bible (Old Testament): Treats selections as literary, historical, and theological works. Discusses myth, story, and religious interpretation; theological concepts of creation, revelation, and redemption; views of nature, God, and social order; gender roles; and community.

REL 126 New Testament: Introduces major themes and contemporary biblical scholarship.

REL 135 Religion in America: Surveys Native American religions, Judeo-Christian traditions of European immigrants, and African-American religion; religions originating in America; occult and metaphysical movements; Eastern religions; and regional religion. Examines dominance and unifying force of Protestantism, civil religion, and cultural religion. Also highlights conflicts and reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics, other Christians, and Jews.

REL 170 The Search for Meaning: Follows inner journeys of religious thinkers from a variety of traditions. Ponders process of search and discovery, its motives, and consequences.

REL 217 Jewish Life and Thought: Features modern historical, literary, and theological masterpieces that explore law, ritual, Zionism, Israel, American Judaism, and changing world of women in contemporary Judaism.

REL 218 Christianity: Thought and Practice: Introduces age-old issues: nature of God, evil, nature and work of Christ, redemption, sacraments, Christian living, and methods of theological reflection. Assigns writings of at least two key thinkers in Christian thought.

REL 219 Islam: Religion and Society: Explores religious, cultural, political, and social dimensions of Islam, from beliefs and practices to relationship of Islam to the Judaeo-Christian heritage.

REL 220 Religion and Literature: Discusses religious (and anti-religious) themes in recent writing from a variety of genres.

REL 223 Contemporary Jewish Literature and Film: Draws upon short stories, novels, and films that depict modern Jewish experience in Europe, Israel, and the U.S. Considers shtetl, enlightenment, and emancipation in Europe, immigrant Jews in Israel and U.S., Holocaust, establishment of Israel and contemporary Israeli society, and tradition vs. modernity.

REL 228 Women and Religion: Studies the status, experiences, and contributions of women in world religions. Focuses on women in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and on contemporary feminist ideology and spirituality. Readings include sacred texts, history, theology, and anthropology. Discussions center around topics such as male and female concepts of the divine, gender roles, creation of new rituals, and women's ordination. Prerequisite: one REL or WMS course.

REL 230 Buddhism: Theory and Practice: Explores the origins and basic theoretical principles of Buddhism and some of its cultural manifestations. Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, and Buddhism in the contemporary world are focal points.

REL 235 Religion and Science: Documents 20th- and 21st-century developments in Western religious thought in response to contemporary science. Touches upon religious and scientific language, nature and the supernatural, creation in physics and theology, biological evolution and creationism, sociobiology and ethics, and ecology and religious thought.

REL 236 Religion and Film: Examines contemporary films that contain messages about the meaning of life and death, the ultimate aims of existence, and other topics that have traditionally belonged to the domain of religion.

REL 237 Religion and Terrorism: Examines issues such as whether religion is inherently violent, the definition of religious terrorism, the significance of 9/11, the religious justification for violence, and the psychology of religious terrorism.

REL 240 Buddhist Philosophy: An examination of Buddhist philosophical theories regarding the nature of the self, reality, knowledge, language, the ultimate goal of sentient existence, and the path to that ultimate goal.

REL 241 Buddhist Ethics: A study of Buddhism's ethical principles and the ways these principles are applied to ethical issues in the domains of nature, economics, war and peace, medicine, sexuality, and others.

REL 251 Topics in Religion: Focuses on topic of interest to students and faculty. Suitable for first- and second-year students.

REL 300 Religion and the Body: Explores concepts and practices of the body in Eastern and Western traditions. Topics include mind/body dualism, body and gender roles, sexual norms and taboos, modesty, purity, and impurity. Prerequisite: one REL course.

REL 304 Jerusalem: History, Religion, and Politics: Examines the history of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Jerusalem from the biblical period to the present. Focuses on religious teachings that expound notions of sacred land and the subsequent political dominations of the city, modern nationalist movements, and current debates and dialogues on the future of Jerusalem. Prerequisite: One REL course.

REL 325 Psychological Theories of Religion: Focuses on the psychological theories of religion offered by James, Freud, Jung, and others; examines the theories from a philosophical point of view. Prerequisite: one REL or PSY course.

REL 330 Semiotics: Studies the theory of signs, with particular focus on how semiotics may offer perspectives on the nature of language and thought, and their relation. Also considers the question of the limits of thought and language, and how such limits might be relevant to the study of religion. Concludes with Buddhist approaches to semiotics

REL 331 Religious Ethics: Discovers how different traditions deal with ethical questions: personal behavior in promise keeping, truth telling, and sexuality, as well as social issues about war, peace, poverty, injustice, and oppression. Prerequisite: one PHI or REL course.

REL 333 Modern and Contemporary Jewish Thought: Treats major Jewish thinkers and ideas from Enlightenment to present: personal autonomy vs. peoplehood and authoritative tradition; nationalism; feminism; and morality after the Holocaust. Prerequisite: one REL or PHI course.

REL 340 Zen Buddhism: Philosophical assessment of Zen discourse, through reading and critically reflecting on texts attributed to seminal Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese masters. Prerequisite: one REL course.

REL 351 Studies in Religion: Selects topic of interest to students and faculty. Suitable for juniors and seniors. May be repeated for credit. Prerequisite: one REL course.

REL 490 Senior Seminar: Focuses on a particular theme in the study of religion. Requires substantial research paper. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing and REL major or minor.

REL 498/499 Senior Independent Study