Course Descriptions

Philosophy Courses (PHIL)

Religion Courses (RELG)


Philosophy Courses:

PHIL 100: Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking
PHIL 200: Classical Problems in Philosophy
PHIL 206: Eastern Religions and Philosophies
PHIL 208: Philosophy of Language
PHIL 212: Animal Ethics
PHIL 214: Free Will
PHIL 216: What is Knowledge?
PHIL 218: Confucianism PHIL 225: Personal Integrity in a Digital Age
PHIL 250: Business Ethics
PHIL 276: Field Experience
PHIL 277: Philosophy of Science
PHIL 305: Ethical Issues in Health Care
PHIL 308: History of Women Philosophers
PHIL 309: Christian Ethics
PHIL 310: Asian Ethics
PHIL 311: History of Philosophy I: Ancient Greek
PHIL 312: History of Philosophy II: Medieval
PHIL 313: History of Philosophy III: Modern
PHIL 314: History of Philosophy IV: Contemporary European
PHIL 315: Buddhism and the Joy of Being Awake
PHIL 316: Ethics
PHIL 320: Environmental Ethics
PHIL 336: Philosophy of the Self
PHIL 351: Existentialism in Philosophy, Film and Literature
PHIL 374: Philosophy of Mind
PHIL 376: Philosophy of Religion
PHIL 493: Senior Seminar
PHIL 290, 390, 490: Selected Topics
PHIL 391, 392, 491, 492: Research
PHIL 495, 496: Honors Research
PHIL 397, 398, 497, 498: Internship

PHIL 100: Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking. 3 hours.
This course helps students learn to think clearly, concisely and analytically, through a familiarity with the reasoning methods of logic in terms of learning how to define terms, formulate arguments and analyze statements critically and objectively. The course deals with the language of logic and the methods of deductive and inductive reasoning.

PHIL 200: Classical Problems in Philosophy. 3 hours.
An introductory survey of a number of perennial philosophical questions such as “How can a physical body produce a mind?” “Does free will exist?”  “What is the self?”  “Can we know if God exists?” and “Is there really an external world?” Offered annually.

PHIL 206: Eastern Religions and Philosophies. 3 hours.
An introduction to Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Specifically, the course focuses on the systems of value that emerge from these traditions and, where appropriate, compares and contrasts them with the values systems of Western traditions. The conceptual framework guiding this examination incorporates the tradition’s overall world view, conception of God or ultimate reality, its understanding of the origin, nature, and destiny of the cosmos and of human beings, a diagnosis of the human condition and a prescription for attaining the ultimate goal or purpose of human life. Same as RELG 206.

PHIL 208: Philosphy of Langauge. 3 hours.
This course serves as an introduction to philosophical reflections on the nature, use, and meaning of language. Our study of the philosophy of language will incorporate (a) historical treatments of language, (b) 20th c. British and North American analytical (logical) interpretations of language, and (c) concurrent feminist, postmodern, and multicultural critiques of these analytic perspectives. We will discover how philosophical reflection on the nature, use, and meaning of language inevitably ties into questions of reality and truth, human nature, identity and difference, and of the human mind and human knowledge. From such considerations we will move to the social, political, and moral implications of diverse interpretations and uses of language.

PHIL 212: Animal Ethics. 3 hours.
This cutting-edge multidisciplinary course is designed to acquaint the student with contemporary and historical animal-ethics/rights issues.  A primary goal of the course is to raise moral consciousness about the most current conditions and uses of nonhuman animals and therein the ethical dimension of relationships between nonhuman animals and human beings.  The course is structured in two sections: a) ethical theory and b) applied ethics.  Same as ANML 212.

PHIL 214: Free Will. 3 hours.
No question in the history of philosophy has been debated for a longer period of time than the free will problem. Are we merely dominoes falling in accordance with fate, history, causation, genetics, or socialization; or are we the “final arbiters of our own wills”? The question of human freedom goes right to the center of the meaningfulness of our very existences - after all, if we are not free, what is the point of making decisions, formulating life plans and striving for goals? Throughout this course we will survey all of the major “camps” in the free will debate. Along the way you will learn that each camp, in providing its own answer to the debate, also reveals further and perhaps more disturbing problems and issues.

PHIL 216: What is Knowledge? 3 hours.
Every discipline (whether the sciences, humanities or social sciences) makes claims to knowledge that practitioners in those disciplines take seriously.  Consequently, any serious practitioner of a discipline must ask:  “How does my discipline define knowledge and so make claims about what is true?  What are the limits, strengths and weaknesses of such methods of knowing?”  Clearly, not all claims to knowledge are equally worthy of our assent, so it is crucial that a practitioner of any field be able to investigate these questions.  Armed with such an understanding of knowledge, a practitioner of any field is given the tools to be more critical of the claims of his/her own field and those of others.  Given these concerns and questions, in this foundational course we will survey the various origins and sources of knowledge, the different ways in which knowledge could be justified, the limits and possibilities of those various approaches and the ways in which skepticism about knowledge can be generated as well as avoided when different methods of knowledge are employed.

PHIL 218: Confucianism. 3 hours.
In this course we will study the ancient pre-Qin Confucian ethical tradition, concentrating first on the classic Four Books — Confucius’ Analects, the Mengzi, the Daxue (the ‘Great Learning’) and the Zhongyong (the ‘Doctrine of the Mean’) and then moving to the last pre-Qin Confucian work, the Xunzi. Once we have completed this fundamental survey, we will turn to selected works from later neo-Confucians and then turn for the last part of the course to an application of the Confucian ethical tradition to the modern world, specifically looking at political questions emerging in modern Asian societies. Same as RELG 218.

PHIL 225: Personal Integrity in a Digital Age. 3 hours.
Drawing from both media studies and philosophy (including political philosophy, ethics and information ethics), students will examine central ethical challenges raised by digital media, their affordances and their uses.

PHIL 250: Business Ethics. 3 hours.
This course surveys major ethical theories and applies them to contemporary global issues in business. 

PHIL 276: Field Experience. 1-3 hours.
Allows students to apply skills and abilities gained through studies in the department (e.g., critical thinking and logic, values analysis, medical ethics, Hebrew, Greek, etc.) to specific and practical contexts in the larger community. Recent experiences include serving as critical-thinking mentors in the Phelps Gifted Education Program and for middle and high school students involved in the STEP UP program. Students will receive one credit hour per 40-50 hours of experience/service. Same as RELG 276.

PHIL 277: Philosophy of Science. 3 hours.
Our world is embedded within a powerful narrative that sees science as the epistemic path towards understanding what reality is and how it behaves, providing science with a tremendous amount of authority and power in modern discourse (cultural, scientific, and interpersonal). Is this power and authority legitimate? In this course we will analyze science philosophically, questioning the assumptions underlying the scientific method, asking whether science is objective or value neutral, and asking whether science makes historical progress, or whether science can ever reveal anything to us about the true nature of reality itself.

PHIL 305: Ethical Issues in Health Care. 3 hours.
This course explores the ethical dilemmas confronting contemporary medicine. It both inquires into a broad range of topics (abortion, euthanasia, health-care costs, organ transplantation, etc.) and provides a thorough study of ethical theories that may be applied to address the dilemmas of modern medicine. Same as RELG 305.

PHIL 308: History of Women Philosophers. 3 hours.
An introduction to women’s contributions to the history of philosophical thought. The course moves from ancient Greece through twentieth-century Western Europe and North America. The course considers the methodology and style of women philosophers and examines their reflections on the nature of reality, God, the human person and the human condition, knowledge, freedom and moral responsibility, sexual identity and difference, society, ethics and politics, language and science. Same as RELG 308.

PHIL 309: Christian Ethics. 3 hours.
This course explores the biblical resources for Christian moral decision making, examines the historical development of moral theology (from the early church through the twentieth century) and addresses selected moral issues. Same as RELG 309.

PHIL 310: Asian Ethics. 3 hours.
In this course, students will be expected to confront, reflect on, and critically think through the central ethical traditions as offered by the West and then work to see if these traditions find analogues in the Eastern Asian tradition. Specifically, this course will require a close examination of western ethical theories and then a close reading and examination of the central texts of Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism.

PHIL 311: History of Philosophy I: Ancient Greek. 3 hours.
An introduction to prominent figures and doctrinal developments in the history of ancient Greek philosophical thought. The course focuses on the primary texts of the pre-Socratics, Sophists, Plato and Aristotle and examines their reflections on the origin, nature and architecture of the universe, the nature and possibility of human knowledge and scientific theorizing, the human being and the human condition, as well as related ethical and political issues. Same as RELG 311.

PHIL 312: History of Philosophy II: Medieval. 3 hours.
An introduction to prominent figures and doctrinal developments in the history of medieval philosophical thought from the fourth through the fourteenth centuries. The course examines medieval reflections on the existence, nature and knowability of God, the origin and architecture of the universe, the human person, the freedom of the human will, human knowledge, the relation between faith and reason, theology and philosophy, as well as related ethical and political issues. Same as RELG 312.

PHIL 313: History of Philosophy III: Modern. 3 hours.
A thorough examination of the period of philosophy stretching from the late 1500s to the late 1700s. We will critically analyze original works by Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. Attention will be given to questions concerning the nature of mind, metaphysics and epistemology.

PHIL 314: History of Philosophy IV: Contemporary European. 3 hours.
A study of the most prominent types of philosophy and their influence in contemporary Europe. The course begins with Nietzsche, Husserl and Heidegger, and works through the reaction to their work in Critical Theory, Derrida, Foucault, Levinas and others. The course seeks to provide students with an understanding of the philosophical issues and the impact of philosophy on European culture.

PHIL 315: Buddhism and the Joy of Being Awake. 3 hours.
An in-depth study of Buddhism through the critical reading of primary source texts in translation. The course examines the conceptual framework of early Buddhist understandings of an overall worldview, ultimate Reality, the origin, nature and destiny of the cosmos, and of human beings as well, the human condition, the ultimate aim of human existence and a prescription for actualizing that goal. The course then explores the subsequent historical and doctrinal developments of Theravada, Mahayana, Zen and Vajrayana Buddhism. The course concludes with a look at contemporary Buddhism, its presence in the West, and its modern challenges, some contemporary Buddhist political leaders and the lives and contributions of Buddhist women. Same as RELG 315.

PHIL 316: Ethics. 3 hours.
Students will be expected to confront, reflect on, compare and contrast, apply, and critically think through, the central ethical traditions offered throughout human history—particularly virtue ethics, deontology, and consequentialism. The course begins with a discussion of critical questions relevant to the study of ethics, such as relativism, human nature, and free will, then turns to examining the main theories and ends with criticisms of ethics.

PHIL 320: Environmental Ethics. 3 hours.
This course seeks to develop a better understanding of both the factual and ethical dimensions of our current and possible future environments. Explores several contemporary approaches in environmental ethics (including deep ecology, ecofeminism, animal rights, market efficiencies, the loss of biodiversity and responses from deontological, utilitarian and virtue ethics, etc.) and representative theoretical problems (e.g., Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” vs. natural rights views, ecological holism vs. moral atomism, market efficiency vs. moral obligations, etc.). Using a case-study approach, students then learn to apply different ethical frameworks to several ethical choices occasioned by human interaction with the natural order. Same as ENVR 320

PHIL 336: Philosophy of the Self. 3 hours.
Although many tend to treat selfhood and its structure as an obvious given, philosophers have developed a complicated variety of doctrines to talk about what selves are and how our modern idea of the self came into existence.  In this course, students will survey this rich philosophical history.

PHIL 351: Existentialism in Philosophy, Film and Literature. 3 hours.
Does life have a meaning?  If not, then what’s the point of living?  In this course we will study the movement known as existentialism, famous for exploring these questions.  We will read various philosophers; such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Sartre; watch four existential films; such as Kirosawa’s Ikiru and read four literary works that deal with existential themes; such as Dostoyevski’s Notes from the UndergroundSame as RELG 351.

PHIL 374: Philosophy of Mind. 3 hours.
One of the most perplexing problems to haunt philosophy, but particularly since the 1600s, is the mind-body problem.  Fundamentally, we will concern ourselves with investigating the (purported) connection between consciousness (the mind) and the physical world (specifically, the body).  In this course, we will engage in a very in-depth theoretical investigation into the (perhaps limited) degree to which psychology can explain consciousness, and relatedly  whether a complete study of consciousness necessarily requires inquiries outside of science as a whole, whether a coherent explanation of consciousness permits or rejects traditional notions of free will, how information and consciousness are related, the degree to which artificial intelligence (the creation of consciousness) is possible and the possibility of forging a link between explaining consciousness and understanding foundational metaphysics.

PHIL 376: Philosophy of Religion. 3 hours.
A critical examination of some of the major interpretations of God, humanity, evil, human destiny and history, and immortality. Each student is encouraged to work out a personal constructive philosophy of religion. Same as RELG 376.

PHIL 493: Senior Seminar. 3 hours.

PHIL 290, 390, 490: Selected Topics. 1-3 hours each.

PHIL 391, 392, 491, 492: Research.

PHIL 495, 496: Honors Research.

PHIL 397, 398, 497, 498: Internship.


Religion Courses:

RELG 109: Introduction to the Study of Religion
RELG 202: Religions of the World: Middle Eastern
RELG 203: Introduction to the Bible
RELG 204: Introduction to History of Christianity
RELG 205: The Life and Teachings of Jesus
RELG 206: Eastern Religions and Philosophies
RELG 218: Confucianism
RELG 270: Who is Jesus?
RELG 275: Does God Exist?
RELG 276: Field Experience
RELG 305 Ethical Issues in Health Care
RELG 308: History of Women Philosophers
RELG 309: Christian Ethics
RELG 310: The Bible and Sexual Ethics
RELG 311: History of Philosophy I: Ancient Greek
RELG 312: History of Philosophy II: Medieval
RELG 315: Buddhism and the Joy of Being Awake
RELG 325: Living with Joy at Life's End
RELG 351: Existentialism in Philosophy, Film amd Literature
RELG 368: 20th Century Christian Thought
RELG 376: Philosophy of Religion
RELG 380: African American Religions in the United States
RELG 385: From Babylon to Berlin: A History of Anti-Semitism
RELG 493: Senior Seminar
RELG 290, 390, 490: Selected Topics
RELG 391, 392, 491, 492: Research
RELG 495, 496: Honors Research
RELG 397, 398, 497, 498: Internship

RELG 109: Introduction to the Study of Religion. 3 hours.
Religion and religious ideas are central to all cultures and societies, including our own. This course will look at the broad range of cultural forms we have come to call religion, examine how these forms shape cultures and societies, and finally, by examining what these forms have in common and how they differ, we will determine what it is we study when we study religion.

RELG 202: Religions of the World: Middle Eastern. 3 hours.
A comparative study of the major ideas of those religions most directly related to and influencing the West:  Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

RELG 203: Introduction to the Bible. 3 hours.
An introductory study of the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian New Testament with attention to the literature of these sacred texts, the historical circumstances of their development and the methods of textual interpretation.

RELG 204: Introduction to History of Christianity. 3 hours.
An introductory survey of the history of Christianity. Attention is given to the Early Church Fathers, the Medieval era, the Reformation, the church’s response to the Enlightenment and the Contemporary period.

RELG 205: The Life and Teachings of Jesus. 3 hours.
A study of the person, work and teaching of Jesus as reflected in Biblical records, with some attention given to later and current interpretations of His life.

RELG 206: Eastern Religions and Philosophies. 3 hours.
An introduction to Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. Specifically, the course focuses on the systems of value that emerge from these traditions and, where appropriate, compares and contrasts them with the values systems of western traditions. The conceptual framework guiding this examination incorporates the tradition’s overall world view, conception of God or ultimate reality, its understanding of the origin, nature and destiny of the cosmos and of human beings, a diagnosis of the human condition and a prescription for attaining the ultimate goal or purpose of human life. Same as PHIL 206.

RELG 218: Confucianism. 3 hours.
In this course we will study the ancient pre-Qin Confucian ethical tradition, concentrating first on the classic Four Books — Confucius’ Analects, the Mengzi, the Daxue (the ‘Great Learning’) and the Zhongyong (the ‘Doctrine of the Mean’) and then moving to the last pre-Qin Confucian work, the Xunzi. Once we have completed this fundamental survey, we will turn to selected works from later neo-Confucians and then turn for the last part of the course to an application of the Confucian ethical tradition to the modern world, specifically looking at political questions emerging in modern Asian societies. Same as PHIL 218.

RELG 270: Who is Jesus? 3 hours.
This course is devoted to understanding the multi-faceted historic and contemporary conversations about the identity, nature and influence of Jesus of Nazareth.  It is divided into four sections.  In the first, differing images of Jesus from the New Testament are examined.  In the second, attention is given to the diverse theological understandings of Jesus throughout history.  Part three examines currents in thought about Jesus from the contemporary period.  Part four gives students the opportunity to share own research and findings into the question of Jesus’ identity.

RELG 275: Does God Exist? 3 hours.
This course is designed to help students explore the question of divinity from a theological, philosophical and historical perspective.  Students are introduced to the arguments for the existence of God as well as the arguments — both historic and contemporary — for atheism and agnosticism.  Attention is given to images of God from historic religious traditions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Some focus is also directed to the Eastern interpretations.  The course gives special attention toward the close to contemporary reinterpretations of God language.  Finally, all students are given the opportunity to chart their own journey through this material in a closing intellectual biography.

RELG 276: Field Experience. 1-3 hours.
Allows students to apply skills and abilities gained through studies in the department (e.g., critical thinking and logic, values analysis, medical ethics, Hebrew, Greek, etc.) to specific and practical contexts in the larger community. Recent experiences include serving as critical-thinking mentors in the Phelps Gifted Education Program and for middle and high school students involved in the STEP UP program. Students will receive one credit hour per 40-50 hours of experience/service. Same as PHIL 276.

RELG 305: Ethical Issues in Health Care. 3 hours.
This course explores the ethical dilemmas confronting contemporary medicine. It both inquires into a broad range of topics (abortion, euthanasia, health care costs, organ transplantation, etc.) and provides a thorough study of ethical theories that may be applied to address the dilemmas of modern medicine. Same as PHIL 305.

RELG 308: History of Women Philosophers. 3 hours.
An introduction to women’s contributions to the history of philosophical thought. The course moves from ancient Greece up through twentieth-century Western Europe and North America. The course considers the methodology and style of women philosophers and examines their reflections on the nature of reality, God, the human person and the human condition, knowledge, freedom and moral responsibility, sexual identity and difference, society, ethics and politics, language and science. Same as PHIL 308.

RELG 309: Christian Ethics. 3 hours.
This course explores the biblical resources for Christian moral decision making, examines the historical development of moral theology (from the early church through the twentieth century) and addresses selected moral issues. Same as PHIL 309.

RELG 310: The Bible and Sexual Ethics. 3 hours.
This course explores the Bible through theories of anthropology, sociology and cultural criticism. It looks specifically at stories in the Bible that concern marriage, sex and violence. 

RELG 311: History of Philosophy I: Ancient Greek. 3 hours.
An introduction to prominent figures and doctrinal developments in the history of ancient Greek philosophical thought. The course focuses on the primary texts of the pre-Socratics, Sophists, Plato and Aristotle and examines their reflections on the origin, nature and architecture of the universe, the nature and possibility of human knowledge and scientific theorizing, the human being, and the human condition, as well as related ethical and political issues. Same as PHIL 311.

RELG 312: History of Philosophy II: Medieval. 3 hours.
An introduction to prominent figures and doctrinal developments in the history of medieval philosophical thought from the fourth through the fourteenth centuries. The course examines medieval reflections on the existence, nature and knowability of God, the origin and architecture of the universe, the human person, the freedom of the human will, human knowledge, the relation between faith and reason, and theology and philosophy, as well as related ethical and political issues. Same as PHIL 312.

RELG 315: Buddhism and the Joy of Being Awake. 3 hours.
An in-depth study of Buddhism through the critical reading of primary source texts in translation. The course examines the conceptual framework of early Buddhist understandings of an overall worldview, ultimate Reality, the origin, nature and destiny of the cosmos, and of human beings as well, the human condition, the ultimate aim of human existence and a prescription for actualizing that goal. The course then explores the subsequent historical and doctrinal developments of Theravada, Mahayana, Zen and Vajrayana Buddhism. The course concludes with a look at contemporary Buddhism, its presence in the West, and its modern challenges, some contemporary Buddhist political leaders, and the lives and contributions of Buddhist women. Same as PHIL 315.

RELG 325: Living with Joy at Life’s End. 3 hours.
This course explores the experience of dying in contemporary American culture. Participants are introduced to the philosophical, theological and spiritual realities of aging and death.  The ethical debates of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are discussed and attention is given to the psychological and sociological dimensions of the end-of-life journey.  The class also has a field experience with selected residents of a nursing home.  Working in pairs, the students conduct interviews across the semester and produce short “life review” books (20 pages) recording the stories of each participating elderly person’s life.

RELG 351: Existentialism in Philosophy, Film and Literature. 3 hours.
Does life have a meaning?  If not, what’s the point of living?  In this course we will study the movement known as existentialism, famous for exploring these questions.  We will read various philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Sartre watch four existential films; such as Kirosawa’s Ikiru and read four literary works that deal with existential themes; such as Dostoyevski’s Notes from the UndergroundSame as PHIL 351.

RELG 368: 20th Century Christian Thought. 3 hours.
An examination of the works of some of the major Christian thinkers of the twentieth century in their response to the intellectual and cultural movements of the times.

RELG 376: Philosophy of Religion. 3 hours.
A critical examination of some of the major interpretations of God, humanity, evil, human destiny and history, and immortality. Each student is encouraged to work out a personal constructive philosophy of religion. Same as PHIL 376.

RELG 380: African American Religions in the United States. 3 hours.
This course is primarily a historical survey of the roles and functions of religion in the diverse communities of African peoples in North America. We will begin with a very brief look at African religions. We will then look at the various forms these religions take in the slave communities and in the abolitionist movements. Religion continues to be an integral component of African-Americans throughout the wars, the great depression, through the struggle for human rights, and of course, today. We will observe the intersection of life, economic, politics, etc. with religion through readings, discussions, films, music, and, if time allows, visits to local churches.

RELG 385: From Babylon to Berlin: A History of Anti-Semitism. 3 hours.
This course seeks to engage students in a critical consideration of the social and religious/theological implications of Nazi Germany’s “war against the Jews,” the intentional and calculated destruction of some 6 million European Jews (accompanied by the enormous suffering and losses experienced by other “undesirable” groups) which is referred to as the Shoah, or Holocaust. In order to do this, students will consider those events and perceptions that allowed the Holocaust to come about, particularly the development of racial anti-Semitism and religious anti-Judaism, which traces part of its lineage back to diasporic Judaism, the Christian scriptures, and to Christian theological perspectives, values, and actions of the early and medieval church. We will explore the behaviors and teachings of the church, its leaders, and lay adherents during the holocaust, as well as the religious motivations for the extraordinary courage displayed by those Christians who risked their lives to save Jews and others. We will ask, to what degree did these early writings influence the anti-Jewish propaganda of the Third Reich? Finally, we will consider post-holocaust reactions of both Jews and Christians and ask, has the event of the Jewish holocaust caused fundamental change in the relationship between those in power or those in the center, and those who are considered “other?” This question would consider directly issues that emerge around race, sexual orientation, class, and gender.

RELG 290, 390, 490: Selected Topics. 1-3 hours.

RELG 391, 392, 491, 492: Research.

RELG 397, 398, 497, 498: Internship.

RELG 493: Senior Seminar. 3 hours.

RELG 495, 496: Honors Research.