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Philosophy and Religion Minor

The Philosophy and Religion minor requires are minimum of 15 credit hours.

All prerequisites must be completed prior to enrollment in the following courses.

Ethics (3 hrs.) 
Choose one course from the following:

PHIL 305: Ethical Issues in Health Care
3 credit 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.

PHIL 310: Asian Ethics
3 credit 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 316: Ethics
3 credit 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 credit 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.

RELG 309: Christian Ethics
3 credit 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.

Philosophical and Religious Meaning of Life (6 hrs.) 
Choose two courses from the following:

PHIL 205: Meaning of Life
3 credit hours

The meaning of life is a question that all people confront at some point in their lives. This course will take up this question, reading selections from the writings of great thinkers in both the Eastern and Western intellectual traditions, and using the tools of conceptual analysis and critique to assess the various answers that have been given to it. The following is a partial list of themes that will be covered during the course of a semester. The course seeks to provide students with an introduction to the fundamental issues at stake, along with the means for assessing these issues. The aim is to get students to reflect on their lives and what makes them meaningful, and then to articulate their own vision of a meaningful life.

PHIL 218: Thinking Like a Confucian
3 credit 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.

RELG 203: Introduction to the Bible
3 credit 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 206: Eastern Religions and Philosophies
3 credit 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.

Electives (6 hrs.)
Choose two courses from the following:

PHIL 105: Introduction to Philosophy
3 credit 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 205: Meaning of Life
3 credit hours

The meaning of life is a question that all people confront at some point in their lives. This course will take up this question, reading selections from the writings of great thinkers in both the Eastern and Western intellectual traditions, and using the tools of conceptual analysis and critique to assess the various answers that have been given to it. The following is a partial list of themes that will be covered during the course of a semester. The course seeks to provide students with an introduction to the fundamental issues at stake, along with the means for assessing these issues. The aim is to get students to reflect on their lives and what makes them meaningful, and then to articulate their own vision of a meaningful life.

PHIL 214: Free Will & Responsibility
3 credit 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 credit 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: Thinking Like a Confucian
3 credit 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.

PHIL 219: Daoism
3 credit hours

Whereas modern Western ethical theories and philosophers spend a great deal of time focused on understanding what kinds of actions people ought to perform, ancient Eastern thinkers focus instead of what one should be, and on the kind of overall life that a person ought to live. In other words, ancient thinkers tend to focus more on developing character (or virtue) than on foregrounding action. Of those ancient Eastern philosophies, the most well- known are Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. In this course, we will concentrate closely on Daoism, focusing on understanding the kinds of people that this philosophy seems to suggest that we ought to embrace becoming more like (the “sage”). As we will see, Daoist writings place a great deal of emphasis on naturalness (ziran), a way of achieving a state of ‘flow’ (or harmony) with the natural world that rests on developing a number of key virtues or character traits such as emptiness, receptivity, and compassion. In this course we will strive to understand how the philosophical Daoists understood (in different ways) these key aims by centering on the two most famous Daoist texts, the Daodejing (~500 B.C.E) and the Zhuangzi (~300 B.C.E). As we proceed through these difficult and challenging texts, you will be expected to use these ancient philosophies as a springboard for thinking critically your own beliefs regarding the constitution of a truly authentic lifestyle.

PHIL 277: Philosophy of Science
3 credit 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 300: Classical Philosophers
3 credit hours

An introduction to the prominent figures and doctrinal developments in the history of philosophy from the ancient Greek philosophers to Medieval philosophy. The course focuses on the primary texts of the pre-Socratics, the Sophists, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, among others, examining their reflections on metaphysics, science and epistemology, as well as ethics and political philosophy.

PHIL 313: Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant
3 credit 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: Contemporary European Philosophy
3 credit 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 351: Existentialism in Philosophy, Film and Literature
3 credit 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 Underground.

PHIL 374: Philosophy of Mind
3 credit 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.

PLSC 253: Political Philosophy
3 credit hours

This course is a foundational exploration of the key theories and principles of political philosophy, including the discussion of the issues of political authority, the justification of the state and its coercive power, social contract theories and the role of consent, rights and justice, civil disobedience, race and gender, issues that shaped political and moral thinking from antiquity to the present. Students will have the opportunity to read and discuss authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Marx, Rousseau, Mill, and John Rawls. Attention will also be given to contemporary discussions of these issues.

RELG 109: Introduction to the Study of Religion
3 credit 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 203: Introduction to the Bible
3 credit 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 credit 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 credit 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 credit 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.

RELG 208: Life and Teachings of Paul
3 credit hours

An in depth study of the history, themes, and theologies developed by Paul in his letters, and by the Early Churches as they engaged with his writings.

RELG 275: Does God Exist?
3 credit 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 325: Living with Joy at Life’s End
3 credit 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 368: 20th Century Christian Thought
3 credit hours

An upper level religion course.