Philosophy and Religious Studies Courses

  • Philosophy

    PHIL-100. Philosophical Concepts

    This survey course explores major problem areas of Philosophy—metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, and axiology—to introduce students to philosophy as both a method of inquiring about and making sense of the self and the world. Primary emphasis is placed on readings from outside the traditional canon of philosophy, with a focus on themes of diversity, inequality, and moral rights and obligations. Three hours per week.Four semester hours. (DN, H, O.)

    PHIL-102. Philosophy and Film

    This is an introductory course that looks at philosophical questions raised in various films. Examples include: considering personal identity through Memento and Being John Malkovich; humanness and the nature of the mind through Blade Runner and Ex Machina; social justice and ethical issues through films like Do the Right Thing, Pariah, and Ma Vie en Rose; and the meaning of life through Ikiru, Life of Pi, and Encounters at the Edge of the World. Philosophy texts relevant to the issues raised accompany each film. Three hours lecture and a two-hour screening per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-106. The Meaning of Life

    A philosophical examination of whether life has a purpose or is absurd and meaningless. Particular attention is given to what it means for something to have a purpose, what are possible sources of a purpose, and the issues of the afterlife and God. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL/GWSS-107. Philosophy of Love and Sex

    What do we mean when we talk about love? How do we understand what motivates our interests in and movements toward relationships of pleasure and community? This course conducts its inquiry of love, sex/ualities, and pleasures with a ground in Black Feminist love-praxis and erotics and how this obligates us to others in various loving and pleasure engagements, including but not limited to transformative justice, friendship, wisdom, BDSM/Kink, asexuality, and sex work. The texts for this course range broadly within the discipline of philosophy (such as: black feminist/womanist thought, Latinx thought, feminist philosophy of science, and genealogy), and literature (as philosophical text) to engage with the multiple ways our lives are shaped by our situation as loving beings and the transformative possibilities of love. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, H, O.)

    PHIL-109. Topics in Philosophy

    Topics may include special issues and movements. Open to students with no previous experience in philosophy. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-110. Introduction to Philosophies

    How can philosophy help you begin to articulate what should matter to you and how we should live together? One of the ways it does this is by first questioning how it is we can understand the world. In Introduction to Philosophies, we take seriously the notion that there are multiple ways of coming to knowledge about the world, ourselves, and our place in that world. This introductory course explores major problem areas of philosophy from non-Western thinkers such as metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, and ontology. Primary emphasis is placed on readings from Africana, American Indigenous, Chinese, and Indian thought, with a focus on themes of personhood/constructions of the self, knowledge, ethics, and obligations. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (GN, H.)

    PHIL/RELS-220. Philosophy of Religion.

    A philosophical study of both belief itself as a psychological attitude and what has been believed about God. Particular attention is given to such questions as whether or not belief is a matter of choice and whether or not one must have a reason to believe in God. Questions about the natures of God and man, evil and immortality are also addressed. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL/GWSS-221. Prison Studies/The Problem of Freedom

    Is it possible to think of freedom without framing it against a background of various unfreedoms? This course looks at how the development of the notion of the modern liberal subject is predicated on structures of unfreedom, specifically prisons. Taking prison abolition as its starting point, this course explores an historical account of the prison industrial complex and interrogates the constitutive relationship of prison in the lives of people with precarious identities. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, H, O.)

    PHIL-227. Figure Studies

    This course focuses specifically on one (or two intimately related) figures per semester —and the way they engage with major problem areas of philosophy—from within and without the canon of western philosophy. Open to students with no previous experience in philosophy. This course may be repeated for credit. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H; possibly DN or O depending on topic.)

    PHIL-230. Philosophy of Race.

    This course will study the philosophical assumptions behind various concepts of race, the social realities underlying those concepts, and the ethics and politics of racial identity. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL/POL-237. Political Philosophy

    This course examines the nature of justice through a careful reading of major works in the history of political philosophy. Specifically, we will consider selected political writings of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, and Marx. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O, SS.)

    PHIL-240. Ethics

    A study of the theories of ethical relativism, psychological and ethical egoism, altruism, utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, and virtue theory, and of various views on the human good, virtue, the role of motive and consequences in determining right and wrong conduct, and the like. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL/CS-243. Technology and Ethics

    Data privacy, digital surveillance, data mining, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, algorithms used by government and law enforcement, doxxing - technology raises many new and old ethical questions. In this core capstone course we use a variety of ways of asking to address these ethical questions: empirical, philosophical, political, creative, and other ways of asking. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (CCAP, H, O.)

    PHIL/RELS/GWSS-244. Work and Meaning

    What is work? What’s the difference between real work, bullshit work, and play? Why do we pay people for some kinds of work and not others? Are we all just naturally lazy, or do we really want to do something meaningful with our lives? Why do so many people hate their jobs? And does what you do make you who you are? We will explore these questions and many, many more through classic and contemporary readings, impassioned discussions, and a variety of in-class experiments. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-246. Bioethics

    An introduction to and examination of some major issues in bioethics, including abortion, euthanasia, surrogate motherhood, informed consent, doctor/patient confidentiality, medical futility, the distribution of health care resources, genetic engineering, prenatal testing, stem cell research, and medical experimentation. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, DN.)

    PHIL-247. Business Ethics

    An examination of some major issues in business ethics, including duties to consumers and investors, duties between employers and employees, the ethics of advertising and marketing, accounting and finance ethics, hiring and firing, justice and the market system, the problem of public goods, social responsibility and stakeholders, whistleblowing, conflicts of interest, and the environment. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H)

    PHIL/ENV-248. Environmental Ethics

    The central issue in environmental ethics concerns what things in nature have moral standing and how conflicts of interest among them are to be resolved. After an introduction to ethical theory, topics to be covered include anthropocentrism, the moral status of non-human sentient beings, preservation of endangered species and the wilderness, holism versus individualism, and the land ethic. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-249. Problematic Faves

    Artists are not saints. Many do morally bad things. How should we react to morally bad artists? Is it wrong to listen to their music, watch their films, read their books, admire their paintings? Can we separate the art from the artist? Should we separate the art from the artist? In this class, we will explore these and related questions. We will also critically investigate the diagnosis that we live in a problematic “cancel culture”. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O.)

    PHIL-254. Early Modern Philosophy

    An examination of the major works of four or more of the major European philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Among the candidates for study are Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Malebranche, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Reid, and Kant. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-258. Existentialism

    Existentialism boasts a long philosophical and literary tradition that extends from Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, to such formidable later figures as Miguel de Unamuno, Nicholas Berdyaev, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Does life have any meaning? Are we free to shape our own lives? How do concepts such as existence, essence and free will affect our world views? In this class, we’ll read the great Existentialist writers in English, but approach the subject with international breadth. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL/MATH-260. Logic

    An introduction to the concepts and techniques used in symbolic reasoning, primarily through the study of first-order logic, the translation of sentences of ordinary English into a formal language, and the construction of derivations. Topics include: formalization, proofs, mathematical induction, propositional and predicate logic, quantifiers, and sets. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (R.)

    PHIL-261. Philosopher’s Toolkit

    The philosopher’s toolkit is a treasure trove of helpful skills: close reading, precise writing, detailed analysis, argumentation. The course includes an introduction to the concepts and techniques used in symbolic reasoning, primarily through the study of first-order logic and explores how these concepts can be applied to reasons and arguments in philosophical texts and day-to-day life (in editorials, Supreme Court decisions, conversations with friends, etc.), with a particular focus on the metacognition of argumentation. In addition to engaging in philosophical analysis, students will develop the ability to understand and communicate what kind of philosophical “move” they are making: drawing a distinction, resolving an ambiguity, offering an objection, etc. Students will develop their philosophical writing and public speaking abilities by engaging with philosophical topics of their choosing. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, R.)

    PHIL-274. Philosophy of Mind

    Zombies, robots, and Martians… oh my! All of these figures will be discussed during our semester-long journey into philosophy of mind. How ought we understand the mind? Is it distinct from our brains and bodies? What does it mean to be conscious? Can robots have minds? Can they be conscious? These are just some of the interesting questions we will explore! Three hours per week Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-277. Echo Chambers, Experts, and Disagreement

    This course explores questions in social and political epistemology. Many say we are in an unprecedented and toxic belief environment: a post-truth area of “alternative facts”, an information landscape in which seemingly inescapable echo chambers threaten our ability to access and respond rationally to evidence, a time in which extreme political and social polarization make agreement about the nature of the world be live in incredibly difficult. In this class, we will investigate this characterization of our epistemic lives. Whom should we trust? What is an expert? What should we do in the face of disagreement? What is an echo chamber, and can we know if we are in one? If we think we’re in an echo chamber, should we try and break out? Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O.)

    PHIL-279. Introduction to Phenomenology

    Phenomenology is the study of lived experience. What that means for this course is an interrogation of essence of embodiment. What do bodies mean? What does it mean to be embodied as human? What essential features and ways-of-being are unique to humans and set them apart from non-human animals? Are all homo sapiens human? This course engages in a philosophical examination of perception and the science of lived experience including the content of perceptual experience, the partiality of perception, the role of sense-data and sensations in meaning-making. This course will largely focus on Merleau-Ponty’s writings on the lived body and will interrogate those writings with readings on different experiences of embodiment through Queer Theory, Critical Phenomenology, american Indian Philosophy, and Black Feminist Thought. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, H.)

    PHIL-301. Reading in Philosophy 

    Individual study of one or more selected topics in the philosophical literature. May include preparation of a bibliography for a proposal for subsequent research. Requires consent of a member of the department who will serve as adviser. This course is graded S/U. One semester hour.

    PHIL-302. Reading in Philosophy 

    Individual study of one or more selected topics in the philosophical literature. May include preparation of a bibliography for a proposal for subsequent research. Requires consent of a member of the department who will serve as adviser. This course is graded S/U. Two semester hours.

    PHIL-309. Advanced Topics in Philosophy

    Topics may include special issues and movements. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H; possibly DN, GN, O, or CCAP depending on topic.)

    PHIL/EDUC-310W. Educational Theory and Philosophy

    A study in the theories and philosophies that have shaped educational practice and policy, both historically and in current times. Students will engage in close reading of primary texts in seminar-style classes and through extensive written work. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-311. Reading in Philosophy

    Group study of an important or classic philosophical book or a selection of articles centered around a philosophical topic. This course is graded S/U. One semester hour.

    PHIL/RELS-313. Marx, Nietzsche, Freud

    Nietzsche writes, “We are not ‘men of knowledge’ with respect to ourselves.” Marx calls for the abolition of religion in order that we may “abandon a condition which requires illusions.” Freud insists that we are not “masters in our own houses”: his theory of the unconscious challenges the comfortable notion that we have unmediated access to knowledge of ourselves. Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud turn their critical energies in different directions, but they share the conviction that our consciousness is fundamentally false consciousness. For these thinkers, what we think we know about ourselves, others, and the world around us requires constant critique, and our certainties are always susceptible to radical doubt. In this course, we will study key writings by these theorists, rightfully termed the three “masters of suspicion,” with particular attention to Marx’s view of the economic basis of human relations and his conception of alienated labor, to Nietzsche’s “perspectivism” and his assault upon conventional explanations for morality, and to Freud’s account of the unconscious forces shaping human behavior, relationships, and institutions. Emphasis will be on close readings of primary texts. No prior exposure to these thinkers will be assumed. Three hours per week. Four semester hours (H.)

    PHIL/GWSS-317. Trans Theory

    The past few years have seen unprecedented conversations on a national scale about the fluidity of gender and what it means to be trans. Increasing awareness of the complexities of gender has saturated mainstream media and led to an explosion of scholarship in the field of transgender studies. Attending to individual narratives and artifacts of popular culture as well as to theories of embodiment, power, identity, and difference, this course surveys theoretical works alongside history, memoir, and fiction. We will pay specific attention to the intersections of gender identity and gender presentation with categories of race, class, and sexuality. Prior coursework in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies will be useful but is not required. A willingness to grapple with difficult texts and concepts will, however, be an absolute necessity. Three hours per week. Four semester hours (H.)

    PHIL/RELS-323. What Really Matters in Life?

    Are you curious about what makes for a good life? Everyone wants to be happy, but the pursuit of happiness may be illusory if not guided by critical thinking. In this course, we will think together about what goods and ends ought to be pursued to live an intellectually and morally satisfying life. We will explore questions such as: Is it really possible for one to be happy without cultivating a concern for the well-being of others? Can self-interest co-exist with the ethical life? What are the marks of a life lived with authenticity? We will struggle with these questions and students will be also asked to think about and reflect on such matters in their own lives. This course is particularly fitting for upper-class students contemplating their career choices and vocational path upon graduation. Three hours per week. Four semester hours (CCAP, H, O.)

    PHIL/POL-337. Classical Political Philosophy

    This course examines the classical understanding of politics through a careful reading of selected works of Plato and Aristotle. We will consider such issues as the nature of justice, the meaning of moral and intellectual virtue, and the relation between philosophy and politics. Prerequisite: PHIL/POL-237. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O, SS.)

    PHIL/POL-338. Modern Political Philosophy

    This course examines and evaluates the world-revolutionary challenge to classical and medieval political philosophy posed by such writers as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau and Hegel. Prerequisite: PHIL/POL-237. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O, SS.)

    PHIL/POL-339. Contemporary Political Philosophy

    This course examines selected authors and issues in contemporary political philosophy. We will read the works of such authors as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Kojeve, Rawls and Foucault. We will consider such issues as historicism, contemporary liberalism, feminism, and Marxism. Prerequisite: PHIL/POL-237. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O, SS.)

    PHIL-340. Metaethics

    A close examination of one or more controversial issues and theories in metaethics. Among the possible topics are: the nature of moral theory, the foundations of normative judgment, the “internalism” or “externalism” of practical reasoning, realism vs. anti-realism in ethical theory, the roles of reason and emotion in morality, moral skepticism, virtue theory, utilitarianism, and Aristotelian or Kantian moral views. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-344. Topics in Ethics

    An intensive investigation of one or more topics in ethics—such as well-being, autonomy, rights, consequentialism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, and other topics. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-345. Philosophical Problems of Literature

    Is it ever ethical for a novelist to base characters on real people, possibly violating their expectations of privacy? Why does fiction move us even though what happens in a novel is not “real”? Can fiction ever argue for something? This course examines such questions in the light of philosophical thinking in ethics, the theory of knowledge, political theory, and aesthetics. Other topics may include exploration of the concepts of style, metaphor and criticism. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL-370. Topics in Metaphysics and Epistemology

    An intensive investigation of a few topics in metaphysics—such as personal identity, possibility and necessity, universals and particulars, causality—or in epistemology—such as skepticism, a priori knowledge, the problem of induction, knowledge as justified true belief. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    PHIL/GWSS-371. Identity, Credibility, Knowledge, Power: Feminist Epistemologies

    This course explores feminist approaches to questions concerning knowledge, justification, and rationality. We will look in particular at feminist standpoint theory, feminist empiricism, and feminist analyses of epistemic oppression and justice. In doing so, we will engage with the following questions: Does a person’s social identity (e.g., gender or racialized identity) impact what they know? What are they justified in believing? Whether they are credible with respect to certain topics? Are certain social locations epistemically privileged? Is rationality gendered? Is knowledge socially constructed? Are we ever obligated to believe someone? Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O.)

    PHIL-381. Internship

    An academic/work experience under the supervision of an internship adviser and an on-site supervisor. Students must document their experience according to the requirements delineated in the College catalogue section on Internships. Contact the chair of the department for further details. Open to juniors and seniors. The term during which the internship work is performed will be noted by one of the following letters, to be added immediately after the internship course number: A (fall), B (winter), C (spring), or D (summer). Internships undertaken abroad will be so indicated by the letter I. The intern must complete a minimum of 120 hours of work. Prerequisite: approval of a faculty internship adviser. Three semester hours. (XLP.)

    PHIL-382. Internship

    An academic/work experience under the supervision of an internship adviser and an on-site supervisor. Students must document their experience according to the requirements delineated in the College catalogue section on Internships. Contact the chair of the department for further details. Open to juniors and seniors. The term during which the internship work is performed will be noted by one of the following letters, to be added immediately after the internship course number: A (fall), B (winter), C (spring), or D (summer). Internships undertaken abroad will be so indicated by the letter I. The intern must complete a minimum of 160 hours of work. Prerequisite: approval of a faculty internship adviser. Four semester hours. (XLP.)

    PHIL-391. Independent Study in Philosophy

    Independent work on a philosophical topic, under the supervision of a faculty advisor. A substantial written final product is required. Prerequisites: at least three Philosophy courses at the 200 level or above, a written project proposal, and permission of a department faculty member who will serve as advisor. Four semester hours (XLP.)

    PHIL-404W. Senior Seminar in Philosophy

    The aim of this capstone course is to explore in great depth an area of philosophical concern using all the tools students have developed as philosophy majors. There will be several papers and oral presentations. Open only to senior philosophy majors or by departmental permission. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. Four semester hours. (CCAP, H.)

    PHIL/POL-437W. Seminar in Political Philosophy

    This capstone course is an intensive study of a special topic in political philosophy emphasizing original research and substantial oral and written work. Prerequisites: junior or senior status and one 300-level course in political philosophy. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (SS.)

    PHIL-491W. Research/Independent Work

    Open only to students seeking departmental honors or distinguished honors. Four semester hours. (XLP.)

    PHIL-492W. Research/Independent Work

    A continuation of PHIL-491. Prerequisite: PHIL-491. Four semester hours. (XLP.)

    Religious Studies

    RELS-111. World Religions

    An introduction to five major living religions, namely Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam. An examination of the leading problems of religious traditions, their history and cultural context, and the approaches of world religions to ultimate questions concerning the meaning of human life. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, GN.)

    RELS-212. What Is Religion?

    An overview of definitions, theories, and interpretations of religion, with the goal of understanding the range of ways people have tried to make sense of the global phenomenon of religious traditions, beliefs, and practices. Theorists whose work we will examine and critique may include Frazer, Tylor, Durkheim, Freud, Marx, Weber, Eliade, Lévi-Strauss, and others. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H)

    RELS/PHIL-220. Philosophy of Religion

    A philosophical study of both belief itself as a psychological attitude and what has been believed about God. Particular attention is given to such questions as whether or not belief is a matter of choice and whether or not one must have a reason to believe in God. Questions about the natures of God and man, evil and immortality are also addressed. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    RELS-225. African American Religious Experience

    This historical, theological, and contextual study of religion examines the African American religious experience, including: the African Background, slavery in America, the struggle for freedom and identity, the development of the Black Church, the Black Muslims, the Civil Rights movement, and the emergence of Black and Womanist theologies. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, DN.)

    RELS-233. Christianity: An Introduction

    A survey of important thinkers, literature and movements typical of the Christian tradition from the early church period through the 20th century. Careful study of such writers as Clement, Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Ockham, Bernard, Luther, Edwards and others is included. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    RELS-234. Judaism: An Introduction

    Attention is given to the history, traditions, and literature of the Jewish people from their origins in the second millennium B.C.E. to the present day. Stress is given to specific religious concepts and teachings which are pertinent to modern times. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    RELS-236. Islam: An Introduction

    An introduction to the religious tradition of Islam. Topics to be covered may include, among others, the origins and spread of Islam; the Qur’an; faith and practices of Muslims; theology and law; Islamic art and culture; Sufi mysticism; Islam and the West; and Islamic modernism. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (GN, H.)

    RELS-237. Introduction to Buddhism

    This course is designed to provide students with tools and context to understand the breadth, diversity, and cultural significance of the Buddhist tradition in Asia and around the world. The course will explore Buddhist tradition both thematically and historically. We will engage with topics such as Buddhist doctrine, meditation, and rituals. We will also pay attention to the lived tradition in the pre-modern and modern periods. Throughout the course we will combine ‘insider’ and scholarly approaches, reading primary sources from the tradition as well as secondary literature and visiting Buddhist communities in the local area. The course involves short lectures, readings, field site visits, and class discussions. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (GN, H.)

    RELS-242. The Hebrew Bible

    An introduction to the literature and thought of the Hebrew scriptures (the Christian Old Testament). Attention is given to the archeological and historical background of the Hebrew scriptures, as well as to the biblical materials themselves. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (GN, H.)

    RELS/PHIL/GWSS-244. Work and Meaning

    What is work? What’s the difference between real work, bullshit work, and play? Why do we pay people for some kinds of work and not others? Are we all just naturally lazy, or do we really want to do something meaningful with our lives? Why do so many people hate their jobs? And does what you do make you who you are? We will explore these questions and many, many more through classic and contemporary readings, impassioned discussions, and a variety of in-class experiments. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    RELS-245. Introduction to the New Testament

    This course examines the Christian scriptures, focusing primarily on the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, and the other books of the New Testament. Attention will also be given to the historical tradition of biblical interpretation. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    RELS-261. Religion and Environmental Justice

    This course posits that religion is a tool that is available in the cultural repertoire to support those who take up the protective work of repairing our world and responding to climate emergency. The course engages environmental justice through the lens of major religious traditions such as Buddhism, Catholicism, and indigenous traditions in Africa, Asia, and North America. The course addresses foundational issues of community, language, and movement building by spiritual and religious people involved in reparative ecology. By looking closely at how the climate crisis intersects with religious practice and spirituality, we can identify strategies through which people attempt to change their societies, their economies, and themselves. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (DN, GN, H, O.)

    RELS-301. Reading in Religious Studies

    Individual study of one or more selected topics in the literature of religious studies. May include preparation of a bibliography for a proposal for subsequent research. Requires consent of a member of the department who will serve as adviser. This course is graded S/U. One semester hour.

    RELS-302. Reading in Religious Studies

    Individual study of one or more selected topics in the literature of religious studies. May include preparation of a bibliography for a proposal for subsequent research. Requires consent of a member of the department who will serve as adviser. This course is graded S/U. Two semester hours. (GN, depending on topic.)

    RELS-309. Selected Topics in Religious Studies

    The course will concentrate on special issues, movements, and leading figures in the study of religion. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H; possibly DN, GN, O, or CCAP depending on topic.)

    RELS/PHIL-313. Marx, Nietzsche, Freud

    Nietzsche writes, “We are not ‘men of knowledge’ with respect to ourselves.” Marx calls for the abolition of religion in order that we may “abandon a condition which requires illusions.” Freud insists that we are not “masters in our own houses”: his theory of the unconscious challenges the comfortable notion that we have unmediated access to knowledge of ourselves. Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud turn their critical energies in different directions, but they share the conviction that our consciousness is fundamentally false consciousness. For these thinkers, what we think we know about ourselves, others, and the world around us requires constant critique, and our certainties are always susceptible to radical doubt. In this course, we will study key writings by these theorists, rightfully termed the three “masters of suspicion,” with particular attention to Marx’s view of the economic basis of human relations and his conception of alienated labor, to Nietzsche’s “perspectivism” and his assault upon conventional explanations for morality, and to Freud’s account of the unconscious forces shaping human behavior, relationships, and institutions. Emphasis will be on close readings of primary texts. No prior exposure to these thinkers will be assumed. Three hours per week. Four semester hours (H.)

    RELS/PHIL-323. What Really Matters in Life?

    Are you curious about what makes for a good life? Everyone wants to be happy, but the pursuit of happiness may be illusory if not guided by critical thinking. In this course, we will think together about what goods and ends ought to be pursued to live an intellectually and morally satisfying life. We will explore questions such as: Is it really possible for one to be happy without cultivating a concern for the well-being of others? Can self-interest co-exist with the ethical life? What are the marks of a life lived with authenticity? We will struggle with these questions and students will be also asked to think about and reflect on such matters in their own lives. This course is particularly fitting for upper-class students contemplating their career choices and vocational path upon graduation. Three hours per week. Four semester hours (CCAP, H, O.)

    RELS-326. Comparative Religious Ethics

    In this course, we will analyze the complex relationship between religion and ethics. In what ways might a religious ethic differ from a secular ethic? Does religious belief and/or practice augment the ethical life or not? We will also explore carefully the worldviews of Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism in an attempt to understand the context in which ethical reflection is practiced in these traditions. Then, we will examine various social issues from the perspective of these religious traditions. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O.)

    RELS-327. Religion and Violence

    The turn of the twenty-first century has been accompanied by an alarming global increase in religiously-motivated violence. Historically, religious ideas have been used to justify both war and peace, both violence and reconciliation. This course will examine the relationship between religion and violence in various historical contexts. Topics will include: just war doctrine, crusades and holy wars; sacrificial rituals in traditional cultures; modern revolutionary and terrorist movements; and religious pacifism. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    RELS-328: Religious Diversity in Southeastern Pennsylvania

    Religious diversity and difference have become crucial political and social issues in the early years of the twenty-first century. In this course, students will participate in an ongoing effort to understand, investigate, and connect with the religious diversity of our region. Readings will focus on theoretical and practical interpretations of religious diversity, primarily in a modern American context. The course will also involve frequent field trips and site visits to religious institutions and organizations near Ursinus, including but not limited to Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic sites. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, DN.)

    RELS-361. Religion and Civil Rights

    An examination of the lives and events of the Civil Rights era, focusing on religious leadership, student involvement, and local empowerment. Through religious, historical, and literary readings, we will explore and analyze the personalities and proceedings of the late fifties, sixties, and seventies. Topics may include the Mississippi movement, the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and of Malcolm X, the role of women in the movement, the black power movement, and King’s concept of the “Beloved Community,” among others. The course includes a study tour of historical Civil Rights sites in Mississippi, including meetings and dialogue with community representatives and spokespersons (optional). Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, DN)

    RELS-365. The Protestant Reformation

    An examination of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation through the writings of Luther, Calvin, representatives of the Radical and Catholic reforms, and others, with attention to their social, cultural, and political context. Topics include the crisis of medieval culture, Luther’s biography and teachings, the theology of faith and grace, the creation of a Protestant culture, the radical reformers, and international Calvinism. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    RELS-366. Religion and Human Rights

    An exploration of the relationship between religion and human rights. Topics may include the connection between human rights and belief in God; religious traditions’ contributions and/or resistance to human rights movements and to individual rights; and the position of secular states towards religious freedom and related rights. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H, O.)

    RELS-391. Research/Independent Work

    Independent work on a topic in Religious Studies, under the supervision of a faculty advisor. A substantial written final product is required. Prerequisites: a written project proposal and permission of a department faculty member who will serve as advisor. Four semester hours. (XLP.)

    RELS-404W. Senior Seminar in Religious Studies

    The aim of this capstone course is to explore in depth an area of interest in the field of religious studies, using all the tools students have developed as majors. There will be several papers and oral presentations. Open only to senior religious studies majors or by departmental permission. Three hours per week. Four semester hours. (H.)

    RELS-491. Research/Independent Work

    This course is open only to candidates for departmental honors or distinguished honors. Four semester hours. (XLP.)

    RELS-492. Research/Independent Work

    A continuation of RELS-491. Prerequisite: RELS-491. Four semester hours. (XLP.)

  • Philosophy and Religion Department

    Phone 610-409-3594
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