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Philosophy and Religion Program

 

Purpose Statement

The Philosophy and Religion department offers courses designed to help students critically reflect upon religious and philosophical traditions that for millennia have deeply shaped how human beings have understood their lives as a whole in relationship to all that exists. In so doing, students will critically consider their own worldview, while at the same time understanding more deeply and with greater empathy the worldviews of others. Travel courses offered through the program superbly complement the rest of the curriculum for this purpose. The department offers a major in philosophy and religion and a major in religion, politics, and law. It also offers a minor in philosophy and religion and a minor in peace studies.

Philosophy and Religion Major

The practical benefits of the Philosophy and Religion major are many. It provides excellent background for professions such as business, education, social work, and humanitarian assistance to name just a few that require understanding and empathy across widely diverse cultures. The major develops critical thinking skills essential to success in these and other professions. In addition, given the possibility the major offers for focusing specifically on the Christian tradition, it can assist students who seek to understand their chosen profession, whatever it may be, as Christian ministry, or who want preparation for entering seminary upon graduation. Whatever their career path, students will find their study of philosophy and religion empowering them to live with a deeper sense of purpose, a surer sense of their vocation, and greater appreciation for values such as peacemaking, stewardship, and service that contribute to the well-being of the world.

Students who complete the major in Philosophy and Religion should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the world’s major religious traditions and the diverse ways each is interpreted, with a special emphasis on how these traditions help shape both the human experience of the world around us and our response to it.
  • Demonstrate the ability to critically engage the Western philosophical tradition as it addresses fundamental questions about the nature of reality, the meaning of our experience, and the purpose of life.
  • Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate and improve their own thinking.
  • Demonstrate the ability to bring the study of religion and philosophy to bear on their quest to understand the meaning and purpose of their own lives.

The major comprises 42 hours of required courses.

Requirements

Core Courses (18 hours):

G-PR 106L Spiritual Pathways: Transformation, Compassion, and Vocation (3 hours)
G-PR 107 Critical Thinking (3 hours)
G-PR 201 Introduction to Philosophy (3 hours)
G-PR 306 World Religions (3 hours)
PR 375 Junior Seminar (1 hour)
PR 431 Topics in Religious or Theological Studies (3 hours)  OR
PR 432 Topics in Philosophy (3 hours)
PR 475 Senior Seminar/Thesis (2 hours)

Electives (12 hours from the following):

G-PR 101 God and People in Ancient Israel: Hebrew Bible Foundations (3 hours)
G-PR 102 Jesus: New Testament Foundations (3 hours)
G-PR 104 or G-PR 104L Ethics (3 hours if G-PR 104; 4 hours if G-PR 104L)
G-PR 202 Christian Traditions (3 hours)
G-PR 203 Science and Religion (3 hours)
G-PR 204 Peacemaking: Religious Perspectives (3 hours)
G-PR 302 Religion and Politics (3 hours)
PR 303 Readings in Theology/Philosophy (2 or 3 hours, depending on the semester)
PR411 Travel (3 or 4 hours, depending on the semester)

Supporting Courses (12 hours from the following)*:

G-ET 201 Social Entrepreneurship (3 hours)
EN 230 Linguistics (2 hours)
G-CM 130 Interpersonal Communication (3 hours)
G-CM 221 Intercultural Communication (3 hours)
CM 240 Gender Communication (3 hours)
CM 325 Conflict Communication (3 hours)
BI 404 Biomedical Ethics (2 hours)
NS 404 Environmental Ethics (2 hours)
G-HI/PS 101 Historical Introduction to Politics (3 hours)
G-PS 215 Global Peace Studies (3 hours)
HI 313 Medieval Europe (3 hours)
PY/SO 210 Human Sexuality (3 hours)
PY/SO 308 Counseling (3 hours)
PY 405 Personality Theories (3 hours)

*Note: alternative courses will be considered and can be approved by the department chair on a case-by-case basis.

Religion, Politics, and Law Major

Data indicate that students of philosophy and religion consistently score highly on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) and possess high rates of admission to law school. By combining the study of religion, politics, and law, this unique major furnishes students with excellent preparation for law school. The major explores highly provocative hot-button issues at the heart of current religious, political, and legal discourse in the United States. The major teaches skills in logical reasoning, analysis and synthesis of texts, inference to the best explanation from a set of data, persuasive public speaking, and constructive writing—skills whose practice constitute the core of what lawyers do.

Students who complete the major in Religion, Politics, and Law should be able to:

  • Articulate how the American legal system works.
  • Engage in logical reasoning.
  • Infer to the best explanation from a complex set of data.
  • Score well on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test).
  • Carry out individual research on a legal issue of particular interest to them and applicable to their future career aspirations in law.

 The major comprises 48-49 hours of required courses.

Required Courses in Philosophy/Religion (24-25 hours)

G-PR104L Ethics
G-PR 107 Critical Thinking (3 hours)
G-PR 201 Introduction to Philosophy (3 hours)
G-PR 203 Science and Religion (3 hours)
G-PR 204 Peacemaking: Religious Perspectives (3 hours)
G-PR 302 Religion and Politics (3 hours)
PR 375 Junior Seminar (1 hour)
PR 432 Topics in Philosophy: Philosophy of Law (3 hours)
PR 475 Senior Seminar/Thesis (2 hours)

Required Supporting Courses (24 hours)

G-PS 101 Historical Introduction to Politics (3 hours)
G-PS 102 United States Government (3 hours)
G-CM 140 Public Speaking (3 hours)
G-HI 237 Topics in Political History (3 hours)
BA 315 Business Law (3 hours)
CM 325 Conflict Communication (3 hours)
CM 330 Persuasion and Social Influence (3 hours)
PS 356 American Diplomacy (3 hours)

Philosophy and Religion Minor

The minor comprises 18 hours of required courses.

Requirements

G-PR 106L Spiritual Pathways: Transformation, Compassion, and Vocation (3 hours)
G-PR 201 Introduction to Philosophy (3 hours)
plus a minimum of 12 more hours of any courses with a PR prefix.

Peace Studies Minor

Peace Studies is an interdisciplinary field of study that seeks understanding of the causes of human conflict and violence. It then strives to develop methods for resolving conflicts nonviolently and for promoting peace through justice at all levels of human society and in human relationships with the natural environment. The minor can complement any number of majors, for example, Political Science, History, or Environmental Stewardship, especially for those students seeking to couple their major field and professional training to values of social justice and peacemaking.

Students who complete a minor in Peace Studies will be able to:

  • Demonstrate that they understand some of the most important causes and consequences of interpersonal, societal, and international conflict and violence.
  • Demonstrate that they understand a variety of methods for conflict resolution and peacemaking that address these causes and promote the well-being of human communities and of the planet on which we live.

The minor comprises a minimum of 18 hours of required courses.

Requirements

Core Courses (12 hours)

G-PS 125 International Relations (3 hours)
G-PR 204 Peacemaking: Religious Perspectives (3 hours)
G-PS 215 Global Peace Studies (3 hours)
CM 325 Conflict Communication (3 hours)

Electives (at least 6 hours from the following)

G-PR 104 Ethics or G-PR104L Ethics (3 hours if G-PR104; 4 hours if G-PR104L)
G-NS 141 Environmental Science (4 hours)
G-ET 201 Social Entrepreneurship
G-SO 202 Minorities in the US (3-4 hours)
SO 206 Social Problems (3-4 hours)
G-CM 221 Intercultural Communication
CM 240 Gender Communication
G-PR 302 Religion and Politics
NS 404 Environmental Ethics (2 hours)




Philosophy & Religion Course Descriptions

G-PR 101 God and People in Ancient Israel: Hebrew Bible Foundations

3 hours
An exploration of the history, literature, and religion of ancient Israel using selected portions of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as primary sources. The course focuses on major themes that have shaped the life and faith of both Jewish and Christian religious communities to this day, and will provide students opportunities to consider how these themes might inform their thinking about their own lives. (Fall)

G-PR 102 Jesus: New Testament Foundations

3 hours
An introduction to the New Testament that focuses on understanding the life and teachings of Jesus in his first-century context. The course will also explore how these foundational texts continue to inform Christian life and faith, and will provide students opportunities to ponder the potential impact of these reflections on their own lives. (Spring)

G-PR 104 or *G-PR 104L Ethics

3 hours (not Language Intensive) or 4 hours (Language Intensive)
This course enables students to think critically about moral values and the process of ethical decision-making. Students will be challenged, both to understand how and why others think about the moral life as they do, and to evaluate critically their own moral values and the ways they resolve ethical problems. (Fall, Interterm, and Spring)

*G-PR 106L Spiritual Pathways: Transformation, Compassion, and Vocation

3 hours (Language Intensive)
An introduction to religion that considers (1) how different religious traditions understand life as a journey in search of spiritual awakening and transformation and (2) how these different traditions in turn see compassion for others and devotion to service as two keys to living an authentic human life. In view of the preceding, the course culminates with a reflection on the meaning of personal vocation and offers students an opportunity to consider their own individual life callings. (Fall)

G-PR 107 Critical Thinking

3 hours
This course will help students understand how we draw conclusions about what is true in any and all aspects of life. The goal of the course is for students to develop their skill at evaluating the quality of their thinking, especially by becoming aware of common ways in which our reasoning goes wrong. The course will encourage students to consider both how critical thinking can become a way of life, and the positive impact that critical thinking can have on our world. (Spring)

G-PR 201 Introduction to Philosophy

3 hours
This course will introduce students to the activity of philosophy. In dialogue with the Western philosophical tradition, students will practice systematic, critical, and deep reflection on some of the most fundamental questions that can be asked, for example, What can we know, and how? What does it mean to be human? Does life have ultimate meaning, and what might that meaning be? Students will be introduced to the concept of a “life philosophy” and provided the opportunity to develop their own personal philosophies of life. (Fall, and Interterm even years)

G-PR 202 Christian Traditions

3 hours
An exploration of different, contemporary traditions of Christian faith and practice that will help students grasp some of the diverse ways that Christians today understand the meaning of following Jesus. The course will consider important texts from these diverse traditions, as well as biographies of some of their key representatives, and then ponder their significance for Christians and non-Christians alike who seek to live lives of meaning and purpose. (Fall)

G-PR 203 Science and Religion

3 hours
Especially in the United States, science and religion are typically presupposed to be in conflict with each other. This course starts from a different presupposition. It begins by exploring in some detail the story of the universe told by contemporary cosmology and evolutionary biology, and in the process invites students to consider how a dialogue between science and faith might lead to a rich, coherent, and personally meaningful understanding of humanity and of humanity’s place in the universe. (Spring)

G-PR 204 Peacemaking: Religious Perspectives

3 hours
This course critically engages diverse religious perspectives on peacemaking. It begins by exploring the various positions on non-resistance, non-violence, and humanitarian service taken by the historic peace churches: Mennonite, Quaker, and Brethren. It then seeks precedents for these positions in Christianity’s past, and finally moves forward into the present, with special attention to conversations within and between different world religions about the religious roots of violence, and about the vital contribution that religious believers and communities can make to world peace. (Spring, odd years)

G-PR 302 Religion and Politics

3 hours
This course considers how religion and politics have influenced each other in the United States, as well as the ways that Americans have understood those influences. Topics include the interplay between church and state, the politics of sexuality, gender, and race, and the relation between religion and democracy. (Spring, even years)

PR 303 Readings in Theology/Philosophy

2-3 hours
In recent years, this course has been designed around the topic of thanatology: examining origin of death cultural mythologies, psychological stages of dying, interpretations of near death experiences, organ-tissue donations, world funeral practices, and beliefs of life after death in the world’s major faiths. However, the course may cover other topics as well.

G-PR 306 World Religions

3 hours
An introduction to major world religions, including, but not limited to: Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The goal is for students to understand key teachings and practices of each, and thereby to develop an understanding of and empathy for how adherents of these traditions experience life and the world around them. Finally, student will consider how their study of these traditions might contribute to their own life and thought.

PR 375A Junior Seminar: Philosophy & Religion

1 hour
Philosophy and Religion majors during their junior year learn the essential methods and theories in the academic study of philosophy and religion. These methods and theories are the fundamental “tools” majors need in their proverbial toolbox to successfully undertake original research in philosophy and religion.

PR 375B Junior Seminar: LSAT Prep

3 hours
This course prepares pre-law students to perform well on the LSAT. It teaches students formal logic, logic games, logical reasoning, and reading comprehension. It uses timed sample LSAT sections to test each skill and a times complete sample LSAT as the final exam.

PR 411 Travel

3-4 hours (Can be repeated)
Students from all majors have the unique opportunity to experience firsthand the religions and philosophies of different cultures and environments through international or domestic travel. (Interterm)

PR 431 Topics in Religious and Theological Studies

3 hours
An in-depth study of a particular religion or topic in religious studies, or of a particular person or topic in Christian history or theology. Emphasis will be placed on critically reading key texts and understanding religious or theological subjects in their appropriate contexts, and then engaging them from the perspectives of students’ own interests and life philosophies. Topics will vary from year to year. For example, the course might study Islam or Buddhism, or topics like religious ritual or religious art and architecture. Or it might focus on a figure such as Augustine or Thomas Merton, or on topics like Christian worship or problems in Christian ethics. (Fall, even years)

PR 432 Topics in Philosophy

3 hours
A study of a specific field within philosophy that will introduce its important questions and help students understand and evaluate critically the different answers that philosophers have proposed. The emphasis throughout will be on practicing the methods of philosophical reflection and debate. Topics will vary year to year, for example, philosophy of law, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, or aesthetics (philosophy of art). (Fall, odd years)

PR 475 Senior Seminar/Thesis

2 hours
Senior Philosophy and Religion majors are required to do a senior thesis with the topic approved by their departmental advisor no later than midterm of the fall semester. Students may enroll for the course fall, interterm, or spring during their senior year, but are expected to work on their project throughout the year in consultation with their departmental advisor, and to meet periodically with other Philosophy and Religion seniors as they do so.

Special Course Options
PR 295/495 Field Experience (1-4 hours)
PR 297  Study Abroad (12-16 hours)
PR 299/499 Independent Study (1-4 hours)
PR 388 Career Connections (3-10 hours)
PR 445 Readings and Research (1-4 hours)