Philosophy and Religion
Course Descriptions

University Seminar Courses (US)

208 Great Trials in History (4 credits) This University Seminar explores a dozen famous trials chosen to represent conflicts in different areas of intellectual and cultural/social history including philosophy, religion, science, art, and literature. Subjects include Socrates, Galileo, the Salem Witch Trials, John Brown, Oscar Wilde, the Scopes Monkey Trial, Nuremberg, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Texts include books, films, articles, and websites. Note: US 208 can count toward the Criminal Justice, History, and Philosophy and Religion majors and minors.

214 Evolution: Conflicts from Darwin to Intelligent Design (4 credits) This course examines the conflicts raised by the theory of evolution, from the reception of Origin of Species in the 1860s, to the Scopes Trial in the 1920s, the legal struggle over scientific creationism in the 1980s, and the appearance of intelligent design in the 2000s and the Dover, Pa., trial in 2005. The course surveys evidence from paleontology (the fossil record) and genetics and explores scientific objections and difficulties such as the blending inheritance problem, rudimentary organs problem, the “missing link,” and others. In addition, the course considers the origin of American fundamentalism in connection with the Scopes trial, the rise of Social Darwinism and the spread of eugenic ideas. Note: US214 can count toward the Philosophy major and minor and the Religion minor.

230 International Computer Ethics (4 credits) This University Seminar examines the ethical consequences of the expansion of computer usage in our society and internationally. The course aims to give students a solid grounding in ethics in general and the ethical dilemmas which are unique to computer applications. Note: US 230 can count toward the Computer Science or Computing Technology majors and minors and the Philosophy major and minor. Non-major students who want an introduction to computer programming might consider US229: Programming and Storytelling with Alice.

231 Altered States of Consciousness (4 credits, Spring and Fall) The course explores the phenomenon of altered states of consciousness as it appears in cultures throughout the world. The journeys of shamans, the use of sacred teacher plants by indigenous people, the meditative states of Hindu yogis and Buddhist monks, lucid dreaming and dream yoga, the dance of Sufi whirling dervishes, the poetry of Rumi, Coleridge, and Whitman, and the practice of soul possession in Voodoo are a sample of the topics to be covered. The approach is multi-disciplinary and includes cognitive neuroscience, ethno-botany, biological anthropology, musicology, visual literacy and literary interpretation.

333 Rites of Passage (4 credits; Fall) This course explores maturity and learning about life, with a particular focus on wisdom and how we can be guided by it. Topics explored are: attitudes, expectations, identity, maturity, virtue and the search for meaning, purpose, love, friendship, and direction. The focus is on each main character's rite of passage and the challenges that come at particular age junctures. Authors include Jane Austen, James Baldwin, Ian McEwan, Arthur Miller, Per Petterson, and Oscar Wilde. Wisdom texts include: the Daodejing, The Holy Bible, and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Note: US 333 can count toward the Religion minor.

Philosophy Courses (PL)

150 Introduction to Philosophy (4 credits; Fall, Spring) This course introduces the methods of philosophical inquiry. It includes the nature of knowledge, theories of reality and human nature, freedom and determinism, and the status of values. It incorporates lecture and discussion.

155 Applied Logic (4 credits; Spring) This course is a Study of the principles and strategies of reasoning drawn from informal logic and problem-solving. This course includes methods of problem representation, tree diagrams and arguments, classical syllogistic logic, fallacies, argument construction and evaluation. It incorporates lecture, discussion and practice in techniques.

160 Symbolic Logic (4 credits, day; Fall) (3 credits, evening) This course studies symbolic logic from sentential logic to the logic of quantifiers and relations. It introduces truth tables, truth trees, natural deduction, elementary theorems of consistency and completeness. It includes lecture, discussion and extensive practice exercises in pertinent techniques.

165 Occupational Ethics (4 credits; Fall, Spring) This consideration of the role of values and ethical principles in the workplace includes general issues of business practice (for example, corporate responsibility, truth in advertising, treatment of employees) and also issues raised by some specific professional practices, especially health-care professions (for example, regulation by codes, ideas of informed consent, allocation of scarce resources, confidentiality).

175 Ethics (4 credits; Fall, Spring) This course is an examination of theories of the nature, function and ground of moral judgment is through the works of such philosophers as Aristotle, Hume, Mill and Kant. It includes contemporary value conflicts (e.g., capital punishment, abortion, truth telling) and incorporates lecture and discussion.

223 Philosophy in Literature (4 credits; Spring) This is a study of basic philosophical issues such as the nature of aesthetic pleasure, differences between philosophical and literary writing, the “truth” of fiction, and others, as expressed in two significant movements: the ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry in classical Athens (Plato vs. the tragedians) and existentialism in 20th century France (Camus, Sartre). Offered in odd years. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.

245 Political Thought (also listed as PS 245) (4 credits; Fall) This survey of political theory is through the classic writings of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Bentham, Marx, Mill, Rawls and others. Topics include law and rights, the public interest, social contract, liberty, equality, and justice. Offered in odd years.

275 Ethics in Film (4 credits; Fall) An exploration of how all the basic ethical perspectives, such as egoism, relativism, utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue theory, can be found in and illustrated by films. Some specific ethical dilemma paradigms, such as truth versus loyalty, individual versus community, justice versus mercy, are examined. About 12 films are assigned, some to be viewed in class and some out of class. Students do a mid-term and a final exam, two formal papers and other informal writing. Offered in even years.

305 Ethics of War (4 credits, Spring) Topics include arguments for and against pacifism, the development of just war theory from Augustine to Walzer, and conventions of international law as applied to certain issues of modern war (strategic bombing, weapons of mass destruction, declarations of war, terrorism, guerilla war, hostage taking, espionage, rights of prisoners of war, and methods of interrogation. For upper- level students and graduate students; reading, discussion, tests, presentations, and papers. Offered in odd years.

308 The Greek Mind (4 credits; Spring) This course is an overview of the roots of Western philosophy from the pre-Socratic period through Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and leading Hellenistic thinkers. It incorporates lecture and discussion. Offered every third year.

309 Modern Philosophy (4 credits; Fall) This survey of philosophy is from the 17th through the 19th centuries, from Bacon to Nietzsche. It includes the responses to the scientific revolution, the roots of rationalism and empiricism and the romantic reaction of the 19th century. Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel. Offered every third year.

310 20th Century Philosophy—Not regularly scheduled.

320 Philosophy of Science—Not regularly scheduled.

330 Understanding Knowledge and the Mind (4 credits; Spring) This course studies theories of knowledge (skepticism, rationalism, empiricism, pragmatism), and theories of mind (dualist, materialist, functionalist) and associated concepts such as action, thinking, representation and consciousness. It presents readings from both classic and contemporary sources. Offered every third year. Prerequisite: Junior standing.

355 How Do We Know What We Know? Truth, Media, Politics (4 credits; Fall) This course combines epistemology, philosophy of science, and the ethics of journalism. The focus is on the relationship between the problems philosophers discuss when they think of issues of truth and knowledge and the problems journalists have as they go about their profession. How do voters know what they are getting when they vote for a candidate—in an era of spin rooms, sophisticated, poll-driven ads, "gotcha" questions—and when the voting public is segmenting into ever narrower politically defined niches.

389 Independent Study: The course is a research project on a major philosopher selected according to individual interests and needs. It provides direction in critical, analytical, argumentative and creative approaches. Prerequisites: Four courses in Philosophy and permission of the instructor.

499 Senior Project (4 credits; Fall, Spring) Independent study of major works selected from classical and contemporary philosophies.

Religion Courses (RE)

101 Exploring Religion (4 credits; Fall, Spring) This systematic approach to the diversity and significance of religion explores what religion is and how it is studied. It considers myth, ritual, belief, scripture, art and the spectrum of the world’s religions. It investigates issues such as the problem of God, death and last things, evil and suffering, paths to salvation, religion and group identity, and religion and technology.

113 Contemporary Religious Problems—Not regularly scheduled.

114 Living Religions of the World (4 credits; Fall, Spring) An introduction to the emerging global religious landscape in today’s world. The Course focuses on the religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam as each is practiced in America as well as in Asia. An added focus is the practice of Christianity by Chinese and Koreans both in Asia and America. The course considers the migration of religious traditions throughout the world and the resulting interconnectedness between religions. It interprets the consequences of colonialism on the religion and the importance of the emergence of pluralism in today’s global world. Through lecture, video presentations, field visits, guest speakers, and readings the student is expected to understand each tradition from the point of view of a practitioner or an insider. A research project compares and contrasts the stories of spiritual journey and family immigration of the student with those of immigrant groups based upon material uncovered by face to face dialogue.

115 Understanding the Hebrew Bible (4 credits; Fall, Spring) This is a study of the Hebrew Scriptures through assigned readings in the English translation. Class lectures and discussions emphasize understanding of the text in the context of the historical background as well as the genre of literature in which each individual book was written. A summary review of the content and basic intent of each book is considered as well as its placement in the whole collection of books traditionally accepted as the Old Testament.

116 Jesus and His Contemporaries: Understanding the New Testament (4 credits, Spring) This course explores the birth of Christianity out of ancient Judaism against the background of Roman government and Hellenistic culture. The New Testament is viewed as a series of attempts to present the impact of Jesus of Nazareth in terms of Greek rationality and the impact of Hebraic commitment to history as the matrix of meaning.

117 Essentials of Judaism: Major Beliefs and Practices Not regularly scheduled.

118 Judaism Through the Ages—Not regularly scheduled.

119 Understanding IslamNot regularly scheduled.

224 History of Christian Thought—Not regularly scheduled.

225 Contemporary Religious Thought—Not regularly scheduled.

317 Religion and Its Expression in Literature—Not regularly scheduled.

322 Religion and Personality: The Psychology of Religion (4 credits; Spring) Is religion harmful or beneficial to personality development and mental health? Is religion based upon illusion or delusion or the extraordinary perception of a supernatural reality? Is religion a harmful social meme or does it provide moral balance to the individual and society? This course will focus on the nature of religion and its role in the development of the personality of the person. Classic figures in the field such as Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and William James will be studied. The course will explore issues such as the meaning of dreams, sexuality and the unconscious, the creative process and symbols, altered states of consciousness and spiritual practice, and faith and belief. New methodologies such as cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology will provide the latest scientific research on the role of the brain in the practice of religion and the implications for the practice of religion today.

325 How Climate Change, Geography Shape Religion (4 credits; Fall) The course explores the impact of climate change, geography, and technology on religion from 11,000 BCE to 200 BCE utilizing scientific methodologies such as climatology, ethnobotany, biological anthropology, archeology, evolutionary psychology, and cultural ecology. Issues include the global warming at the end of the ice age, the development of agriculture and subsequent population explosion, the emergence of religious elites, megaliths to honor the dead, and urban life. The course then examines the crisis of meaning that occurs in the age of empires and the emergence of the concept of individual salvation during the Axial Age. Finally, the course speculates, as we enter into the age of information and the potential of a new period of global warming, as to the impact of climate change, social media, and new technologies on the character of religion. Prerequisite: It is recommended that one Religion course be taken or a course in Biology, Psychology, Sociology, or Anthropology.

326 The Dawn of Humanity and the Origins of Religious Experience (4 credits) The course examines evidence for the earliest forms of religious experience that mark the appearance of Homo sapiens in the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods. This evidence is explored from a multidisciplinary approach including cognitive and evolutionary psychology, biological anthropology, neuroscience, archeology, archeo-astronomy, and art history. A key consideration is the cognitive evolution of the brain and the power of brain to harness its own spiritual energy and power. Among the themes of the earliest manifestations of religious experience to be studied are archaic burial rites, Venus figurines, cave paintings, shamanism, and burial mounds and henges. The link between these early forms of religious experience and later forms of religion will be outlined. Prerequisites: One Religion course as well as a major in Biology, Psychology or Anthropology or permission from the instructor.

328 The Future in Science and Religion (4 credits, Fall) The class explores the influence of science on religion and culture in the modern and postmodern worlds. The course focuses on four themes of creation: the formation of the universe, the appearance of life, the origins of human consciousness, and the formation of nature and the earth. First, the class examines the sacred cosmology of Western Culture that is based upon the creation of narrative of Genesis and Greek philosophy. Then, the class examines the challenges of science to this cosmology focusing on the disciplines of astronomy, quantum physics, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and ecology. Issues such as Galileo and the Inquisition, the theory of the Big Bank, evolution and intelligent design, human consciousness and religious experience, and ecology and global warming are examined. The course raises the question of whether or not it is possible to reconcile the belief in God with the practice of science.

356 Topics in Biblical Studies—Not regularly scheduled.

389 Independent Study: This course is individual research at an advanced level on a religious topic of special interest. It provides the opportunity to develop research methodology under the supervision of the instructor. It combines the collection and analysis of data, the summary and evaluation of results, and effective organization and presentation. Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.

Request More InformationQuestionsApply Now

Prospective Student Events
Scholarly Activities

Contact Us

Philosophy & Religion
Taylor Hall, Room 214
215-572-2985
Directory