Philosophy & Religious Thought

Literally, "philosophy" means "love of wisdom." Pursuing wisdom through carefully reasoned reflection, philosophy inquires into questions concerning the meaning of life, virtue, morality, freedom, God, and death. Religious thinkers ask the same questions but in the context of religious traditions and sacred texts. On more theoretical levels, philosophy is concerned with reality and knowledge, often examining the unstated assumptions underlying other disciplines. Both religion and philosophy are vitally interested in ethics.

This combined program is designed to give students an introduction to the issues of religious thought and philosophy; to allow them to investigate the philosophical and religious implications of what they are studying, doing, and thinking; and to prepare majors for a wide variety of possible further study, including graduate school, seminary, or professional fields such as law school. We encourage capable students to double major in philosophy and religious thought and another field, such as English education.

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate with a major in philosophy and religious thought will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate competence in critical thinking and analysis of arguments;
  2. Articulate an understanding of the forces shaping culture and history;
  3. Demonstrate skill in questioning, reflecting, and arriving at possible conclusions;
  4. Analyze the ethical dimension of human action;
  5. Develop in a self-critical way philosophical insights and positions supported by relevant experience and sound reasoning;
  6. Confront, evaluate, and refine personal beliefs in historical context;
  7. Apply skills in speaking and writing to communicate complex ideas.

Major in Philosophy & Religious Thought

A minimum of 27 semester hours is required, selected in consultation with department faculty, normally to include at least one course in the Biblical tradition.
Choose at least one of the following:
PHR 210: Genres of Biblical Literature
PHR 220: Jesus
PHR 310: Issues in Biblical Scholarship

Choose at least one of the following:
PHR 211: Ancient Philosophy
PHR 212: Modern Philosophy
PHR 312: Modern Philosophy
PHR 321: Major Philosophical Figures
PHR 375: Aesthetics and the Human Imagination
PHR 378: Philosophy of Technology and Modern Culture

Choose one of the following:
PHR 303: Ethics
PHR 304: Environmental Ethics
PHR 340: Christian Ethics

At least one course at the 400-level is also required along with 18 semester hours of electives. Students considering graduate school are urged to do an independent study (PHR 499).

Minor in Philosophy & Religious Thought

A minimum of 18 semester hours is required, at least 15 of which must be above the 100-level and nine above the 200-level, normally to include one course in ethics.
Required courses:
PHR 303: Ethics
PHR 304: Environmental Ethics
PHR 340: Christian Ethics

PHR 100 - Introduction to Philosophy and Religious Thought
Semester: Fall and Spring
Semester hours: 3
This course attempts to address the question "Does thinking about the meaning of one's life help us live better?" by studying a particular issue and some thought-provoking responses to it. The particular issue and texts will vary from year to year. Not open to juniors and seniors without instructor's permission.
PHR 120 - Classic Texts in Western Thought
Semester: Fall; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
This course covers intensive readings in primary texts crucial to the Western tradition. Students will read from such authors as Homer, the Bible, the Greek dramatists, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Dante, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Freud, and Nietzsche.
PHR 205 - Logic
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 3
An introductory course in the principles and methods used to distinguish correct from incorrect reasoning. This course aims to help students think and read critically and to write argumentative papers. Both inductive and deductive logic will be studied.
PHR 210 - Genres of Biblical Literature
Semester: Fall and Spring
Semester hours: 3
This course provides an investigation of one specific genre of Biblical literature. Past topics have included Biblical narrative, the Gospels, the Psalms, and Paul.
PHR 211 - Ancient Philosophy
Semester: Fall; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
This course introduces students to great primary philosophical texts of the Western tradition, such as Plato's Republic, and provides them with an overview of philosophy during this early period of its development.
PHR 212 - Modern Philosophy
Semester: Spring; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
Students examine a study of major philosophers, ideas, and movements in philosophy from the Renaissance through the 19th century. This course is a continuation of Greek and Early Christian philosophy and will be similarly designed to promote a study of primary texts from Descartes, Hume, Kant, and others, as well as to present an overview of the period from secondary sources.
PHR 218 - Topics in Catholicism
Semester: Spring
Semester hours: 3
This course explores the central principles of the Catholic religion. From year to year the course focuses on a different aspect of Catholicism. Topics covered might include the creation of basic beliefs in the first three centuries, issues in modern Catholic thinking, Catholics and the Bible, a history of the Church, or great figures in Catholicism.
PHR 220 - Jesus
Semester: Fall; Every three years
Semester hours: 3
Students will look at both Biblical sources and modern literary and theological interpretations to answer the question "Who was, or is, Jesus?" Questions to be addressed include the quest for the "historical Jesus," classical and contemporary Christology, and hermeneutics of Biblical texts.
PHR 236 - Religions of The World
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 3
This course examines the central religious principles and ideas of major non-Christian religions. From year to year, the focus may be on different religions or areas of the world.
PHR 299 - Independent Study
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 1-3
This course allows a superior student to devise and pursue independent study in an area agreed upon in consultation with, and supervised by, a faculty member. Students should be either a major or minor and have a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or greater.
PHR 303 - Ethics
Semester: Spring; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
A study relating ethics, as traditionally conceived in philosophy, to one or more current philosophical works in ethics. This course will provide students with a solid background in ethics, from Plato to Nietzsche. A discussion of a contemporary work in ethics will introduce students to topics that may be covered in depth in later seminars.
PHR 304 - Environmental Ethics
Semester: Spring; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
This course will address issues such as whether natural beings and the natural world have rights or whether only humans have rights. Students will determine what is ethically appropriate for humans in their relationship with the environment as well as what environmental ethics must take account of to be consequential in the world today.
PHR 310 - Issues in Biblical Scholarship
Semester: Fall; Every three years
Semester hours: 3
This course provides an introduction to a current problem in Biblical study and scholarship. Examples of topics are apocalyptic literature; narrative studies; Biblical hermeneutics, text, and history; and Biblical theology. Where PHR 210 concentrates on the Biblical texts themselves, PHR 310 introduces students to the way contemporary scholars study the Bible.
PHR 312 - Modern Philosophy
Semester: Spring; Every three years
Semester hours: 3
Students examine a study of major philosophers, ideas, and movements in philosophy from the Renaissance through the 19th century. This course is a continuation of PHR 211 and will be similarly designed to promote a study of primary texts from Descartes, Hume, Kant, and others, as well as to present an overview of the period from secondary sources.
PHR 317 - Archaeology and Philosophy of the Holy Land
Semester: Summer
Semester hours: 6
This course is designed for students participating in the Bethsaida Excavation and tour of selected sites in Israel. Students will engage in activities including excavating at the site; attending poetry readings, laboratory, and evening lectures at the kibbutz; learning archaeological methodology; and learning about kibbutz living on the Galilee. Students are also expected to participate in all guided group tours of important sites and museums in Israel.
PHR 320 - Major Religious Figures
Semester: Fall; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
This course provides a study of the writings and the life of a major religious thinker in the Western tradition. Examples include Luther, Augustine, or C.S. Lewis. In each case, students will relate the thinker to the general history of Judaeo-Christian thought. This course may be taken more than once.
PHR 321 - Major Philosophical Figures
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 3
This course provides a study of the writings and, in some cases, the life of a major philosophical thinker in the Western tradition.
PHR 330 - Movies, Morals, and Meaning
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 3
Analysis of several classic and modern films to understand their implications for ethics, religious meaning, and the nature of humanity. We will study films like The Maltese Falcon, Paths of Glory, The Godfather, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Jesus of Montreal.
PHR 340 - Christian Ethics
Semester: Spring; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
How can a Christian make moral decisions? We will study the biblical basis for ethics and several modern Christian ethicists to understand how they move from the beliefs of Christianity to recommendations for specific ethical action.
PHR 362 - Liberation Theology
Semester: Fall; Every three years
Semester hours: 3
What does it mean to believe in God? When we talk about God, are we talking about anything more than ourselves and our ideals and aspirations? This course investigates classical and modern Christian answers to this basic question.
PHR 370 - Religion and Literature
Semester: Spring; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
A study of religious issues, conflict, and hopes in modern literature. Studied works will vary from year to year, but they may include texts by authors such as Melville, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, and John Updike. This course is cross-listed with ENG 370.
PHR 375 - Aesthetics and the Human Imagination
Semester: Fall; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
The 20th century is characterized by a plurality of philosophical styles such as postmodernism, phenomenology, existentialism, hermeneutics, deconstruction, analytic philosophy, pragmatism, and systematic philosophy. This course involves intensive study and critical evaluation of one or two of these styles.
PHR 378 - Philosophy of Technology and Modern Culture
Semester: Fall; Alternate years
Semester hours: 3
It is often a difficult task to understand one's own culture and age. Recent philosophical work offers profound insights into our age and places these insights within a much wider context.
PHR 421 - Philosophy of Religion
Semester: Fall; Every three years
Semester hours: 3
This course provides an investigation of some of the crucial philosophical ideas about religion. Students will study such issues as the idea of God, the arguments for and against the existence of God, the idea of revelation, and the problem of religious language.
PHR 450 - Internship
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 1-12
This course is a guided work experience in an already established place of business. The student must arrange the internship in agreement with the instructor and the Office of Career Services. The internship should relate to the student's major or minor area of study. Contract is required.
Prerequisite: junior or senior standing
PHR 460 - Issues in Contemporary Religious Thought
Semester: Fall; Every three years
Semester hours: 3
This course provides an inquiry into major issues in current theology and new interpretations of basic religious ideas and texts. The specific content of this course will vary from year to year.
PHR 483 - Senior Project
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 1-3
Students complete a senior project in consultation with a faculty member.
PHR 490 - Seminar
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 2-3
Intensive study of a selected area or figure in philosophy or religion is explored.
PHR 499 - Independent Study
Semester: On Demand
Semester hours: 1-3
This course allows a superior student to devise and pursue independent study in an area agreed upon in consultation with, and supervised by, a faculty member. Students should be either a major or minor and have a cumulative GPA of 3.00 or greater.
Prerequisite: junior or senior standing
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