Philosophy and Religion
Professor and Chair
371 Holmes Hall
Ronald Sandler, Professor and Chair, email@example.com
John Basl, Assistant Professor and Academic Advisor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Diana Webster, Department Administrative Officer, email@example.com
Philosophy addresses questions and theories related to morality, society, religion, and the natural and social sciences. Course work in philosophy provides students with an understanding of the methods and traditions of philosophical thought, as well as with opportunities to critically and collaboratively reflect on the nature of the world and the human situation in it. Through readings, discussion, and writing, students examine questions concerning the validity of moral judgments, political ideas, and scientific theories, as well as questions about values and social policy in such areas as law, medicine, environment, and technology. Course work in philosophy significantly strengthens study in other areas.
Religious studies offers students the opportunity to acquire an understanding of religious experience within its social, historical, literary, and political context. Courses in religious studies examine specific religious traditions such as Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism, and using a comparative approach they explore themes across faith traditions. Through the major, students have the opportunity to study a range of religions and a variety of methods of understanding the key dimensions of religious life.
Information on experiential learning opportunities, student life, and department faculty can be found at the department website.
Academic Progression Standards
A minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.000 is required to remain in good standing in the major.
The Philosophy Major
Philosophy majors enter diverse careers, ranging from college-level teaching to law, medicine, and business. The program strives to help students sharpen their critical abilities. The department offers four ways to major in philosophy: the standard major, the concentration in law and ethics, the concentration in ethics, and the concentration in religious studies.
Major in Religious Studies
The religious studies major is designed to introduce students to a wide variety of religious experience and expression in the world. Through this major, students are exposed to the basic features of the world’s religions and the ethical systems that accompany them. They also have an opportunity to explore diverse methodological approaches to the study of religions in general. This major is designed to give students the expertise to prepare them for graduate school in religious studies or to enhance their abilities in any career that requires a liberal arts education.
The analytical and critical skills gained from the study of philosophy are a valuable complement to any other area of study. So, too, is having an understanding of the history of ideas and of alternative world views and value systems. For this reason, the department offers combined majors with political science, economics, physics, international affairs, environmental studies, history, English, computer science, criminal justice, and media and screen studies. Details regarding these majors can be found on the program pages.
The combined majors in religious studies bring together knowledge of religious traditions, theology, and practice; awareness of religious experience within its social, historical, literary, and political contexts; and methods of understanding the key dimensions of religious life with other areas of study in which religion plays a large role. Current combined majors include history and religious studies, international affairs and religious studies, religious studies and African- American studies, and Jewish studies and religion. More information on these majors can be found on the program pages.
Preapproved Template Programs in Philosophy and in Religious Studies
The Department of Philosophy and Religion offers preapproved combined major templates in philosophy and religious studies. Each template may be paired with another preapproved template to create a combined major. To see a list of current preapproved templates, visit the combined majors webpage.
Students may request such a combined major via the Combined Major Approval form, which requires approval by both disciplines/colleges together with an approved curriculum. For additional information on the preapproved template program, see “Student-Requested Combined Major.” For template program requirements, visit the myNortheastern web portal, click on the “Self-Service” tab, then on “My Degree Audit.”
The Department of Philosophy and Religion offers philosophy and religious studies minors, as well as a popular ethics minor. Each of these minors is structured to be highly flexible and to complement study in other majors, while also providing depth of knowledge in philosophy, religion, and ethics. Information on these minors can be found on the program pages.
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
- Religious Studies
- English and Philosophy
- Environmental Studies and Philosophy
- History and Philosophy
- History and Religious Studies
- International Affairs and Religious Studies
- Jewish Studies and Religion
- Media and Screen Studies and Philosophy
- Political Science and Philosophy
- Religious Studies and African American-Studies
Bachelor of Science (BS)
- Computer Science and Philosophy
- Criminal Justice and Philosophy
- Economics and Philosophy
- Physics and Philosophy
- Political Science and Philosophy
- Politics, Philosophy, and Economics
PHIL 1000. Philosophy at Northeastern. 1 Hour.
Intended for freshmen in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Introduces freshmen to the liberal arts in general; familiarizes them with their major; helps them develop the academic skills necessary to succeed (analytical ability and critical thinking); provides grounding in the culture and values of the University community; and helps them develop interpersonal skills—in short, familiarizes students with all skills needed to become a successful university student.
PHIL 1101. Introduction to Philosophy. 4 Hours.
Introduces students to philosophy by acquainting them with the theories and arguments of classical and contemporary philosophers and by teaching skills of constructing and analyzing arguments. Emphasizes philosophical inquiry. Topics include the basis of morality, free will vs. determinism, the existence of God, the problem of suffering, and the nature of knowledge.
PHIL 1102. Introduction to Contemporary Moral Issues. 4 Hours.
Focuses on current controversial issues and moral debates. Specific topics vary but include subjects like abortion, euthanasia, global poverty, economic justice, affirmative action, gender relations, animal rights, the environment, the death penalty, war, cloning, and same-sex marriage. Offers an opportunity to learn to apply both the methods of philosophical analysis and various ethical and political theories to these controversies.
PHIL 1104. Goddesses, Witches, Saints, and Sinners: Women in Western Religions. 4 Hours.
Begins with an analysis of the theory that original Western religion was goddess centered. Examines image, text, and ritual in the ancient world to analyze this theory and to explore what some scholars call the patriarchalization of these primal religions. Looks at the way that goddesses of the ancient world became saints or sinners under the newly constituted patriarchy. Includes a consideration of scripture such as the Hebrew Bible, Greek Testament, and Qu’ran as well as noncanonical texts. Not open to students who have completed PHIL 1103 except by permission of instructor.
PHIL 1105. Science and Pseudoscience. 4 Hours.
Examines the distinction between science and pseudoscience, how scientific theories change over time, the limits of scientific explanation, and whether or not scientific practice is rational and objective. What makes a theory scientific? Does culture influence scientific reasoning? What separates Einstein’s theory of relativity and astrological horoscopes? Covers a variety of topics in the history of science such as the Copernican revolution and the practice of psychoanalysis. Also covers contemporary issues regarding the scientific status of IQ tests, intelligent design theory, and others.
PHIL 1110. Introduction to Religion. 4 Hours.
Examines the methods, disciplines, and theories employed in the academic study of religion. Focuses on major theories of religion employed in the discipline of religious studies, including historical, psychological, anthropological, and sociological approaches. Introduces students to the primary methods of research in the academic study of religion.
PHIL 1111. Introduction to World Religions. 4 Hours.
Offers a historical and thematic overview of the most widely recognized religions in the world today: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Focuses on the formative periods and historical developments of the great religions, ritual practices, and the differing ways in which they answer the fundamental religious questions. Considers ways in which religious practitioners have attempted to understand the nature of the world, human society, and a person’s place within them.
PHIL 1112. Debating Ethical Controversies. 4 Hours.
Introduces students to the fundamentals of moral theory; ethical reasoning; social and political philosophy; as well as theories of social, political, and institutional change. Emphasizes in-depth ethical analysis and evaluation of the issues studied, their social and historical sources and context, as well as the way in which responses to them can and should lead to institutional and policy changes. Offers students an opportunity to be selected for an off-campus competitive debate experience. This course is modeled after the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl debates on current social and ethical issues.
PHIL 1115. Introduction to Logic. 4 Hours.
Covers the fundamentals of (formal) deductive and inductive logic. Begins with a thorough treatment of Boolean (i.e., truth-functional or propositional) logic, which provides the foundation for both mathematical and statistical reasoning. Discusses various applications of Boolean logic, including the reconstruction and evaluation of (natural language) deductive arguments. Covers inductive-logical reasoning, such as the fundamentals of the probability calculus and its applications to inductive (ampliative) inference. Offers students an opportunity to understand both deductive (e.g., mathematical) and inductive (e.g., statistical) reasoning.
PHIL 1120. Understanding the Bible. 4 Hours.
Introduces students to the Old and New Testaments, so that they may enter into a dialogue with the Bible, understanding not only what it says, but why it is said that way. To do this, discussion focuses on the Bible’s social, political and cultural backgrounds.
PHIL 1130. Ethics: East and West. 4 Hours.
Focuses on how traditions imagine the moral life in cross-cultural contexts. Topics may include ideals of human flourishing, notions of virtue and vice, and conceptions of self and community. Offers students an opportunity to learn methods of philosophical analysis and argumentation in cross-cultural contexts.
PHIL 1145. Technology and Human Values. 4 Hours.
Studies philosophy of technology, as well as ethics and modern technology. Considers the relationship between technology and humanity, the social dimensions of technology, and ethical issues raised by emerging technologies. Discusses emerging technologies such as biotechnology, information technology, nanotechnology, and virtual reality.
PHIL 1160. Introduction to Economic Justice. 4 Hours.
Attempts to answer the questions: What is economic justice? What are the criteria by which we tell whether a society is (or is not) an economically just society? Looks at views on these issues developed by advocates of capitalism, socialism, and the welfare state.
PHIL 1165. Moral and Social Problems in Healthcare. 4 Hours.
Introduces ethical theories and moral principles, and then uses these theories and principles to analyze the moral problems that arise in the medical context. Topics include euthanasia, medical paternalism, informed consent, patient confidentiality, the right to die, the ethics of medical research, abortion, the right to healthcare, distribution of scarce medical resources, and the ethical implications of health maintenance organizations.
PHIL 1170. Business Ethics. 4 Hours.
Examines ethical principles and considerations involved in making moral business decisions. Studies basic ethical viewpoints as a foundation; analyzes specific characteristics of business life through case studies and examples. Topics include corporate responsibility, employee rights, conflict of interest and roles, advertising and information disclosure, environmental issues, and self- and governmental regulations.
PHIL 1180. Environmental Ethics. 4 Hours.
Focuses on a current ecological crisis and addresses the values that underlie our concern over this crisis, whether the values at issue are anthropocentric or biocentric. Explores the ethical implications these ecological concerns have for our individual lifestyles, and for our role as members of communities.
PHIL 1185. The Ethics of Food. 4 Hours.
Introduces the ethics of food. Elucidates a wide range of ethical issues associated with food production, processing, distribution, and consumption. Offers students an opportunity to develop skills in ethics and values analysis that can be applied to evaluate food-related practices and policies. Includes topics such as the ethics of different food systems, genetically modified crops, meat eating, hunting, food security, food justice, sustainability, synthetic meat, food advertising, food safety, and foodie culture.
PHIL 1195. Research Ethics. 4 Hours.
Addresses how to engage in scientific, medical, and technological research in an ethically responsible manner. Research is crucial to understanding social, environmental, and health problems, as well as to developing effective responses to them. If the paradigm of responsible research is too restrictive, the benefits of scientific progress and technological innovation can be delayed or unrealized. At the same time, researchers have a responsibility to protect research subjects, to appropriately engage with members of the community, and to avoid behaving in ways that undermine scientific research in the long run. Explores the many ethical dimensions of research, and introduces students to the ethical foundations and controversies that are central to developing appropriate ethical frameworks for engaging in research.
PHIL 1220. The Meaning of Death. 4 Hours.
Offers an inquiry into different philosophical and religious perspectives on death and life after death, including an examination of some powerful contemporary accounts of personal confrontation with death along with investigations into attitudes toward death in other traditions (for example, Hinduism and Buddhism).
PHIL 1230. Sound, Music, and Religion. 4 Hours.
Explores the relationship between religion, sound, and musical expression using the lenses of gender studies, cultural studies, and performance theory. Emphasizes the interpretive and symbolic understandings of sonic expressions of religiosity, including chanting, mantra use, choir and congregational singing, and speaking in tongues. Seeks to familiarize students with some of the key sonic expressions within the Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions; to explore the methods of studying musical and sonic theology; and to analyze these traditions’ own debates about the use of sound and music in religious practice.
PHIL 1231. Image and Icon in South Asia. 4 Hours.
Explores the relationship between South Asian religions and artistic expression. Examines the variety and identifying features of many Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist temples and images. Particular attention is paid to the interpretive and symbolic understandings of these expressions. Explores the idea of the embodiment of a deity within an image and challenges such an idea in the readings. This course’s objectives are: to familiarize the students with the iconography of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism in South Asia; to explore the methods of studying iconography and visual theology; and to analyze these traditions’ own debates about the use of icons and images.
PHIL 1250. Jesus in the Gospels, American Culture, and the Movies. 4 Hours.
Explores different portraits of Jesus drawn by the New Testament and extrabiblical gospel writers. Examines the varieties of understandings of Jesus in American culture with a focus on the twentieth century. Using the materials from the biblical and cultural analysis, the course then turns to films about Jesus to assess the different cultural situations and understandings of Jesus in films such as From the Manger to the Cross, Intolerance, The King of Kings, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, Jesus of Nazareth, The Life of Brian, The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus of Montreal, and The Passion of the Christ.
PHIL 1260. Apocalypticism in Film. 4 Hours.
Begins with an investigation of biblical texts that give rise to apocalypticism, definitions of apocalypticism, and an introductory exploration of the various ways in which apocalypticism has manifested itself in western culture. Examines the diverse and changing presentation of apocalypticism in film and includes titles such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, Independence Day, The Seventh Seal, Smoke Signals, Blade Runner, and The Matrix.
PHIL 1270. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Abrahamic Religions. 4 Hours.
Introduces the three major religious traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, sometimes called “Abrahamic traditions,” as they all claim a special relationship with the biblical figure Abraham. Explores the foundation narratives, doctrines, rituals, and ethics of these three traditions, independently and in relation to each other. Focuses on how these traditions adapted to specific cultural and historical contexts. Offers students firsthand experience of the complex issues involved in the academic study of religion in comparative context.
PHIL 1271. Sex in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. 4 Hours.
Explores approaches to gender, social organization of sexuality and gender, sexual ethics, and marriage in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Explores various sources within each tradition that serve as normative foundations, contemporary cultural and sociological dynamics that challenge those foundations, and psychological/existential considerations for understanding the general nature of human sexuality. Addresses how these traditions understand gender and gender roles, seek to shape and control interactions between men and women, regulate sexual relations outside of and within marriage, view sexuality education, regard homosexuality, and examine historical and contemporary approaches to marriage, divorce, and parenting. PHIL 1271 and WMNS 1271 are cross-listed.
PHIL 1272. Ethics in the World’s Religions. 4 Hours.
Examines the ethical systems emerging from various religions. Includes Eastern religions with an emphasis on the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and the different stances taken within the branches of each religion. Explores, for example, different perspectives among various types of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Examines the religious ethics of various indigenous peoples, Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, Maori, and some of the African peoples.
PHIL 1273. Jainism. 4 Hours.
Explores Jainism, one of the world’s oldest religious traditions. The Jain community—a small but influential one mostly concentrated in western India—presents us with a complex and fascinating philosophy, a lively temple and ritual culture, and a full year of fasts and festivals. Jainism offers both the most thorough examination of the value of nonviolence and an unprecedented prominence of women within the tradition both in the texts and in practice. Finally, Jainism is a religion of people, and the course examines both their religious lives and the ways their religion affects their socioeconomics. An in-depth look at Jainism demonstrates its importance in the development of Asian religions.
PHIL 1275. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Beyond: Eastern Religions. 4 Hours.
Examines Hinduism, Jainism, Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Shinto within South Asia (India) and east Asia (China and Japan). Combines readings in primary source materials (the religious texts of these traditions) with secondary examinations of the historical and doctrinal developments within each tradition and region. This course intends to give students a context in which to examine the ways in which religions develop in interlocking sociocultural and political contexts and to provide a grounding in the lived experiences of these religious traditions.
PHIL 1276. Indian Religions. 4 Hours.
Traces the development of religious thought in India. South Asian religion is marked by the ongoing dialogues between the South Asian traditions we call Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism (as well as Buddhism and Islam, which are covered in separate courses). The interaction between these traditions shows the ways each defined itself independently and in response to challenges presented by the others.
PHIL 1280. Encountering Islam: Traditions, Debates, and Crosscultural Diversity. 4 Hours.
Explores Islam through its foundations narrative, rituals, doctrines, and ethical teachings. Presents Islam in terms of its diversity by focusing on a series of key debates in Islamic thought and practice from its early history to the present day in cross-cultural perspectives.
PHIL 1281. Islam, Gender, and Fashion. 4 Hours.
Explores why the Islamic veil today is so “pregnant with meanings” and how this impacts the lives of not only Muslim women who cover but also of those who do not. Specifically examines the various things wearing a veil “can do,” that is, its political, social, economic, and moral power. Considers how colonialism, nationalism, and Islamic movements have affected the Islamic veil; how veiling affects educational and employment opportunities for Muslim women; how the veil is used as a symbol of cultural identity; and when the Islamic veil is also a fashion statement. PHIL 1281 and WMNS 1281 are cross-listed.
PHIL 1285. Jewish Religion and Culture. 4 Hours.
Explores the basic features of Judaism in the ancient, rabbinic, and modern periods. Employs an historical critical approach to the formative texts and their interpreters. Analyzes Jewish practices within specific historical contexts and discusses the ways in which practices relate to the texts and history of Judaism. Examines the rich varieties of Jewish cultural expressions. JWSS 1285 and PHIL 1285 are cross-listed.
PHIL 1286. American Judaism. 4 Hours.
Explores Jewish theology, ethics, thought, and praxis in the United States beginning with the arrival of the first Jewish settlers in colonial times and culminating with an inquiry into the contemporary scene. Explores topics such as the challenges Judaism faced as it confronted a culture in which religion was both personal and voluntary; responded to the horrors of Hitler’s Germany; engaged the issues raised with the re-establishment of the nation of Israel; faced the developments of new forms of Judaism; and reacted to issues of Jewish identity, diversity, and gender as they were raised in the late twentieth century.
PHIL 1287. Modern Judaism. 4 Hours.
Studies the ways in which Judaism has changed in modern times. How did this ancient religion respond to the Enlightenment? How did the freedom of religion granted to Jews in America affect their religious expression? What does the birth of the State of Israel in 1948 mean in religious terms? The course addresses all of these questions as well as examining the rise of denominations, Zionism, Jewish feminism, and changing notions of Jewish peoplehood. Emphasizes the ways in which developments within Judaism reflected and responded to changes in the larger world and overlapped with developments in other Western religions.
PHIL 1290. Chinese Philosophy and Religion. 4 Hours.
Surveys the origins and development of the indigenous religious traditions of China, from the oracle bone divinations of the Shang Dynasty to the philosophical and religious traditions of Confucianism, Mohism, Yangism, Daoism, and Legalism. Identifies and elucidates those elements of ancient Chinese thought that have had the most lasting influence on the Chinese ethos and worldview. Studies the foundational texts of ancient China and also examines the relevant practices that helped to define the various traditions of thought. Focuses on how religious and philosophical ideas influenced the larger culture of Chinese life in regard to the arts, medicine, the social order, and government.
PHIL 1295. Religious Perspectives on Health and Healing. 4 Hours.
Explores aspects of the historical, religious, and cultural context for contemporary alternatives in healthcare, beginning with an examination of several examples of traditional healing practices and their accompanying religious and philosophical views about human life. Explores this “holistic” tradition in two frames of reference: the ascendancy of scientific rationalism over religion; and the takeover, by male-dominated professions, of healing functions that society has traditionally assigned to women (that is, the rise of obstetrics and the suppression of midwifery). Emphasizes major women healers of the nineteenth century. Includes some contemporary efforts at integration of scientific and traditional values in the modern healthcare system.
PHIL 1410. From Vodou and the Rastas to Afro-Islam: African Religions in the Americas. 4 Hours.
Explores the religions of Africa as they express themselves in the Americas in various Christian forms; in new religions such as Vodou, Santeria, and the Rastafari; and unique forms of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Begins by exploring indigenous African religions, then traces the forced transplantation of those religions and the way in which new religions emerge from the combination, or syncretism, of African symbols and belief and the forms of Christianity that existed in the New World when Africans arrived. To examine these religious traditions, the course draws on the methodology of comparative religion to explore the theory, practice, and symbol systems of the religions of Africa and the African Diaspora in the New World.
PHIL 1666. The Problem of Evil in Film. 4 Hours.
Seeks to answer the question, what is evil? Uses a variety of film genres to examine the definitions of evil in relation to concepts such as power, sin, hate, greed, envy, murder, neglect, fear, terror, tragedy, and “the Other.” Studies the problem of evil from the perspectives of religious studies and philosophy. Examines the various explanations for evil from a variety of Western religious traditions and explores the presentation of ethical dilemmas and moral theory to assess the content of a variety of films. Studies film titles such as The Dark Knight, The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs, Frankenstein, Life Is Beautiful, Rear Window, Dr. Strangelove, Phone Booth, Crash, Star Wars,and The Wizard of Oz.
PHIL 1667. Science Fiction and Film: Moral Dilemmas and Ethical Analysis. 4 Hours.
Explores how science fiction films function as mythical cautionary tales about moral dilemmas of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and as projections about how these dilemmas may be resolved or continue in the future. Provides a framework for an ethical analysis and examines how themes such as manifest destiny, nationalism, utopia, good vs. evil, war, and concepts of “the Other” are presented in classic and contemporary film. Also shows how science fiction film sometimes reinterprets pre-existing stories from world cultures and world religious traditions, updating earlier moral dilemmas to the contemporary situation.
PHIL 1990. Elective. 1-4 Hours.
Offers elective credit for courses taken at other academic institutions. May be repeated without limit.
PHIL 2001. Ethics and Evolutionary Games. 4 Hours.
Surveys the basic ideas and principles from evolutionary game theory and how they can be applied to philosophical questions about ethical and social norms. Investigates how cooperation evolves and is maintained; where our sense of fairness comes from and how it affects the way we interact with others; why individuals are altruistic; and whether there is a rational basis for our most basic social norms. Basic ethical norms can involve cooperation, altruism, mutual aid, fairness, coordination, and communication. Evolution and game theory, the formal study of social interaction, have recently been applied to these areas in order to better understand how these norms can arise naturally. Prior completion of PHIL 1115, PHIL 1215, or the NU Core requirement for mathematical/analytical thinking level 1 recommended.
PHIL 2100. The Religious Worlds of Boston: Faith and Devotion in Urban Life. 4 Hours.
Examines the nature of religion and religious life in Boston, emphasizing the lived experience of the sacred in an urban setting. Offers students an opportunity to develop research methods based in ethnography, the analysis of texts, and the interpretation of material culture. Readings include works in the method and theory of religious studies, the practice of ethnography, and case studies of lived religion, especially those that focus on urban religion. Expects students to engage in fieldwork in Boston, examining the implicit religious dimensions of everyday life and particular religious communities. Assignments include field reports, analysis of the religious landscape of Boston, and a research paper on a designated religious community. Requires prior completion of one introductory-level course in the social sciences or humanities.
PHIL 2300. Mysticism. 4 Hours.
Looks primarily at mysticism in the major world religions, with an emphasis on Western mystics. Investigates the role of mysticism in some of the tribal religions of Africa and North America and compares the perceptions of the various forms. Looks at the ways in which the mystics are part of the larger traditions, such as cabala within Judaism, mysticism within Christianity, and Sufism within Islam. Describes the extent to which the cultural settings of the religions play a role in the form of mysticism that arises in the dominant religion. Requires prior completion of 4 SH of philosophy and religion or permission of instructor.
PHIL 2301. Philosophical Problems of Law and Justice. 4 Hours.
Focuses on general questions about the law: What is the nature and proper scope of the law? How should the law be enforced and are there alternatives to punishment? How can laws be properly interpreted? Examples of legal controversies are related to the theories studied.
PHIL 2303. Social and Political Philosophy. 4 Hours.
Focuses on basic questions about the nature of the state and the relationship of individuals to the state. What basis is there for individuals to obey the laws of the state? What conditions must a government meet to be legitimate? What justification can be given for democratic forms of government? Also examines what sorts of controls the state should exert over citizens, and what benefits citizens have a right to expect from the state. Includes readings from both classical and contemporary sources. Not open to freshmen students.
PHIL 2311. The Kabbalah: Jewish Mysticism from the Zohar to Madonna. 4 Hours.
Surveys early mystical tendencies in the Hebrew Bible, in rabbinic literature, and in early medieval Jewish texts as background for grappling with the ideas of the Zohar, a fundamental text of the Jewish mystical tradition, or kabbalah. Begins with a brief overview of mysticism in general and Jewish mysticism in particular. Explores later kabbalistic developments, including Hasidism and kabbalah in popular culture today. Topics include God in kabbalah; mystical experiences; the relationship of kabbalah to Jewish tradition; the power of language, gender, the body; and meditation and other mystical practices.
PHIL 2313. Exploring the Jewish Diaspora—From Mountain Jews to Crypto-Jews. 4 Hours.
Explores vibrant Jewish life in foreign lands, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and South Africa, as well as unusual Jewish communities in places such as Uganda and northeastern India. Covers topics such as how Jewish religion and identity are reshaped by other cultures, the emergence of secret Jews who fled the Iberian peninsula more than five centuries ago, and a brief history of Jewish life in the modern diaspora. Includes presentations and discussion of diaspora art, literature, film, and music. JWSS 2313 and PHIL 2313 are cross-listed.
PHIL 2314. Biblical Prophets and Their Interpreters. 4 Hours.
Analyzes several key prophets of the Hebrew Bible, such as Amos, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. Explores the cultural and historical contexts in which their prophecies originally arose. Examines the various ways in which prophecy has been interpreted within both Judaism and Christianity.
PHIL 2315. Adam and Eve and Their Interpreters. 4 Hours.
Focuses on the story of Eden, which has been interpreted and reinterpreted by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers throughout history. Primarily, Adam and Eve have served to legitimize and enforce gender and other social hierarchies, but occasionally, and particularly in light of modern feminism, are employed to justify egalitarianism. The course uses this story, and its long history of interpretation, as a case study for examining the social and political applications of religious principles derived from sacred texts in Western societies, as well as the influence of those societies on the diverse ways in which the text has historically been interpreted.
PHIL 2316. Interpreting the Bible. 4 Hours.
Offers students the opportunity to understand the Bible as it is continually interpreted by believing communities in their own social and religious contexts. By appreciating the process of scriptural interpretation and the various sources of authority for it, allows us to see contemporary theological conflicts in a broader perspective.
PHIL 2322. Responses to the Holocaust. 4 Hours.
Explores the variety of responses to the mass death brought on by the Holocaust. Examines the responses of theology, and literature, as well as relevant ethical issues. Requires prior completion of one philosophy course.
PHIL 2325. Ancient Philosophy and Political Thought. 4 Hours.
Examines the philosophers of classical Greece, primarily Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. These philosophers examined the nature of the material world, of the city, and of the person. The course takes up both the moral and political writings as well as the metaphysical writings. Devotes considerable attention to major works such as Plato’s Republic. Some time is given to early Greek philosophers, to the Sophists, and to later developments. Requires written analysis of philosophical texts. PHIL 2325 and POLS 2325 are cross-listed.
PHIL 2330. Modern Philosophy. 4 Hours.
Focuses on the hundred years between 1650 and 1750, sometimes called “the century of genius.” It was a period in which philosophers reacted to the new scientific discoveries of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo. Out of this reaction came new ways of thinking about the nature of knowledge and the nature of reality. Focuses on such major figures as the rationalists Descartes, Leibniz, and Spinoza, and the empiricists Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Requires prior completion of one philosophy course.
PHIL 2394. Chinese Buddhism. 4 Hours.
Offers a historical survey of the major forms of Buddhism that developed in China, from the beginning of the Common Era to the “Golden Age” of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang and Song dynasties to its eventual decline. Beyond examining the particular texts, figures, and practices (particularly forms of meditation and prayer) from each historical period, the class addresses the following questions: How did the Chinese absorb and re-create Indian Buddhism to reflect the cultural foundations of Chinese traditional society? How were ideological lines drawn between Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism?.
PHIL 2395. Japanese Buddhism. 4 Hours.
Surveys the major forms of Japanese Buddhism, from the earliest transmission of Buddhism to the maturation of Buddhist thought and practice during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods. Focuses not only on the major schools and figures of each period but also the ways in which Buddhism influenced and shaped Japanese culture. Examines, in particular, the formative influence of Buddhism on Japanese aesthetic sensibilities, samurai culture, and ritual. Focuses thematically on the religious practices that defined each school and how those practices were incorporated into a holistic religious vision.
PHIL 2398. Religion and Culture in Indian Cinema. 4 Hours.
Explores the intersecting discourses of gender, nationalism, and religion in India through the lens of Hindi cinema and the framework of the expanding scholarship on Indian cinema. Film is a particularly powerful medium for analyzing the representations of a culture. India boasts the largest film industry and film viewing audiences in the world. The course centers around Hindi popular cinema (Bollywood) but includes films from art cinema (New Cinema) and diaspora films for contrast with the mainstream cinema. Students are expected to watch films weekly and read corresponding work in cinema studies, gender studies, and religious studies. All films are subtitled in English.
PHIL 2990. Elective. 1-4 Hours.
Offers elective credit for courses taken at other academic institutions. May be repeated without limit.
PHIL 3000. Interdisciplinary Approaches to Understanding and Solving Contemporary Issues. 4 Hours.
Trains students in interdisciplinary use of the tools of the three disciplines constituting the PPE major: Philosophy, Political Science and Economics. Through guest lectures, discipline specific research, course lecture and discussion, and a service learning opportunity that accompanies the duration of the course, students are exposed to the evaluative process through the lens of each of the disciplines that comprise the PPE major. Facilitates both an appreciation for each discipline and the value of their combination with respect to the evaluation and solution of a social issue.
PHIL 3343. Existentialism. 4 Hours.
Examines existentialist philosophy in its greatest representatives, such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Camus, and Sartre. Focuses on central themes including self-alienation, inauthenticity, authenticity, and existential experiences. Requires prior completion of two philosophy courses.
PHIL 3387. Religion, Nation, and Identity in Modern Jewish Thought. 4 Hours.
Examines the thought of major Jewish thinkers of the modern era. May include such figures as Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Buber, Rosenzweig, Kaplan, Heschel, and Rubenstein. Requires prior completion of two philosophy courses.
PHIL 3410. Religion and Spirituality in the African Diaspora. 4 Hours.
Examines religious thought and rituals and its Diaspora in a comparative context. Topics include traditional religions, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in Africa and the diaspora. Emphasizes the transformation of religions practiced in Africa when African captives were forced into the three slave trades affecting the continent of Africa: trans-Saharan, Indian Ocean, and transatlantic.
PHIL 3435. Moral Philosophy. 4 Hours.
Explores two basic questions: What sorts of things are good or bad? What actions are right or wrong? Covers major philosophical theories about the nature of morality-whether it is relative or absolute, whether it accords or conflicts with self-interest. Such classic theories as utilitarianism and Kant are examined as well as contemporary developments and debates. Requires prior completion of two philosophy courses.
PHIL 3460. Philosophy and Literature. 4 Hours.
Provides the student the opportunity to learn to recognize, appreciate, and criticize philosophical themes in literature. Includes readings from acknowledged classics by philosophical authors. Requires prior completion of two philosophy courses.
PHIL 3500. Sexuality, Gender, and the Law. 4 Hours.
Examines the legal regulation of gender and sexuality. Investigates concrete legal cases to study the history of constitutional interpretation and the current status of rights for women and sexual minorities. Focuses on important theoretical issues emerging in the writings of diverse feminist and queer legal scholars. Addresses debates over the value of conventional equality approaches in legal doctrine; equality vs. difference perspectives; ways in which legal language constructs gender and sexuality; the incorporation of sexuality and gender in ideologies of law; and the intersections of gender, sexuality, and race in legal doctrine and legal theory. PHIL 3500, POLS 3500, and WMNS 3500 are cross-listed.
PHIL 3990. Elective. 1-4 Hours.
Offers elective credit for courses taken at other academic institutions. May be repeated without limit.
PHIL 4390. Cults and Sects. 4 Hours.
Offers an examination of the varieties of religious experience from the perspectives of sociology and psychology of religion. Focuses on such cultic and sectarian groups as Christian Science, the American Shakers, the Unification Church, the Hare Krishna movement, and the Black Muslims. Provides students the opportunity to acquire critical investigative tools with which to analyze different religious expressions. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses or permission of instructor.
PHIL 4393. Asian Religions in the United States. 4 Hours.
Examines challenges from Americans to Asian religions and from Asians to the American interpretations of Asian religions. Asian religions in the United States include two basic groups of believers. The first are the immigrant communities and their children who retain their religion and reinterpret this tradition in the North American setting. The second group are American converts to Asian religions who recreate the traditions to answer their needs. While no religion is static, the movement of a tradition to a new land always involves a certain amount of reinterpretation. Also explores some of the challenges of a study such as this class.
PHIL 4395. Ramayana. 4 Hours.
Examines the Ramayana, the story of Ram, Lakshmana, Sita, and Hanuman—from Ram’s exile and Sita’s abduction to the victorious battle to recapture her—one of the world’s great epics and a central religious story for Hindus. Explores the classical Sanskrit Ramayana, regional variants, subverted interpretations, and pop culture representations. From Sanskrit text recitation to ritual dance-drama performances, from comic books and a television series to Hindu nationalist politics, the Ramayana has provided a ground for debates about what it means to be a good king, what it means to be a good person, and also what it means to be Hindu. All texts are read in English. Prior knowledge about Hinduism would be very useful.
PHIL 4500. Theory of Knowledge. 4 Hours.
Focuses on questions about the nature and justification of claims to knowledge. Is there genuine knowledge? How do we tell when a belief or theory is sufficiently justified to count as knowledge? Discusses theories such as various forms of rationalism, empiricism, and skepticism. Requires careful reading of works by such influential thinkers as René Descartes, Bertrand Russell, A. J. Ayer, and T. S. Kuhn. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses.
PHIL 4510. Philosophy of Science. 4 Hours.
Focuses on the nature of scientific method, scientific theories, and scientific explanations. Examines the central question of why science is thought to provide the most reliable account of the nature of reality. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses (PHIL 1115 or PHIL 1215 recommended) or permission of instructor.
PHIL 4515. Advanced Logic. 4 Hours.
Studies the major results in the metatheory of first-order logic. Examines consistency, completeness, and decidability. Discusses the general notion of an effectively computable process, Church’s thesis, and the existence of unsolvable problems.
PHIL 4535. Philosophy of Mind. 4 Hours.
Seeks to show what puzzles and problems result from an honest attempt to answer these questions in a reasonable way: What is the relation between mind and body? Is the mental merely a function of bodily process and behavior, or does it somehow exist “over and above” the material? How are self-knowledge and knowledge of other minds achieved, and what is the relation between words and thoughts? Examines classical sources, such as Descartes and Locke, and contemporary sources, such as Wittgenstein and Putnam. Also seeks to arrive at some answers-however tentative or provisional-to these questions. Constantly challenges students to think and write well about these difficult subjects. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses or permission of instructor.
PHIL 4545. Religion and Politics in South Asia. 4 Hours.
Analyzes how to think critically both about the ways religion is presented to us and the connections we make between political movements and religious groups. Explores questions such as: What could it mean for politics to be religious and for religions to be political? Are “religious conflicts” essentially religious? What is the relationship between socioeconomic movements and religion? Do religions take the blame for political movements? Focuses on two South Asian communal conflicts that are couched in terms of religious identity: the Hindu-Muslim conflicts and Hindu-Sikh conflicts. Uses primary and secondary sources to study these conflicts to analyze the workings of religious rhetoric and political rhetoric about religions.
PHIL 4546. Advanced Biblical Studies: Hebrew Bible. 4 Hours.
Studies a book or genre of texts of the Hebrew Bible in English translation. Designed for the student who has successfully completed course work in biblical studies at the college level, it addresses questions of authorship, form, original meaning, setting, and purpose.
PHIL 4547. Seminar: Apocalypticism. 4 Hours.
Designed to explore Jewish and Christian apocalypticism from the time it bursts onto the scene c. 165 BCE through its contemporary popular expressions. Begins with an in-depth look at the biblical materials contained in Daniel and Revelation, explores apocryphal and pseudepigraphal texts, and examines millenarian and messianic expectations in their historical perspectives. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses or permission of instructor.
PHIL 4550. Philosophy of Economics. 4 Hours.
Explores the philosophy behind economics. Surveys central ideas in the foundations of economics and formal methods in economics, including utility theory, rational choice theory, game theory, and social choice. Explores applications of economic modeling to institutions, markets, and social interactions. Examines the philosophical significance of economic inquiry, including fact/value distinctions, the ideal of economic rationality, the nature of economic modeling, and the place of economics among the sciences. Requires prior completion of at least three philosophy and/or economics courses.
PHIL 4606. Seminar: Theories and Methods in Religious Studies. 4 Hours.
Focuses on the history of the study of religion as it developed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Examines readings from a wide range of foundational thinkers and contemporary scholarship to illustrate the roots of religious studies and the state of the field today. Designed to simultaneously acknowledge the interdisciplinary nature of religious studies by asking students to read in several methodological schools while allowing each student to pursue a particular school in more depth. Includes theorists from anthropology, comparative method, cultural studies, hermeneutics, history of religions, mythology, phenomenology, philosophy of religion, ritual and performance studies, sociology, psychology, and visual theology. Offers an opportunity for students to see the ways religious studies methodologies speak to each other and how they might be used to examine particular religious phenomena. Requires prior completion of 16 SH of philosophy and religion.
PHIL 4903. Seminar in Religion. 4 Hours.
Examines topics including theodicy, cosmogony, contemporary issues in religion, and comparative ethics. Topics vary, and students may register for the course more than once. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses. May be repeated without limit.
PHIL 4904. Major Figures in Religious Studies. 4 Hours.
Focuses on the work of one figure important in the field of religion. Subjects include Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Weber, and Eliade. Topics vary, and students may register for the course more than once. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses.
PHIL 4906. Topics in Religious Studies. 4 Hours.
Focuses on a topic of special importance in the study of religion. Topics vary and students may take the course more than once. Requires prior completion of three philosophy courses. May be repeated without limit.
PHIL 4990. Elective. 1-4 Hours.
PHIL 4992. Directed Study. 1-4 Hours.
Offers independent work under the direction of members of the department on a chosen topic. Course content depends on instructor. May be repeated without limit.
PHIL 4994. Internship. 4 Hours.
Offers an opportunity for an internship. May be repeated without limit.
PHIL 5001. Global Justice. 4 Hours.
Explores the theoretical, political, and philosophical foundations of the obligations that underlie global justice. Theoretical approaches include human rights, human capabilities, cosmopolitanism, particularism, and universalism. Examines nationalism and the particular set of obligations that it generates. Following the theoretical component, the course considers social issues that arise in a global context: (1) the duties to the distant poor, (2) global philanthropy and problems of donee accountability, (3) global health and essential medicines and issues in environmental justice, and (4) issues in international law.
PHIL 5011. Comparative Religious Ethics. 4 Hours.
Offers a comparative approach to Eastern and Western ethical traditions. Examines primary texts from a variety of religious cultures as well as theoretical works in comparative religious ethics and moral philosophy that engage in and critique the project of cross-cultural dialogue. Investigates ideals of human flourishing, notions of virtue and vice, and conceptions of selfhood and community. Discusses issues of pluralism; orientalism (a mode of thinking, constructed and disseminated by the West, that projects a vision of the East as irrational, mystical, and primitive, which suits the ideological and political purposes of the West); and methods of comparative philosophy as a way of understanding the context of the academic study of non-Western traditions.