Philosophy and Religious Studies

  • Edward Scott, department chair
    Andrea Cornett-Scott, Katherine Low, Amy Miller, Roderic Owen

    MBU offers a minor in both philosophy and religious studies as well as a minor in religious leadership and ministry.

    Philosophy is unlike any other field: it is unique both in its methods and in the nature and breadth of its subject matter. Philosophy pursues fundamental questions in every dimension of human life, and its techniques apply to problems in many fields of study or endeavor. No single definition expresses the richness and variety of philosophy: it is a reasoned pursuit of fundamental truths, a quest for deeper understanding, a study of the principles of conduct, and a critical examination of the ways-of-knowing and experiencing. Philosophers seek to establish standards of evidence, provide rational and humane methods of resolving conflicts, and create methods and criteria for evaluating ideas and arguments. Philosophy develops students’ capacity to view the world from the perspective of other individuals and other cultures; it enhances one’s ability to perceive the relationships among diverse fields of study; and it deepens one’s sense of the meanings and varieties of human experience.

    Religious Studies involves the study of religious history and modern religious issues in a manner that regards all spiritual traditions equally. A minor in Religious Studies draws upon many of the same tools as philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology, and theology. Students will exercise strong analytical and original thinking skills and develop their ability to empathize with the perspectives and beliefs of fellow human beings. The religious studies minor provides an understanding of different religions including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam.      These diverse belief systems have had a significant influence on the lives of millions of people worldwide and served as the foundation for community and culture and also provided a way to grapple with fundamental values and questions about human existence. Also, religious faith has been the source of great artistic and literary achievements — while at the same time, served as the justification for many of the world’s major conflicts, wars, and social movements. Understanding the role religion plays in conflicts and social change — and the resources it may bring to their resolution — is one key purpose for its study.

  • Requirements for the Minor in Philosophy

    21 semester hours
    PHIL 101 or PHIL 102
    PHIL 103
    PHIL 201 or PHIL 211
    Additional courses in Philosophy to total 21 s.h.

    Note: The following Philosophy courses may be taken at the 300 level by declared minors: PHIL 201, PHIL 203, PHIL 211, PHIL 232, and PHIL 234.

    Requirements for the Minor in Religious Studies

    21 semester hours
    REL 101
    REL 102
    AS/REL 212
    Additional courses in Religious Studies to total 21 s.h.

    Religious Studies Course Descriptions

    Please see Religious Studies

  • Civic Engagement Opportunities

    • Civic engagement focus: PHIL 140 Community and Service Learning
    • Many programs and events jointly sponsored by Religion and Philosophy, such as Black History Month events — Black Baby Doll Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Candlelight March and Memorial Service, Kwanzaa
    • Annual Peacebuilding and World Religions presentations and campus guest speakers
    • Support for diverse Spencer Center and student club civic activities
    • Internship opportunities: mediation and conflict resolution, peacebuilding, interfaith programs
    • International civic engagement through May Term course offerings
  • 101 Introduction to Philosophy (3 s.h.) (H, W)
    Involves the activity of philosophizing by practicing skills and methods of philosophical inquiry and critical analysis. Issues examined include free will and determinism, ethical decision-making, theories of knowledge, the existence of God, political philosophy, and theories of human nature.

    102 Introduction to Ethics (3 s.h.) (H)
    Provides theoretical tools for ethical decision-making; examines basic concepts of ethical decision-making and several theories including those of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill and Bentham. Application is made to contemporary moral issues.

    103 Introduction to Logic (3 s.h.) (Q)
    Acquaints the student with basic terminology and develops her analytic and logical reasoning abilities. Topics include distinctions between truth and validity, induction and deduction, recognizing fallacies, testing the validity of arguments in concrete situations, and understanding the importance of logic for the sciences.

    110 Ethical Issues in Business (3 s.h.) (H)
    A philosophical introduction to ethical inquiry and moral judgments in corporate and business contexts. Ethical issues include advertising, profit margins, environmental responsibility, and worker’s rights, and moral issues in business that concern the student. Online, blackboard-based course.

    140 Community and Service Learning (3 s.h.) (C, O)
    Students encounter practical community needs and goals, develop skills in critical thinking and problem solving, and reflect on the relationship between theory and practice. They explore their commitment to community-oriented values, practice skills that enhance citizenship, and learn how to care for those in need. Combined course and internship includes hands-on experience in an approved community agency or religious or humanitarian organization, and critical reading, discussion, and written reflection about service work. Students make connections between personal and professional goals, their roles as liberal arts students, and their evolving commitment.

    200 Contemporary Feminisms and Gender Studies (3 s.h.) (G)
    For course description, see WS 200 in the Women’s Studies listing.

    201 Greek and Medieval Philosophy (3 s.h.) (H)
    Retraces the original steps taken by the philosophical imagination in the history of metaphysics; includes a careful interpretation of seminal works determinative for the unfolding of that history, with particular attention to the play of logos and the formation of metaphor for expressing thought and being. Related themes include the existence of God, theories of ethics, refutation of skepticism, and the nature of persons.

    203 The Literature and Thought of Existentialism (3 s.h.) (W)
    Explores the growth of existentialism as a major modern literary and philosophical movement. Besides philosophical literature, the student reads novels, poetry, and drama selected from the works of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Dostoyevsky, Heidegger, Sartre, Camus, Hesse, Kafka, Tillich, and Buber. Occasionally offered as a global honors course.

    211 Modern Political Thought (3 s.h.)
    Inquiry into the origins and development of modern and contemporary political theories — especially democracy, communism, socialism, and fascism. Students will examine ideas and values undergirding  these theories, including view of human nature and  modern conceptions of freedom, equality, individualism, the social contract, and national sovereignty. Special topics may include the politics of genocide, the nature of justice, meanings of social equality, and the emergence of transnational forms of association and identity. Readings include the works of thinkers such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Marx, Hitler, Rawls, Nussbaum, and Sandel.

    225 Martin Luther King and a Philosophy of Civil Rights (3 s.h.) (D)
    Students will read King’s writings and speeches to discover how his intellectual precedents grounded his arguments politically, morally and spiritually. One overarching goal of the course is to see how King’s African-American journey as a quintessentially American journey reconfigures the relationship of religion, politics, and metaphysics into a meditation on what it means to be human. Cross listed as REL 225; Ethics option for the Leadership minor.

    230 Medical and Health Care Ethics (3 s.h.)
    For course description, see HCA 230 in the Health Care Administration listing.

    232 African-American Thought (3 s.h.) (D)
    Focuses on various intellectual resources created by African Americans in response to a series of crises that shaped their history. Students explore these responses as modes of black consciousness and culture and as viable options for the American experience. Includes discussion of issues such as freedom, voice, community, history, worship, literature, and music as expressions of black experience.

    234 Philosophy and the Arts (3 s.h.) (A)
    This course examines perennial questions concerning beauty in art and nature, the attribution of value, the relation of aesthetic judgment and imagination to cognition and moral duty, and the implications of these questions for inquiries in related disciplines, i.e. linguistics, psychoanalysis, and religious studies. A primary theme will be the truth-value of aesthetic objects and their ontological status as expressive entities or “spiritual objects.” Cross listed as ARTH 234.

    235 Ethics, Community, and Leadership (3 s.h.) (O)
    Students learn about the moral dimensions of leadership and develop a critical understanding of the ethical relationships among character, leadership style and skills, community values, and the aims of leadership. Students examine the nature and function of leadership in the context of humanitarian causes, advancement of social justice, and the peaceful conflict resolution. Includes analysis of major forms of moral reasoning and of classic leadership case studies. Ethics option for the Leadership minor. 

    277/377 Colloquia in Philosophy (3 s.h.)
    Topics not included in regularly scheduled philosophy courses. Intellectual interests of students and faculty determine the subject matter.

    305 Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning (3 s.h.) (T)
    A Global Honors course inquiry into the domains and methods of the sciences and diverse religions. Introduces methodologies of Western science in their historical, philosophical, religious, and institutional contexts. A parallel examination of theological thought focuses on models of inquiry, views of nature, language, and symbols, and the relationship between the divine and the natural. Modern cosmology, human genetic engineering, and developments in quantum physics are among the  topics for examining the interactions between religion and science. Cross listed as REL 305.

    306 Morality: Human Nature and Nurture (3 s.h.) (T)
    For course description, see PSYC 306 in the Psychology listing.

    320 Peacemaking: Gandhi and Nonviolence (3 s.h.) (T, R)
    An examination of the life, writings, and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and those influenced by him who are powerful advocates of nonviolent social change. Topics include the emergence of peace activism and peace studies and their roots in the philosophy of non-violent social change; sources of violent conflict; alternatives to violence; and cultural models of conflict management and transformation that aim at resolving conflict in non-violent ways. Cross listed as REL 320 and AS 320.

    390 Directed Inquiry
    The student and supervising faculty member undertake an advanced study of a selected topic in philosophy.

    Note: Directed inquiries, teaching assistantships, and internships in philosophy are available on an individual basis.