Academic Programs

Academic Units: Department of Philosophy and Religion

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Mission Statement
The department offers a combined major in philosophy and religion. Students may choose one of the four concentrations: either philosophy, religion, philosophy with an interdisciplinary focus or religion with an interdisciplinary focus. Whether concentrating in philosophy or religion, students in the department acquire the following fundamental skills and knowledge: the ability to think critically and rigorously with increased capabilities for problem solving and analysis of arguments; thorough familiarity with the literature, major figures, issues and phenomena of the discipline and the ability to express themselves clearly, soundly and persuasively in oral and written form. These skill areas are the foundation and substance of a major in philosophy and religion. On the basis of this training, students should be prepared to express their own creative thought in a disciplined and effective manner.
  Goals
  Philosophy Program
Students completing a major with a concentration in philosophy are expected to know the major movements, problems, writings, concepts and terms in the history of Western philosophy. The program concentrates on major figures such as Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant; on problems arising in contemporary movements such as analytic philosophy, existentialism and American philosophy and on the major subdivisions of philosophy, including logic, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy and law, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion. All students will take PHIL 475 as a capstone course. In the capstone course, students will give an oral presentation of a term paper, receive criticism from faculty and students and then formally write the paper and submit it for use in assessment of the major.
  Religion Program
Students completing a major with a concentration in religion will do course work in all three of the following sequences: biblical studies, reflective studies and history of religions. Depending on the courses they select, they will master certain information and skills.
  • Biblical Studies
    • The range of methods used in a nonsectarian, academic approach to the Bible.
    • The ability to apply them to a given text.
    • The ability to research and critique the major issues and theories within biblical studies.
  • Reflective Studies
    • Knowledge of major movements in western religions, ethical and social thought.
    • The theories, concepts and terms associated with these movements.
    • Knowledge of the central ideas of selected western religious and ethical thinkers.
    • The ability to evaluate the movements, ideas, theories and concepts comparatively and critically.
  • History of Religions
    • Knowledge of the thought, practices and cultural foundations of major religious traditions such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism.
    • The ability to represent, compare and enter into dialogue with dimensions of these religious traditions from a nonsectarian perspective.

All students who concentrate in religion will study at least one non-western religion. In addition, all will take a 400-level capstone seminar during their senior year that will provide them extensive opportunity for research, critical and creative thought, and oral and written expression. They will select a topic, research it extensively, write a term paper, present the results of their research orally in class, receive peer critique, and then revise their term paper and submit it to the department as part of senior assessment.
Back to top of page Career Opportunities and Marketable Skills
Many of the departmentís majors enter graduate school in philosophy or religion, law school or seminary. Alternatively, a departmental major graduating with a concentration in religion might move directly into work connected with religious service, into the human services fields or into teaching. A concentration in philosophy leads most directly into teaching or law school.

A studentís opportunities are by no means limited to these more obvious options, however. While there is no direct path from philosophy and religion to many specific jobs, students who have majored in philosophy and religion successfully find satisfying employment. Employers seek many of the capacities which the study of philosophy and religion develops such as:

  • problem solving
  • effective communication in speaking and writing
  • organization and analysis of ideas and issues
  • assessment of the pros and cons of arguments and issues
  • reduction of complex information to essential points
  • persuasion
These capabilities represent transferable skills useful in almost every work environment. Many students of philosophy and religion ultimately find careers in business or industry, in government or public service, in law, human services and communications.

Students should work with the office of Academic Advising and Career Development for help in finding suitable employment.

Back to top of page Preparation for Law School
Students who plan to attend law school should seriously consider philosophy as an undergraduate major. Philosophy majors have historically scored very well on the Law School Admission Test. Philosophy courses emphasize the kinds of skills that prepare students for the LSAT and the law school curriculum: reading, comprehending and analyzing complex texts; organizing and synthesizing information and drawing reasonable inferences from it; analyzing and evaluating the reasoning and arguments of others and researching and writing essays and papers. Law schools recommend that students choose an undergraduate major that challenges them and provides them with an understanding of what shapes human experience. Philosophy does an outstanding job on both counts. The requirements of the major leave students plenty of opportunity to acquire a broad education by exploring other areas. For more information on philosophy as a pre-law major, contact Dr. Richard Lippke by phone at (540) 568-6010 or by e-mail at lippk1rl@jmu.edu.
Back to top of page Preparation for Seminary
The pre-seminary adviser will help majors and minors design undergraduate programs that will prepare them for further study in theological seminaries and university divinity schools. Academic counseling of students takes place within guidelines provided by the American Association of Theological Schools. The department offers rich opportunities for the study of the history, content and interpretation of the Bible; historical and modern theology; particular religious traditions and cross-cultural topics in religious studies. Class assignments require students to think critically about a variety of theological and ethical issues; to read original, classical expressions of religious thought and to become knowledgeable about specialized terms and the major spiritual and intellectual interpreters of the Hebrew and Christian traditions.

Students are encouraged to visit various seminaries and the department welcomes seminary representatives to the campus to discuss the possibilities for further theological education with students. Interested students may receive academic credit for practical supervised fieldwork with social agencies and churches in order to help them find the particular forms of ministry (pastoral, campus, youth, missions, social, counseling) for which they are best suited. Qualified students are also encouraged to undertake independent study and write an honors thesis in their junior and senior years. For more information on pre-seminary study, contact Dr. Iain Maclean by phone at (540) 568-7059 or by e-mail at macleaix@jmu.edu.

Back to top of page Co-curricular Activities and Organizations
A student-run Society of Philosophy and Religion, a philosophy honor society (Phi Sigma Tau) and a religion honor society (Theta Alpha Kappa) provide excellent opportunities for fellowship and student participation in the intellectual and social activities of the department.
Back to top of page Degree and Major Requirements
  Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Religion
Degree Requirements
Required Courses
Credit Hours
General Education1
41
Foreign Language classes (intermediate level required)2
0-14
Philosophy course (in addition to General Education courses)
3
University electives
26-43
Major requirements (listed below)
33-36

120
1 The General Education program contains a set of requirements each student must fulfill. The number of credit hours necessary to fulfill these requirements may vary.
2 The foreign language requirement may be satisfied by successful completion of the second semester of the intermediate level of the studentís chosen language (typically 232) or by placing out of that language through the Department of Foreign Languageís placement test.
Major Requirements
Philosophy Concentration
Core Courses
Credit Hours
PHIL 250. Introduction to Symbolic Logic
3
PHIL 330. Moral Theory
3
PHIL 340. Ancient Greek Philosophy
3
PHIL 341. Modern Philosophy
3
PHIL 475. Seminar in Philosophy1
3
Any religion course that is not cross listed
3
Electives in philosophy (nine credits must be at the 300 level or above)2
15

33
1 This course fulfills the College of Arts and Letters writing-intensive requirement for the major.
2 If the student takes GPHIL 101 as part of Cluster 2 in the General Education program it can double count as one course of this elective section. GPHIL 120A cannot be used as an elective.
Interdisciplinary Philosophy Concentration
This option is designed for students who want to concentrate in philosophy but also apply philosophical ideas to work in other departments. Part of the requirements for this concentration is a cognate of 12 credit hours from a different but related discipline.
Core Courses
Credit Hours
PHIL 250. Introduction to Symbolic Logic
3
PHIL 330. Moral Theory
3
PHIL 340. Ancient Greek Philosophy
3
PHIL 341. Modern Philosophy
3
PHIL 475. Seminar in Philosophy1
3
Additional philosophy courses chosen in conference with the adviser (six credits must be at the 300 level or above)2
9
Cognate of four courses from one or more disciplinary areas outside of philosophy
12

36
1 This course fulfills the College of Arts and Letters writing-intensive requirement for the major.
2 If the student takes GPHIL 101 as part of Cluster 2 in the General Education program it can double count as one course of this elective section. GPHIL 120A cannot be used as an elective.
Students with an interdisciplinary concentration in philosophy are not required to take a course in religion.
Religion Concentration
This option is designed for students who want to concentrate in philosophy but also apply philosophical ideas to work in other departments. Part of the requirements for this concentration is a cognate of 12 credit hours from a different but related discipline.
Core Courses
Credit Hours
GREL 101. Religions of the World
3
One philosophy course
3
(GPHIL 101. Introduction to Philosophy recommended; cross-listed courses do not satisfy this requirement)
One course in western religious traditions
3
One course in eastern religious traditions
3
One of the following:
3
REL 218. Philosophy of Religion
REL 270. Religious Ethics
REL 313. Hindu Ethics
REL/SOCI 322. Sociology of Religion
REL 360. History of Western Religious Thought
PHIL 330. Moral Theory
Capstone (choose one of the following):
3
REL 420. Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion
REL 450. Religion and Society
REL 460. Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature
REL 475. Inter-Religious Dialogue
Electives (see description below)
15

33
  Electives
The electives requirement allows students to design a course of studies that develop their special interests beyond the core requirements for the major and that advances their professional goals. The three options of specialization are: Western Traditions, Eastern Traditions and Comparative Studies (electives selected from any course in the religion program). Thus a student may focus upon a particular religious tradition or configuration of traditions (for example, Hinduism and Buddhism; Islam and Judaism) or upon a particular topic area (for example, biblical studies, ethics or religious thought), or a student may maximize breadth by choosing and five courses of interest. Religious studies majors are encouraged to consult their adviser to ensure that their course selections correspond to a coherently designed program of specialization.
  Courses
  • Eastern Traditions
  • REL 310. Hindu Traditions
  • REL 312. Religions of East Asia
  • REL 313. Hindu Ethics
  • REL 314. Gandhi, Nonviolent and Global Transformation
  • REL 316. Topics in Hinduism
  • REL 317. Exploring Gandhian Philosophy of Nonviolence
  • REL 318. Exploring Contemporary India
  • REL/PHIL 385. Buddhist Thought
  • Western Traditions
  • REL/HEBR 131-132. Elementary Biblical Hebrew
  • REL/HEBR 231-232. Intermediate Biblical Hebrew
  • REL 201. Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
  • REL 202. Introduction to New Testament
  • REL 240. Jesus and the Moral Life
  • REL 305. Islamic Religious Traditions
  • REL 320. Judaism
  • REL 325. Catholicism in the Modern World
  • REL 330. African and African-American Religion
  • REL 342. Historical Jesus and the Roman Imperial World
  • REL 344. Christianity in the Roman Empire
  • REL 346. Religions of Greece and Rome
  • REL 360. History of Western Religious Thought
  • REL/PHIL 375. The 19th Century: Age of Ideology
  • REL 380. Contemporary Theologies
  • REL 450. Religion and Society
  • REL 460. Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature
  • Comparative and Issues Oriented Courses
  • REL 200. Exploring Religion
  • REL/PHIL 218. Philosophy of Religion
  • REL 220. Religion: Conflict and Peace
  • REL 270. Religious Ethics
  • REL 280. Religion and Science
  • REL 315. Women and Religion
  • REL/SOCI 322. Sociology of Religion
  • REL 370. Mysticism
  • REL 420. Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion
  • REL 475. Inter-Religious Dialogue
  • REL 490. Directed Studies in Religion
Back to top of page Interdisciplinary Religion Concentration
This option is designed for students who want to concentrate in religion but also integrate their work in religion with work in another, complementary disciplinary area. A student electing this option will fulfill the requirements for the regular concentration in religion, with one change: nine credits from one or more disciplinary areas outside of religion (must be chosen in consultation with the adviser) will substitute for six of the religion electives credits required for the concentration in religion. Accordingly, the total required elective credits for the interdisciplinary concentration will be 18 (nine religion elective credits, nine interdisciplinary elective credits), giving a total of 36 credit hours to complete the program.
Core Requirements
Credit Hours
GREL 101. Religions of the World
3
One philosophy course
3
(GPHIL 101. Introduction to Philosophy recommended; cross-listed courses do not satisfy this requirement)
One course in western religious traditions
3
One course in eastern religious traditions
3
One of the following:
3
REL 218. Philosophy of Religion
REL 270. Religious Ethics
REL 313. Hindu Ethics
REL/SOCI 322. Sociology of Religion
REL 360. History of Western Religious Thought
PHIL 330. Moral Theory
Capstone (choose one of the following):
3
REL 420. Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion
REL 450. Religion and Society
REL 460. Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature
REL 475. Inter-Religious Dialogue
Electives
18

36
  Electives
These electives requirement allows students to design a course of studies that permits integration of their interdisciplinary interests with additional course selections in religion. The three options for specialization are western traditions, eastern traditions and comparative studies (electives selected from any courses in the religion program). Thus a student may focus upon a particular religious tradition or configuration of traditions (for example, Hinduism and Buddhism; Islam and Judaism) or upon a particular topic area (for example, biblical studies, ethics or religious thought), or a student may maximize breadth by choosing any six courses of interest. Religious studies majors are encouraged to consult with their adviser for approval of the interdisciplinary course selection and to ensure that course selections correspond to a coherently designed program of specialization.
  Recommended Schedule for Majors
The following outline is a sample four year program. The actual courses and sequence a student takes may vary.
First Year
Credit Hours
Introductory courses in major
6
Foreign language courses1
6-8
General Education courses1
6-18

30
 
Second Year
Credit Hours
Required courses in major
6
Choose from the following:
6
Foreign language courses
Electives
General Education courses
18

30
 
Third Year
Credit Hours
Requirements and electives in philosophy or religion
12
Electives (may be outside of major)
12
General Education courses
6

30
 
Fourth Year
Credit Hours
Requirements and electives in philosophy or religion
12
Electives (may be outside of major)
18

30
1 Students are advised to adjust General Education load to foreign language load to achieve 30 hours total.
Back to top of page Minor Requirements
  Philosophy Minor
Core Courses
Credit Hours
GPHIL 101. Introduction to Philosophy
3
Choose two of the following:
6
PHIL 340. Ancient Greek Philosophy
PHIL 341. Modern Philosophy
PHIL 342. Medieval Philosophy
PHIL 375. 19th Century Philosophy and Theology
Three electives, at least two of which must be above PHIL 3001
3

18
1 The department strongly recommends that students elect at least one 400-level course. GPHIL 120 cannot be used as an elective.
  Religion Minor
Foundational Courses
Credit Hours
GREL 101. Religions of the World
3
Choose one course in each of the three subject areas:
9
(eastern, western, comparative and issues)
Choose two electives, one of which must be at the 300 or 400 level, from the three subject areas
6

18