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Department of Philosophy and Religion

Mission Statement

The department offers a combined major in philosophy and religion. Students may choose one of four concentrations: either philosophy (B.A. or B.S.), religion (B.A. only), interdisciplinary philosophy (B.A. or B.S.) or interdisciplinary religion (B.A. only). 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, metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, philosophy and law, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion.

Religion Program

The study of religion by its nature includes different disciplinary approaches and critical methodologies. Students completing a major with a concentration in religion will gain experience in these approaches and will improve in the following skills and competencies:

  • Mastery of the key concepts of global religious traditions (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam), and the historical and contemporary expressions of these religions in their social, political and cultural contexts.
  • Specialized knowledge in at least one religious tradition or specialized area of comparative and issues-oriented study, and a broad competence in at least two others.
  • Use of this knowledge to reflect upon problems in interpreting religious texts.
  • Skill in the comparative and multi-disciplinary analytical methods used in the academic study of religion.
  • Ability to articulate research and arguments effectively orally and in writing.
  • Skill in evaluating different cultural perspectives on particular questions and issues, formulating sound arguments and examining claims for strengths and weaknesses.

All students who concentrate in religion 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.

Career Opportunities and Marketable Skills

Many of the department's 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 student's 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 that 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 and in law, human services and communications.

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

Preparation for Law School

Coordinator: Dr. William Hawk

Email: hawkwj@jmu.edu 

Phone: (540) 568-4088                              

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.

Preparation for Seminary

Coordinator: Dr. Iain Maclean

Email: mcleaix@jmu.edu

Phone: (540) 568-7059                          

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 and 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 field work 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 an independent study and write an honors thesis in their junior and senior years.

Co-curricular Activities and Organizations

A student-led Society of Philosophy and Religion, a philosophy honor society (Phi Sigma Tau), a religion honor society (Theta Alpha Kappa) and the Religion Majors Club provide excellent opportunities for fellowship and student participation in the intellectual and social activities of the department.

Degree and Major Requirements

Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Religion

Degree Requirements

Required Courses

Credit Hours

General Education 1

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 student's chosen language (typically 232) or by placing out of that language through the Department of Foreign Language's 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

Choose one of the following History of Philosophy courses 1

3

PHIL 342. Medieval Philosophy

 

PHIL 344. Existentialism

 

PHIL 370. American Philosophy

 

PHIL/REL 375. Nineteenth Century Philosophy and Theology

 

PHIL/REL 377. Hermeneutics

 

PHIL 430. Analytic Philosophy

 

PHIL 466. Kant

 

PHIL 468. Phenomenology

 

Choose one of the following Metaphysics/Epistemology courses 2

3

PHIL/REL 218. Philosophy of Religion

 

PHIL 300. Knowledge and Belief

 

PHIL 311. Metaphysics

 

PHIL 392. Philosophy of Mind

 

PHIL 394. Self and Identity

 

PHIL 396. Philosophy of Physics

 

PHIL 397. Philosophy of Space and Time

 

PHIL 398. Philosophy of Quantum Theory 

 

PHIL 410. Philosophy of Science

 

PHIL 420. Philosophy of Language

 

Philosophy electives (nine credits must be at the 300 level or above) 3

15


 

33

1 Depending on the manner in which they are taught, the following topics classes may be counted toward the history requirement if they are approved by petition to the academic unit head: PHIL 390, PHIL 391, PHIL 460, PHIL 465, PHIL 470 and PHIL 475.

2 Depending on the manner in which they are taught, the following topics classes may be counted toward the metaphysics/epistemology requirement if they are approved by petition to the academic unit head: PHIL 390, PHIL 391 and PHIL 475.

3 If the student takes PHIL 101 as part of Cluster 2 in the General Education program it can double count as one course of this elective section. Neither PHIL 120 nor PHIL 150 can 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 nine 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

Choose one of the following Metaphysics/Epistemology courses: 1

3

REL/PHIL 218. Philosophy of Religion

 

PHIL 300. Knowledge and Belief

 

PHIL 311. Metaphysics

 

PHIL 392. Philosophy of Mind

 

PHIL 394. Self and Identity

 

PHIL 396. Philosophy of Physics

 

PHIL 397. Philosophy of Space and Time

 

PHIL 398. Philosophy of Quantum Theory 

 

PHIL 410. Philosophy of Science

 

PHIL 420. Philosophy of Language

 

Philosophy electives (nine credits must be at the 300 level or above) 2

12

Cognate of three courses from one or more disciplinary areas outside of philosophy

9


 

36

1 Depending on the manner in which they are taught, the following topics classes may be counted toward the metaphysics/epistemology requirement if they are approved by petition to the academic unit head: PHIL 390, PHIL 391 and PHIL 475.

2 If the student takes PHIL 101 as part of Cluster 2 in the General Education program it can double count as one course of this elective section. Neither PHIL 120 nor PHIL 150 can be used as an elective.

Religion Concentration

Core Requirements

Credit Hours

REL 101. Religions of the World

3

REL 200. Exploring Religion

3

Capstone (choose one of the following):

3

REL 410. Dharma/Adharma: Morality & Ethics in Hindu Society

 

REL 440. Topics in Religion in America

 

REL 460. Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature

 

REL 475. Inter-Religious Dialogue

 

Track Requirements

12

Choose 4 courses from one track. This will be your home track.

 

Breadth Requirements

12

Choose 4 additional courses: one from each of the other tracks and one more from any of the three other tracks. None of these can be cross-listed in your home track.

 


 

33

Courses

Track 1: Eastern Traditions

HUM 252. Cross Cultural Perspectives (when topic is Gandhi, Non-violence and Global Transformation)

REL 308. Islam in South Asia

REL 310. Hindu Traditions

REL 312. Religions of East Asia

REL 313. Hindu Ethics

REL 314. Gandhi

REL 316. Topics in Hinduism

REL/PHIL 385. Buddhist Thought

REL 386. Topics in Buddhist Studies

REL 410. Dharma/Adharma: Morality & Ethics in Hindu Society

Track 2: Western Traditions

HUM 252. Cross-Cultural Perspectives: (when topic is Islamic Civilization)

REL 201. Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

REL 202. Jesus and the Beginnings of Christianity

REL 240. Jesus and the Moral Life

REL 270. Western Religious Ethics

REL 305. Islamic Religious Traditions

REL 306. Women and Gender in Islam

REL 308. Islam in South Asia

REL 320. Judaism

REL 325. Catholicism in the Modern World

REL 330. Religions of Africa and the African Diaspora

REL 332. Born Again Religion

REL 336. African-American Religion

REL 340. Introduction to Christianity

REL 342. Historical Jesus and the Roman Imperial World

REL 348. Christianity in Global Context

REL 350. Islamic Law and Society

REL 360. History of Christian Thought

REL/HIST 362. Introduction to U.S. Religious History

REL/PHIL 375. The 19th Century: Age of Ideology

REL 380. Contemporary Theologies

REL 440. Topics in Religion in America

REL 460. Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature

Track 3: Biblical Studies and Theology

HUM 102. God, Meaning and Morality

REL 201. Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

REL 202. Jesus and the Beginnings of Christianity

REL/PHIL 218. Philosophy of Religion

REL 270. Western Religious Ethics

REL 325. Catholicism in the Modern World

REL 340. Introduction to Christianity

REL 360. History of Christian Thought

REL/PHIL 375. The 19th Century: Age of Ideology

REL/PHIL 377. Hermeneutics

REL 380. Contemporary Theologies

REL 460. Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature

REL 475. Inter-Religious Dialogue

Track 4: Religion and Society

HUM 252. Gandhi, Non-violence and Global Transformation

REL 280. Religion and Science

REL 303. Lived Religion: Ritual Practice and Ethnographic Method

REL 306. Women and Gender in Islam

REL 315. Women and Religion

REL/SOCI 322. Sociology of Religion

REL 330. Religions of Africa and the African Diaspora

REL 332. Born Again Religion

REL 334. New Religious Movements

REL 336. African-American Religion

REL 348. Christianity in Global Context

REL/IA 363. Apocalypticism, Religious Terrorism and Peace

REL 370. Mysticism

REL 450. Religion and Society

REL 475. Inter-Religious Dialogue

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

REL 101. Religions of the World

3

REL 200. Exploring Religion

3

Capstone (choose one of the following courses):

3

REL 410. Dharma/Adharma: Morality and Ethics in Hindu Society

 

REL 440. Topics in Religion in America

 

REL 460. Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature

 

REL 475. Inter-Religious Dialogue

 

Track Requirements

12

Choose 4 courses from one track. This will be your home track.

 

Breadth Requirements

6

Choose two additional courses outside of your home track. These two courses cannot be from the same track and neither can they be cross-listed with a course in your home track.

 

Interdisciplinary Requirements

9

Choose three courses from other disciplines (in consultation with your adviser).

 


 

36

Bachelor of Science in Philosophy

Degree Requirements

Required Courses

Credit Hours

General Education 1

41

Quantitative requirement (in addition to General Education courses)

3

Scientific literacy requirement (in addition to General Education courses)

3-4

Major in Philosophy concentration

33

Electives

40-41


 

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.

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

Choose one of the following History of Philosophy courses 1

3

PHIL 342. Medieval Philosophy

 

PHIL 344. Existentialism

 

PHIL 370. American Philosophy

 

PHIL/REL 375. Nineteenth Century Philosophy and Theology

 

PHIL/REL 377. Hermeneutics

 

PHIL 430. Analytic Philosophy

 

PHIL 466. Kant

 

PHIL 468. Phenomenology

 

Choose one of the following Metaphysics/Epistemology courses 2

3

PHIL/REL 218. Philosophy of Religion

 

PHIL 300. Knowledge and Belief

 

PHIL 311. Metaphysics

 

PHIL 392. Philosophy of Mind

 

PHIL 394. Self and Identity

 

PHIL 396. Philosophy of Physics

 

PHIL 397. Philosophy of Space and Time

 

PHIL 398. Philosophy of Quantum Theory 

 

PHIL 410. Philosophy of Science

 

PHIL 420. Philosophy of Language

 

Philosophy electives (nine credits must be at the 300 level or above) 3

15


 

33

1 Depending on the manner in which they are taught, the following topics classes may be counted toward the history requirement if they are approved by petition to the academic unit head: PHIL 390, PHIL 391, PHIL 460, PHIL 465, PHIL 470 and PHIL 475.

2 Depending on the manner in which they are taught, the following topics classes may be counted toward the metaphysics/epistemology requirement if they are approved by petition to the academic unit head: PHIL 390, PHIL 391 and PHIL 475.

3 If the student takes PHIL 101 as part of Cluster 2 in the General Education program it can double count as one course of this elective section. Neither PHIL 120 nor PHIL 150 can 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 nine 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

Choose one of the following Metaphysics/Epistemology courses: 1

3

REL/PHIL 218. Philosophy of Religion

 

PHIL 300. Knowledge and Belief

 

PHIL 311. Metaphysics

 

PHIL 392. Philosophy of Mind

 

PHIL 394. Self and Identity

 

PHIL 396. Philosophy of Physics

 

PHIL 397. Philosophy of Space and Time

 

PHIL 398. Philosophy of Quantum Theory 

 

PHIL 410. Philosophy of Science

 

PHIL 420. Philosophy of Language

 

Philosophy electives (nine credits must be at the 300 level or above) 2

12

Cognate of three courses from one or more disciplinary areas outside of philosophy

9


 

36

1 Depending on the manner in which they are taught, the following topics classes may be counted toward the metaphysics/epistemology requirement if they are approved by petition to the academic unit head: PHIL 390PHIL 391 and PHIL 475.

2 If the student takes PHIL 101 as part of Cluster 2 in the General Education program it can double count as one course of this elective section. Neither PHIL 120 nor PHIL 150 can be used as an elective.

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

B.A. or B.S. Requirements

6-8

General Education courses 1

6-18


 

30

Second Year

Credit Hours

Required courses in major

6

Choose either B.A. or B.S. Requirements or Electives

6

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

1 Students should adjust General Education and foreign language load to achieve 30 hours total.

Minor Requirements

Christian Studies

This minor is designed to provide students with a systematic and comprehensive understanding of the nature and history of Christianity as a religion of global significance. Students begin their studies by exploring the history, beliefs and practices of diverse Christian traditions, from the ancient to the modern. Additional courses address the complex relationship between Christianity and various facets of the contemporary world, such as politics, culture, religious pluralism, terrorism and race.

Required Courses

Credit Hours

REL 202. Jesus and the Beginnings of Christianity

3

REL 340. Introduction to Christianity

3

REL 348. Christianity in Global Context

3

Choose three courses from the following, at least two of which must be at the 300- or 400-level.

9

REL 201. Introduction to Hebrew Bible/Old Testament

 

REL 218. Philosophy of Religion

 

REL 240. Jesus and the Moral Life

 

REL 270. Religious Ethics

 

REL 280. Religion and Science

 

REL 325. Catholicism in the Modern World

 

REL 332. Born Again Religion

 

REL 336. African-American Religion

 

REL 360. History of Christian Thought

 

REL 363. Apocalypticism, Religious Terrorism and Peace

 

REL 380. Contemporary Theologies

 

REL 450. Religion and Society

 

REL 460. Topics in Ancient Jewish and Early Christian Literature

 


 

18

Global Religion and Global Issues

The minor is intended for students who want to better understand the role played by religion in contemporary global events: from religious terrorism to nonviolence, from the suppression of women to the advocacy of civil rights. In this minor, students will study major global religions and their impact on real-world social and political issues. The minor may be of particular interest to students in the social sciences but all students with an interest in the subject are welcome.

Required Courses

Credit Hours

REL 101. Religions of the World

3

One Global Religious Traditions course

3

One Religion and Social/Political Engagement course

3

Three electives chosen from either group

9


 

18

Global Religious Traditions

REL 305. Islamic Religious Traditions

REL 308. Islam in South Asia

REL 310. Hindu Traditions

REL 312. Religions of East Asia

REL 320. Judaism

REL 330. Religions of Africa and the African Diaspora

REL 348. Global Christianity

REL 385. Buddhist Thought

Religion and Social/Political Engagement

REL 306. Women and Gender in Islam

REL 314. Gandhi

REL 315. Women and Religion

REL 350. Islamic Law and Society

REL/IA 363. Apocalypticism, Religious Terrorism and Peace

REL 380. Contemporary Theologies

REL 450. Religion and Society

REL 475. Inter-Religious Dialogue

Philosophy

Required Courses

Credit Hours

PHIL 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 300 1

9


 

18

1 Neither PHIL 120 nor PHIL 150 can be used as electives.

Religious Studies

Foundational Courses

Credit Hours

REL 101. Religions of the World

3

Choose one course in each track

12

(At least one of these must be 300 or 400 level)

 

Choose one elective

3


 

18