Undergraduate Course Archive

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Religion and Reason (EC)
Subject associations
REL 264 / CHV 264 / PHI 264

An examination of the most influential theoretical, pragmatic, and moral arguments regarding the existence and nature of God (or gods). Along the way, we consider debates about whether and how we can talk or think about such a being, and about whether mystical experience, miracles, and the afterlife are intelligible notions. Finally, we consider whether religious commitment might be rationally acceptable without any proof or evidence, and whether the real-world fact of religious diversity has philosophical implications. Course readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Denys A. Turner
Religion and Reason (EC)
Subject associations
REL 264 / CHV 264 / PHI 264

An examination of the most influential theoretical, pragmatic, and moral arguments regarding the existence and nature of God (or gods). Along the way, we consider debates about whether and how we can talk or think about such a being, and about whether mystical experience, miracles, and the afterlife are intelligible notions. Finally, we consider whether religious commitment might be rationally acceptable without any proof or evidence, and whether the real-world fact of religious diversity has philosophical implications. Course readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

Instructors
Andrew Chignell
Daniel K. Rubio
Religion and Reason (EC)
Subject associations
REL 264 / CHV 264 / PHI 264

An examination of the most influential theoretical, pragmatic, and moral arguments regarding the existence and nature of God (or gods). Along the way, we consider debates about whether and how we can talk or think about such a being, and about whether mystical experience, miracles, and the afterlife are intelligible notions. Finally, we consider whether religious commitment might be rationally acceptable without any proof or evidence, and whether the real-world fact of religious diversity has philosophical implications. Course readings will be taken from both historical and contemporary sources.

Instructors
Denys A. Turner
'Cult' Controversies in America (HA)
Subject associations
REL 271 / AMS 341

In this course we examine a variety of new religious movements that tested the boundaries of acceptable religion at various moments in American history. We pay particular attention to government and media constructions of the religious mainstream and margin, to the politics of labels such as "cult" and "sect," to race, gender, and sexuality within new religions, and to the role of American law in constructing categories and shaping religious expressions. We also consider what draws people to new religions and examine the distinctive beliefs, practices, and social organizations of groups labeled by outsiders as "cults."

Instructors
Judith Weisenfeld
'Cult' Controversies in America (HA)
Subject associations
REL 271 / AMS 341

In this course we examine a variety of new religious movements that tested the boundaries of acceptable religion at various moments in American history. We pay particular attention to government and media constructions of the religious mainstream and margin, to the politics of labels such as "cult" and "sect," to race, gender, and sexuality within new religions, and to the role of American law in constructing categories and shaping religious expressions. We also consider what draws people to new religions and examine the distinctive beliefs, practices, and social organizations of groups labeled by outsiders as "cults."

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religion in America

Instructors
Judith Weisenfeld
Religion and Social Change in Early Latin America (HA)
Subject associations
REL 275 / LAS 275 / GSS 275

In this course, we will grapple with the many paradoxes in the historical role of "religion" in people's lives and society in colonial Latin America. Subjects will include: religious change; Native American cosmologies; Indigenous Christianities; women and men's daily encounters with church institutions and their participation in devotional culture; historical dynamics of race, gender, and spiritual status; and the changing relationship between the church and state.

Instructors
Jessica Delgado
Zen Buddhism (EM)
Subject associations
REL 280 / EAS 281

Are Zen and other religions stable entities with identifiable essences? Or do they lack a core, gradually vanishing as each layer is peeled away? Do they take on different forms in relation to cultural and power configurations? Or can they themselves shape social and political structures? In order to understand these questions and ask better ones, we will examine Zen in diverse contexts, including China, Japan, Korea, Germany, and the United States, to consider the tensions between romanticized ideals and practice on the ground. We will grapple with studying complex religious traditions with complicated and sometimes troubling histories.

Instructors
Bryan D. Lowe
Zen Buddhism (CD or EM)
Subject associations
REL 280 / EAS 281

Most people have heard of Zen Buddhism, but what is it? Who gets to define it? This class looks at Zen in China, Korea, Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States through a range of methods from reading classic texts to studying ethnographic accounts. By considering Zen in different times and places, we explore how a religion is shaped by its political and cultural environs. We examine tensions between romanticized ideals and practices on the ground and grapple with how to study complicated and sometimes troubling traditions. Topics include myths, meditation, mindfulness, monastic life, gender, war, and death.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement : Religions of Asia

Instructors
Bryan D. Lowe
Buddhist Philosophy (EM)
Subject associations
REL 281 / SAS 281

An introduction to the Indian Buddhist philosophical tradition from the time of the Buddha until its decline (c. 400 B.C.E - 1200 C.E.). Topics include Buddhism's view of the world, the person, and the path to nirvana; equanimity, compassion and meditation as core elements in Buddhist ethics; early Buddhist metaphysics; the doctrine of "emptiness" and its various interpretations in the Great Vehicle schools; Buddhist epistemology and philosophy of language; and modern attempts to apply Buddhist philosophy to contemporary philosophical issues.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Religions of Asia

Instructors
Jonathan C. Gold
Hip Hop, Reggae, and Religion (EM)
Subject associations
REL 292

In this course, we will examine music and the religio-political imagination of the Black Atlantic, focusing on Jamaica and the US. We will examine the ways that the various cultures of hip-hop and reggae offer critique to our contemporary religious and political arrangements. Listening to the perspectives expressed in these cultural formations we will question whether the music provides a prophetic challenge to the status quo. Giving attention to the music, from the Negro Spirituals, to contemporary Hip Hop and Dancehall, we will contextualize it with an interest in understanding the relationship between their religious and political visions.

Instructors
Kevin A. Wolfe
Hip Hop, Reggae, and Religion (EM)
Subject associations
REL 292

In this course, we will examine music and the religio-political imagination of the Black Atlantic, focusing on Jamaica and the US. We will examine the ways that the various cultures of hip-hop and reggae offer critique to our contemporary religious and political arrangements. Listening to the perspectives expressed in these cultural formations we will question whether the music provides a prophetic challenge to the status quo. Giving attention to the music, from the Negro Spirituals, to contemporary Hip Hop and Dancehall, we will contextualize it with an interest in understanding the relationship between their religious and political visions.

Instructors
Kevin A. Wolfe
Hip Hop, Reggae, and Religion (EM)
Subject associations
REL 292

In this course, we will examine music and the religio-political imagination of the Black Atlantic, focusing on Jamaica and the US. We will examine the ways that the various cultures of hip-hop and reggae offer critique to our contemporary religious and political arrangements. Listening to the perspectives expressed in these cultural formations we will question whether the music provides a prophetic challenge to the status quo. Giving attention to the music, from the Negro Spirituals, to contemporary Hip Hop and Dancehall, we will contextualize it with an interest in understanding the relationship between their religious and political visions.

Instructors
Kevin A. Wolfe
The Theology of Thomas Aquinas (EM)
Subject associations
REL 293

The course is to serve as an introduction to the theology of one of the greatest minds in the Western Christian tradition, Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-1274). Based on his most systematic work, the Summa Theologiae as the main source, the course will cover some of the central themes of his theology, mainly through readings of the primary source itself, and some secondary readings. Thomas Aquinas has in recent decades become a source common to most of the mainstream Christian theological traditions. Aquinas is an essential resource for any who simply want to study a dominating intellectual force within the wider cultures of the Western middle ages.

Instructors
Denys A. Turner
Religion and Ethics in the Anthropocene (EM)
Subject associations
REL 301 / CHV 303

The term Anthropocene is meant to mark a decisive shift in the human relationship to the earth. The challenge posed by the Anthropocene is not only technological and political but also ethical and religious. In light of the growing human impact on earth's climate system, many have questioned the role of religion and challenged the adequacy of our ethical thought. This class will explore the resources of religion and ethics for confronting the Anthropocene and also consider how the Anthropocene might require us to think differently about religion and ethics.

Instructors
Ryan M. Darr
Biomedical Ethics (EM)
Subject associations
REL 303 / CHV 303

This course investigates ethical assumptions and problems in medicine, nursing, biomedical research and engineering. Readings are philosophical and theological, and we evaluate a host of perspectives on issues and cases. We first consider accounts of human life and biological evolution and how they bear on our understanding of God and neighbor. We then examine some key definitions, virtues, and principles. Next we address these topics: assisted reproduction, genetic control, abortion, euthanasia and the right to die, informed consent, paternalism, confidentiality, just allocation of scarce resources, limits on research protocols, and cloning.

Additional description

Area of Study Stream Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Timothy P. Jackson
God and Humanity in Catholic Thought (EM)
Subject associations
REL 303 / CHV 305

The goal of this course is to examine different ways of thinking about God and humanity in the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition, focusing on the Spanish world. We will draw on four figures: St. Theresa of Avila, Francisco Suarez, Jon Sobrino, and Gustavo Guttiérez. We will first examine their views about the nature of humanity, next about the nature of God, and finally about how the two relate, with special attention to the issue of seeming divine indifference to the suffering of the innocent.

Additional description

Area of Study Requirement: Philosophical and Ethical Approaches to Religion

Instructors
Daniel K. Rubio
Harlots and Heroines: Readings in the Books of Esther and Ruth (SA)
Subject associations
REL 304 / JDS 314

We will read the books of Ruth and Esther in the original Hebrew, considering aspects of translation and Hebrew grammar and syntax, as well as the historical, literary and religious contexts of the books. Particular attention will be paid to the role of women in the larger societal context of ancient Israel, as well as the development of the genre of the Jewish novella in the Second Temple Period.

Instructors
Laura E. Quick
Religion and Modern Moral Philosophy (EM)
Subject associations
REL 304 / CHV 304

The story of the development of modern moral philosophy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is inseparable from religion. This course explores the role of religion in that story. We will consider, among other things, the relationship between morality and divine intellect and will, the possibility of moral community between God and creatures, the moral significance of evil, and the moral significance of divine providence. In addition, we will consider how the logical space of moral philosophy changes when religious convictions are rejected and what difference that makes for the legacy of modern moral philosophy.

Instructors
Ryan M. Darr
Mystical Theologies in the Western Christian Traditions (EC)
Subject associations
REL 306

The noun "mysticism" is of recent invention, the most common traditions of theorizing about it today derive from William James' Varieties of Religious Experience. Older vocabularies go back to the very beginnings of Christian reflection, see Andrew Louth's Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition. In this course we will be reading from selected texts in the Christian mystical traditions, from Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century to Elisabeth of the Trinity in the nineteenth, women and men in equal numbers, leaving theoretical issues about the nature of "mysticism" to the end.

Instructors
Denys A. Turner
Mandalas: Theory and Application in Tibetan Buddhism (SA)
Subject associations
REL 307 / SAS 307

The very first Tibetan Buddhist and mandala in the west was constructed (and ceremonially destroyed) in 1988 at New York City's American Museum of Natural History. Tibetan Buddhist mandalas have since become a more familiar visual image to most westerners. Nevertheless, few are aware of the philosophical connection between their visually powerful aesthetic aspect and their soteriological function. In this course, students learn the theory and application of Tibetan Buddhist mandalas as they look into exactly how and why they make such a strong impression in hearts of Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

Instructors
Christopher Kelley