This field of concentration attends to relations among religious, ethical, and political aspects of culture and to the moral significance of religious traditions. Students are expected to develop specific areas of historical knowledge while also becoming familiar with recent work in theology, philosophy, comparative ethics, politics, and social theory.
The General Examination in Religion, Ethics, and Politics is roughly parallel in structure to the examination in Religion and Philosophy, including a unit on a classic text, a review essay, a study of a particular conceptual problem or normative issue, and a unit administered outside the Department, normally either in Politics or Philosophy. Dissertations in Religion, Ethics, and Politics include interpretative studies of figures and movements, analytical studies of ideas and arguments, and critical studies of culture and society.
Before completing the General Examination, a student in this field is required to demonstrate reading knowledge of two modern foreign languages relevant to his or her doctoral research. In most cases, this means, at a minimum, passing approved six-week intensive courses in two of the following languages: French, German, and Spanish. Students are also expected to learn whatever languages are essential for completing the dissertation project in a respectable way. For example, a student proposing a dissertation on Augustine would normally be expected to learn Latin (as the language of the primary sources) in addition to French and German (as the languages most heavily represented in the secondary literature).
Some students in this field formally enroll in the Program in Political Philosophy, jointly sponsored by the departments of Classics, History, Philosophy, Politics, and Religion. For such students the “outside” unit of the Examination is administered by the Program, and covers the history of Western political theory.
All students in Religion, Ethics, and Politics do some of their work outside the Department, with such professors as, Robert George, Philip Pettit, and Melissa Lane in Politics, John Cooper and Alexander Nehamas in Philosophy, and John Bowlin at Princeton Theological Seminary.