Philosophy and Religion

What is reality like?
How do I know? 
How should I live my life?

The attempts to answer these three questions make up the central subject matter of philosophy. Metaphysics – the attempt to figure out what reality is like – includes such topics as the existence of God and the nature of time, free will and personal identity. Epistemology is the attempt to understand what knowledge is and how it might be gained. Ethics is the attempt to understand what is good, what is right, and how we ought to live in the world and in society. Answers to these three questions combine to form a basic view of the world and our place in it – a worldview. Everybody has some sort of worldview, and so everybody does philosophy. We study philosophy academically in order to understand some of the greatest human attempts to wrestle with these philosophical questions – ultimately, so that we ourselves can be helped to gain a deeper understanding of the world and our place in it.

Some of the most powerful, sweeping, and coherent answers to the central philosophical questions come from the great world religions. Religion involves philosophy – views about the nature of the world, our place in it, and our knowledge of it – though religion involves more than philosophy (such as religious practices like worship). The Philosophy and Religion program at Shawnee State University integrates the study of religion and philosophy. Students will approach the study of philosophy with special attention to the great religious answers to the central philosophical questions (while also considering, of course, objections and alternatives to those religious answers), and they will approach the study of religion philosophically, that is, with special attention to the worldviews offered by the great religions.

At Shawnee State University, we approach the study of philosophy and religion with a sort of serious pluralism. We respect the perspectives of each student, whether Christian or Muslim or naturalist or anything else, and we encourage the development of those perspectives and application of them to whatever philosophical topic is currently under discussion. At the same time, we respect this plurality without falling into a simplistic skepticism ("nobody really knows") or relativism ("what each person believes is true for that person"). Every student from every perspective will be challenged to take seriously the difficulties and problems that face their perspectives, and we (as a group) will remain open to the possibility that some such perspectives may turn out to be better supported or more likely to be true than others. In other words, we will respect each individual perspective without sacrificing a concern to discover the truth.

Historically, philosophy lies at the core of a liberal arts education and engages some of the deepest human concerns. It remains a paradigm of a course of study designed to yield careful, critical thinkers. Religion and religious philosophy, additionally, is a powerful force in nearly every arena of human interaction. The integrated Philosophy and Religion major, therefore, is perfect for students who wish to become sophisticated, careful thinkers who are prepared to engage the great ideas of our time. With that in mind, the Philosophy and Religion major is designed – it only requires 33 units and many of its required courses also satisfy general education requirements – so that it can easily be combined with another major that may be tailored more directly for a specific vocation. Despite its small size, the major is a rigorous course of study. Philosophy and Religion courses generally demand a high level of thought and comprehension. Only undertake this major if you are interested in being challenged and pushed to think more deeply and more clearly and to communicate more effectively.

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