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Philosophy & Religious Studies (PRS)

PRS 2100 - Beginnings of Philosophy - 3 credits

Leads the student to understand perennially important philosophical problems—such as the natures of matter, mind, goodness, beauty, and knowledge — through meeting them in their simplest, most direct, yet profound, terms as they were discovered and dealt with by such philosophers as the Pre- Socratics, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Western thought is emphasized, but some attention is given to Eastern outlooks.

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth requirement.

PRS 2120 - The Meaning of Life - 3 credits

Is there an ultimate meaning to human existence, or is life absurd? In the past century, existentialist philosophers like Kierkegaard, Sartre, and others have denied that human life has any essential meaning, offering a sharp challenge to traditional systems of meaning like religion and ethics. Yet they have explored ways of making life worthwhile. This course shall examine existentialist texts (stories and novels, as well as philosophical writings) and films that will challenge each individual to discover and/or create a meaningful life.

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth requirement and may be Reading/Writing enhanced.

PRS 2150 - Eastern Religion and Philosophy - 3 credits

A study of aspects of the history and practice of religions and philosophies of the East, such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Shintoism, and Taoism. Emphasizes primarily the attitudes toward the nature and meaning of human existence in the basic literature of each.

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth or the International/Global Interdependence requirement and may be Reading/Writing enhanced.

PRS 2160 - Introduction to Buddhism - 3 credits

This course consists of an introduction to the diverse tradition of thought and action inspired by the life and teachings of the Buddha. Students will learn the history of this rich tradition’s development as it starts in India, moves through China, and continues on to Japan and Southeast Asia. The course pays attention to both classical and contemporary forms of Buddhist belief and practice, with the primary purpose of enabling students to interact with Buddhists in their own local and global communities in an informed way. This is an excellent course for students with no significant background in Buddhism, but also provides opportunities for more advanced students to broaden and deepen their understanding.

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth requirement and may be Reading/ Writing enhanced.

PRS 2210 - Ethics - 3 credits

Ethics is the study of human and humane activity, an inquiry into the determination of the will. This course examines major theories that describe and set norms for forming moral judgments. Questions raised will include: Are humans inherently selfish? How does one decide the correct path–by predicting the consequences of actions or by examining the actions themselves? A portion of the course is devoted to recent developments in virtue theory, and ancient tradition that examines the intentions of the moral agent rather than consequences or acts.

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth requirement and may be Reading/Writing enhanced.

PRS 2230 - Philosophy in Pop Culture - 3 credits

An investigation of contemporary values and philosophic issues expressed through selected forms of contemporary art and life style, including science fiction, pop music, film, video, consumer culture, etc. What is “pop” culture? What attitudes toward being human are expressed and marketed in popular culture today? What concepts and perspectives on human community and the cosmos are operative in “pop” culture? What tools does philosophy offer to critique contemporary culture? This course will offer opportunities for intergenerational dialogue and philosophic assessment of the values implicit in “pop” culture.

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth requirement and may be Reading/Writing enhanced.

PRS 2310 - The Spiritual Journey - 3 credits

Many spiritual orientations and practices talk about life as a “journey,” as a process of spiritual growth and discovery of life’s meaning in relationship to a transcendent reality, named variously as God/Goddess, Enlightenment, The One, Truth, Higher Power, etc. In all of these traditions, the “spiritual journey” is not just about concepts of spiritual life, but about how real people live their lives aimed toward ultimate significance. This course will explore what life as a spiritual journey is about, through the autobiographies of such pilgrims as Thomas Merton, Malcolm X, U2, Rigoberta Menchu and Black Elk. Are we all on a “spiritual journey’ even if we think we are not, even if we are not religious? Students will reflect on their own spiritual development in light of insights offered by artists, and mystics, as well as theological and psychological writers.

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth requirement and may be Reading/Writing enhanced.

PRS 2410 - Environmental Ethics - 3 credits

This course explores the issues in environmental ethics that have been the focal points of recent discussions in the field: humanity’s place in the universe; the related issues of anthropocentrism (human centeredness) vs. biocentrism (life centeredness) and ecocentrism (the ecosystems that enable the emergence of and that nurture life); intrinsic and instrumental value in humans and non-humans; deep ecology vs. animal rights; deep ecology and ecofeminism; eco-justice and human rights; and the philosophic underpinnings of the sustainable development vs. growth economies and globalization debate. This course is recommended for students with sophomore standing or above.

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth requirement and may be Reading/Writing enhanced.

PRS 2541 - Race and Religion in America - 3 credits

The class explores some of the characteristics of African religions; slave religion, slave narratives, and their role in slave rebellions; the central role of religion in the African American community throughout American history; the role of religion in the context of the Atlanta Compromise, Booker T, Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois; the roles of key people such as Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, James H. Cone, “womanist” thinkers writers/ theologians like Delores Williams and Emilie Townes, etc. A special focus of the course will be on the role of the black church in the struggle for civil rights, highlighting the complex relationship between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The role of religion in the contemporary African American community(ies) will also be examined. The relationship between African American religion(s), not existing in isolation, and the dominant white society will also be explored throughout the course. (Same course as BLKS 2541).

This course meets the General Education Humanities Breadth and Information Literacy Enhancement requirements.

PRS 3980 - Capstone Course - 3 credits

Contents to be selected by student and instructor to include student’s reflections on: (1) the totality of the student’s study of philosophy, (2) how the major comes together as a whole, (3) how it is integrated into the student’s entire academic program, and (4) how it relates to the student’s life. For majors, minor and other interested students.

Prerequisite: Junior standing, or successful completion of a 1000-or 2000-level PRS course, or permission of instructor.