Department Chairperson: Dr. Wioleta Polinska
Philosophy and Religious Studies Faculty
The mission of the department is to engage students by examining philosophical and religious worldviews across history and across cultures. Such engagement entails critical reflection on our beliefs about ourselves, our relationships with the world and others and the purposes and practices we ought to pursue in our quest for meaningful lives. To study Philosophy and Religion is to study thinkers and traditions that have motivated extraordinary human actions—for good and for ill—and that have proposed accounts of nature, human beings and the divine that have invited intense self-examination, provoked critiques of systems and structures, and sparked ideas and artwork of exceptional creativity and beauty. As the department’s faculty members, the aim is not to convince students to embrace our worldviews, but instead to mentor and challenge students toward articulating, examining and refining their own. Faculty love questions, thoughtful dialogue, diverse perspectives and clear arguments; and know that the thinking, reading, speaking and writing skills students develop in our courses will buttress their success and happiness no matter what specific life path they pursue.
Socrates famously claimed that the unexamined life is unworthy of a human being. This is because, in his view, what makes us human is precisely our ability to question what it means to be human—to wrestle with doubts about who we are and what our existence might mean. Philosophy is the attempt to carry out this most human of activities in a focused and organized way. Philosophy students grapple with the questions most fundamental to human life—questions like: What is justice? Does God exist? Are we free? Does life have an ultimate purpose? Philosophy students engage the important and influential answers to these questions that have emerged from the history of philosophy, consider how these questions bear on the contemporary world, and study the principles of logic and critical thinking that allow one to formulate rational, coherent answers to them. The study of philosophy is an excellent preparation for a range of careers, particularly ones in law, education, social service and business. More importantly, though, it prepares one to live an authentically human life in a messy and uncertain world.
In Religious Studies, students are invited to explore the religious dimension of humanity through a variety of learning opportunities and academic methods. The study of various religions provides a foundation for developing a deeper understanding of the structure and diversity of religious phenomena. Students build on this foundation through the concentrated study of specific religions as well as the examination of particular dimensions of religion, such as the study of theology, scripture or ethics. Completion of a major or minor may lead to graduate study, seminary and professional ministry, careers in religious service, or careers that are enhanced by an understanding of religion, such as social work, global journalism, or international business. Students are encouraged to consult with Religious Studies faculty to discover how the study of religion can complement their other areas of interest and help them realize their personal and vocational goals.
Degree offered: B.A.