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Philosophy and Religion (PHL, REL)

For information, please contact the chairperson, 989-774-3444,102 Anspach Hall;

Philosophy & Religion

Philosophy and Religion are complementary disciplines that study human thought and culture from distinct points of view. Both disciplines study ethical and cultural issues and form part of the core of a liberal education. Each not only provides training for graduate study in its respective discipline, but provides an excellent basis for further professional training in fields which require critical and interpretive skills.

Why Study Philosophy?

Philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and value. These are questions that everyone asks: What am I? Do I have free will? How can we distinguish good from bad or right from wrong? Can we be sure that any of our beliefs are true? Philosophers examine answers to these questions systematically and critically. Philosophy is also very effective in developing the student’s ability to reason clearly, to distinguish good from bad arguments, to navigate through a complicated maze of questions, and to use intelligence and logic in situations often ruled by emotions. Students who have taken a large number of philosophy courses excel in entrance exams to graduate and professional schools. The thinking skills you will develop in your philosophy classes will give you the kind of analytic ability sought by employers in many professions.

Why Study Religion?

The academic study of religion is a comparative exploration of the beliefs, sacred stories, rituals, and community structures of the world’s religions. It helps students analyze the relationships between religion and social issues. Students of religion also investigate the influence of religion in their own and other cultures and gain understanding of how people around the world confront ultimate problems (such as death and evil). Studying religion is a way to gain research skills, writing skills, and critical thinking skills that will serve you throughout your life in a wide variety of careers or in graduate school. A survey of CMU alumni with majors and minors in Religion revealed that 75% had pursued graduate education, and that half of these had earned one or more graduate degrees.

Philosophy at CMU

The Philosophy area offers a variety of courses that both make students aware of fundamental philosophical issues such as those about moral and other values, but at the same time strengthen their critical powers and enable them to evaluate better their own beliefs as well as those of other people. Some coursework in this area can benefit students no matter what their field of study.

A major in philosophy is recommended, not only for graduate work in this area, but also as an excellent preparation for law school. A minor in philosophy is recommended to complement many other majors. A number of philosophy courses are related to specific disciplines including: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Art, Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Literature, Business Ethics, and Ethics in Health Professions. Courses in the history of philosophy provide a valuable supplement to courses in the History Department.

Religion at CMU

CMU’s Religion courses are recommended for those seeking deeper insight into the culture of the United States and a wider familiarity with cultures around the world. The Religion area offers courses in Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; in the religious traditions of China, Japan, India, and the U.S.; and in biblical studies, ethics, and the relationship between religion and contemporary society. Most Religion courses fulfill a UP requirement.

A major in religion is recommended for any student seeking an area of concentration within the liberal arts, including those wishing to pursue graduate study in religion, theology, or a related field. A minor (or second major) in religion helps prepare students for careers in journalism, broadcasting, psychology, and other areas.

The Faculty

Andrew Blom, Hadley Cooney, Gary Fuller, H. Talat Halman, Hope May, Kelly Murphy, Guy Newland, Robert Noggle, David L. Smith, Joshua Smith, Laural Zwissler.

The Programs

Philosophy Major

Philosophy Minor

Religion Major

Religion Minor

Ethics, Values, and Society Minor

Sustainability and Environmental Policy Minor (Interdisciplinary)

Undergraduate Certificate in Critical Reasoning