The material on this page is from the 1997-98 catalog and may be out of date. Please check the current year's catalog for current information.
Philosophy and Religion
Professors Straub, Kolb, Okrent, Tracy, Chair, Crunkleton (on leave, winter semester and Short Term), and Strong (on leave, fall semester); Visiting Professor Caspi; Associate Professors Allison, Cummiskey (on leave, 1997-1998), and Bruce; Assistant Professors Ekstrom (on leave, 1997-1998), Conly, and Robb
Students who choose to major in philosophy are ordinarily expected to complete eleven courses in the field, distributed according to the requirements indicated below. Students arrange their programs individually in consultation with their departmental advisors. In individual cases, students may fulfill some of the requirements with appropriate Short Term units from philosophy or courses from other fields. The philosophy faculty has structured the major to allow students to plan their own program within the constraints of a broad philosophical education. To this end, every course offered by the Department, with the exception of the Introduction to Philosophy, can satisfy one or another of the following requirements.
Major Requirements. The requirements for the major are as follows:
1) 195. Introduction to Logic.
2) 271. Greek Philosophy.
3) 272. Philosophy from Descartes to Kant.
4) Ethics and Political Philosophy: the good, the right, and community: one course from among: a) 212. Contemporary Moral Disputes; b) 256. Moral Principles; c) 257. Topics in Ethics; d) 258. Philosophy of Law.
5) Metaphysics: being, meaning, knowledge: one course from among: a) 211. Philosophy of Science; b) 235. Philosophy of Mind and Language; c) 236. Theory of Knowledge; d) 260. Philosophy of Religion.
6) Metaphilosophy: critical reflections on the tradition: one course from among: a) 241. Philosophy of Art; b) 262. Philosophy and Feminism; c) 273. Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century; d) 274. Phenomenology; e) 275. Existentialism and Deconstruction.
7) Three courses at the 300-level, one of which may be a 360.
8) Senior Thesis: 457 or 458.
Students are urged to take the courses listed in 1) through 3) as soon as possible after they decide to major in philosophy.
The Department encourages students to design interdisciplinary majors involving philosophy and religion.
195. Introduction to Logic. Essentially an investigation of the nature of valid reasoning, coupled with training in the skills of critical thinking. Close attention is paid to the analysis of ordinary arguments. Enrollment limited to 40 per section. M. Okrent.
211. Philosophy of Science. Science has become our model for what counts as knowledge; the course examines that model and discusses how far its claims are justified in the light of the nature and history of science. Topics for consideration are drawn from the nature of scientific explanation, scientific rationality, progress in science, the nature of scientific theories, and the relations of science to society and to other views of the world. Readings include traditional, contemporary, and feminist work in philosophy of science. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. D. Robb.
212. Contemporary Moral Disputes. The course focuses on particular moral issues and the ethical arguments provoked by them. Topics discussed in the course may include, among others, abortion and euthanasia, war and nuclear arms, world hunger, and use of natural resources. This course is the same as Religion 212. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30 per section. S. Conly.
235. Philosophy of Mind and Language. An inquiry into the nature of human mentality that pays special attention to the issues raised by the phenomenon of language and the relation between thought and language. Is mind distinct from body? If not, are mental states identical with brain states, or does the mind relate to the brain as programs relate to computer hardware? What makes linguistic expressions meaningful? What do people know when they know a language? What is the connection between thought and language? Readings from historical and contemporary sources. Not open to students who have received credit for Philosophy 225. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 40. M. Okrent.
236. Theory of Knowledge. Is knowledge possible, and if so, how? The course investigates how we can know the ordinary things we take ourselves to know. Students will be introduced to major philosophical theories concerning when our thoughts about ourselves and the world are rationally justified. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. Staff.
241. Philosophy of Art. An introduction to the major problems of philosophy of art including discussion of attempts to define art, problems concerning the interpretation of individual works of art, and recent theories of modern and postmodern art. This course is the same as Art 226. Open to first-year students. D. Kolb.
256. Moral Principles. An introduction to moral philosophy. Topics include: Is there a difference between right and wrong? Is it merely a matter of custom, convention, preference, or opinion, or is there some other basis for this distinction, something that makes it "objective" rather than "subjective"? How can I tell, in particular cases and in general, what is right and what is wrong? Is there some moral principle or method for deciding particular moral problems? Philosophers discussed include Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, and Mill. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30 per section. Staff.
257. Topics in Ethics. This course focuses on important issues in ethics and political philosophy. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. Staff.
258. Philosophy of Law. An introduction to legal theory. Central questions include: What is law? What is the relationship of law to morality? What is the nature of judicial reasoning? Particular legal issues include the nature and status of liberty rights (the right to privacy including contraception, abortion, and homosexuality, and the right to die); the legitimacy of restrictions on speech and expression (flag burning and racist hate speech); and the nature of equality rights (race and gender). Readings include traditional, contemporary, and feminist legal theory; case studies; and court decisions. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. D. Cummiskey.
260. Philosophy of Religion. A consideration of major issues that arise in philosophical reflection upon religion. Particular issues are selected from among such topics as the nature of faith, the possibility of justifying religious beliefs, the nature and validity of religious experience, the relation of religion and science, and the problem of evil. May be taken for major credit by majors in philosophy or in religion. This course is the same as Religion 260. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. T. Tracy.
262. Philosophy and Feminism. To what extent, and in what sense, are the methods and concepts of traditional Western philosophy "male"? What implications might the answer to this question have for feminist philosophical thinking? This course examines the suggestion that many philosophical conceptions of knowledge, reality, autonomy, mind, and the self express a typically or characteristically male point of view. We examine the contributions that women are making to philosophy, as well as the contributions that philosophy makes to feminism. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. S. Conly.
270. Medieval Philosophy. A survey of the basic ideas of thinkers such as Aquinas and Okham, and other medieval philosopher-theologians, together with discussion of their links to earlier philosophy, the Jewish and Islamic influences on their thought, and their relation to current philosophical issues and positions. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy or classical and medieval studies. D. Kolb.
271. Greek Philosophy. A study of the basic philosophical ideas underlying Western thought as these are expressed in the
writings of Plato and Aristotle. Greek thought is discussed in its historical and social context, with indications of how
important Greek ideas were developed in later centuries. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30.
272. Philosophy from Descartes to Kant. The problems of knowledge, reality, and morality are discussed as they
developed from the time of the scientific revolution and the birth of modern philosophy until their culmination in Kant. The
course considers thinkers from among the classic rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) and empiricists (Locke,
Berkeley, Hume) as well as Kant. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30.
273. Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century. The course follows the development of modern thought from Kant, through the rise and breakup of Hegelianism, to the culmination of nineteenth-century thought in Nietzsche. The impact of science, the relation of the individual and society, and the role of reflection in experience are examined in readings drawn from among Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Feuerbach, Marx, Mill, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard. Open to first-year students. D. Kolb.
274. Phenomenology. A survey of several of the dominant themes in twentieth-century phenomenology. The course is designed to familiarize students with this area through the study of some of the works of Husserl and Heidegger, among others. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy. M. Okrent.
275. Existentialism and Deconstruction. A survey of major themes and writers in the traditions of existentialism and deconstruction. Readings may include thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Sartre, Camus, Deleuze, Derrida, and Merleau-Ponty. Recommended background: at least one course in the history of philosophy. D. Kolb.
321. Seminar: Topics in the Contemporary Philosophy of Mind and Language. An examination of recent discussions of topics concerning language, intentionality, and what it is to be a person. Topics vary from year to year.
321A. Evolution, Teleology, and Mind. Recently several philosophers, including Ruth Millikan and Daniel
Dennett, have articulated "evolutionary" accounts of meaning. This seminar undertakes an evaluation of
Millikan's and Dennett's proposals. In order to assess these accounts it is necessary to understand the logic of
both teleological and evolutionary explanations. The seminar achieves such an understanding by looking at the
work of both philosophers and biologists. Readings are taken from the work of Millikan, Dennett, Richard
Dawkins, Stephen Gould, Larry Wright, Elliot Sober, and Robert Cummins. Recommended background:
Philosophy 235. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy. Enrollment limited to 15. M. Okrent.
322A. Contemporary Debates about Subjectivity. Discussion of issues that have been raised about the nature
of selfhood and subjectivity in recent debates among phenomenology, deconstruction, and critical theory.
Authors to be considered may include Heidegger, Deleuze, Derrida, Foucault, Habermas, Rorty, Taylor, and
others. Prerequisite(s): two courses in philosophy. Enrollment limited to 15. D. Kolb.
324. Seminar: Topics in Ethics. This course focuses on important issues in ethics and political theory.
324A. Kantian Ethics. This seminar uses Kant's moral theory as a vehicle to explore some of the central
questions and assumptions of Western moral theory. Kantian ethics is typically contrasted with the moral
theory of David Hume and its heirs, the utilitarians. Central to this contrast between Kantians and Humeans is
an emphasis on the dualisms of reason and passion, duty and sentiment, principle and sympathy, autonomy and
heteronomy, right acts and good consequences. In each case, Kant is identified with the first and Hume with
the second of the pairs. On the other hand, recent interpretations of Kant's ethics by Marcia Baron, Barbara
Herman, Thomas Hill, Christine Korsgaard, and Onora O'Neill present a more unified, and perhaps more
compelling, picture of Kantian ethics. This seminar focuses on these new interpretations of Kantian moral
theory. Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 212 or 256 or 257 or 258. Open to first-year students. D. Cummiskey.
350. Seminar on Major Thinkers. The course examines in depth the writings of a major philosopher. Thinkers who may be discussed include Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Hume, Marx, Wittgenstein, Quine, and others. D. Kolb.
351. Kant. This course is an intensive study of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Interpretations by contemporary critics are considered. Prerequisite(s): Philosophy 272. M. Okrent.
360. Independent Study. Directed readings on individual philosophers, problems of philosophy, or a philosophic movement. Permission of the Department is required. Students are limited to one independent study per semester. Staff.
365. Special Topics. A course or seminar offered from time to time and reserved for a special topic selected by the Department.
457, 458. Senior Thesis. Students register for Philosophy 457 in the fall semester and for Philosophy 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both Philosophy 457 and 458. Staff.
Short Term Units
s21. Philosophical Classics. This unit offers an experience of intense close reading of a classic major philosophical text. The book chosen varies from year to year. Members of the unit work through the text line by line, trying to understand the work, while continuing discussions of the issues and methods involved. Enrollment limited to 15. Written permission of the instructor is required. M. Okrent.
s22. Religion, Women, and Nature. The unit explores relationships among religion, Western attitudes toward nature, and women's experience. It raises questions about assumptions that underlie the cultural understandings of culture, human nature, gender, creation, and the natural world. Recommended background: a course in religion or philosophy. This unit is the same as Religion s22. Enrollment limited to 30. M. Crunkleton.
s23. Environmental Ethics. This unit uses readings, seminar discussions, and field trips to examine and evaluate environmental issues. Consideration is given to the idea of expanding the moral universe to include forests, oceans, other species. The class may travel to different locales in Maine to look at specific environmental situations. Internships also may be arranged for more extended study in the field. This unit is the same as Religion s23. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 12. Written permission of the instructor is required. C. Straub.
s25. Free Will and Moral Responsibility. This unit uses contemporary and historical readings, student papers, and classroom discussion to explore the nature of the human will and the preconditions of moral responsibility. Students are required to do a significant amount of independent research, reflection, and writing. Enrollment limited to 15. Staff.
s26. Biomedical Ethics. We are all aware of the remarkable accomplishments of modern medicine. During the past forty years, the rapid changes in the biological sciences and medical technology have thoroughly transformed the practice of medicine. The added complexity and power of medicine has in turn revolutionized the responsibilities and duties that accompany the medical professions. This Short Term unit explores the values and norms governing medical practice, the rights and responsibilities of health-care providers and patients, the justification for euthanasia, and the problems of access, allocation, and rationing of health-care services. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 12. D. Cummiskey.
s27. Hyperwriting. The computer makes possible new types of non-linear writing that need not follow the standard forms of fiction or of academic discourse. What will their new forms be, and will they have their own ways of being both creative and self-critical? This unit offers a chance to experiment in the creation of new forms by writing hypertexts together, using Storyspace and Mosaic. There are both individual and group projects, with peer review and critique sessions each week. Enrollment limited to 15. D. Kolb.
s28. Architecture, Tradition, and Innovation. This unit studies issues of building and planning in our (post)modern world. Unit members read texts from philosophy and architecture while working on a series of projects in design and planning. Enrollment limited to 20. Written permission of the instructor is required. D. Kolb.
s29. The Nature and Limits of Explanation. The unit uses Hume's work Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion to initiate consideration of the nature and limits of explanation. The course introduces issues regarding categories of explanation, scientific and nonscientific models, the limits of reason, and the relation of explanation to objectivity and to epistemological theories. Causal and teleological explanations, the nature of evidence, and the justification of induction are emphasized. Interpretations and reasons for action and the place of explanation in the social sciences are also discussed. Enrollment limited to 25. D. Harward.
s50. Individual Research. Registration in this unit is granted by the Department only after the student has submitted a written proposal for a full-time research project to be completed during the Short Term and has secured the sponsorship of a member of the Department to direct the study and evaluate results. Students are limited to one individual research unit. Staff.
Because this study often considers fundamental human questions that are asked by every generation, it is closely linked with other academic disciplines which study the nature and character of human life.
Majoring in the field of religion provides a focus for integrated study in the humanities. Most of the courses and units are open to the many students with general interest in the field.
Majors are expected to consult with members of the Department in designing their programs of study. The study of religion often embraces work in other fields, and majors are encouraged to coordinate courses in other fields with their work in religion.
For the class of 1998, the requirements for the major are: 1) the Senior Research Seminar and Religion 458; 2) one of the following seminars, normally taken in the junior year: 301, 303, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309; and 3) seven additional courses or units in religion, including at least one from each of the following groups: (a) 200, 210, 225, 235, 236, 238, 241, 245, 264, s25A, s26; (b) 216, 217, 242, 243, 247, 258, 260; and (c) 208, 209, 249, 250, 263. Honors candidates must complete 457 458 and sustain an oral defense of their thesis.
Starting with the class of 1999, the religion major will consist of a total of eleven courses (twelve for honors candidates), one of which must be taken in another academic program. These courses must include:
1) Two courses in theoretical and comparative studies of religion. The courses that satisfy this requirement are: any 100 level religion course, 200, 204, 222, 260, 261, 262.
2) Two two-course sequences (four courses total). Each sequence must be drawn from a different area below and may consist of any pair of courses listed for that area. Note: courses need not be taken in the order in which they are listed.
Area A (Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Religions): 225-236, 235-236, 235-238, 236-241, 235-264, 238-257, 264 214, 204-214, 235-214, 235-210, 235-213.
Area B (Medieval, Modern Western, and American Religions): 238-258, 241-245, 241-242, 242-245, 242-243, 243-260, 216-217, 216-247, 217-247, 200-258, 204-214, 264-214.
Area C (South and East Asian Religions): 249-250, 208-209, 250-208, 250-209, 250-263.
3) A 300-level seminar associated with one of the two sequences.
Area A: 303A, 303B.
Area B: 301, 305, 306, 365A, 303A.
Area C: 307, 308, 309.
4) A course from outside the religion curriculum that is associated with one of the two sequences, and that must be approved by the student's advisor. Courses cross-listed with religion (e.g., in anthropology or philosophy) may be used to satisfy this requirement. This requirement may also be met through two semesters of a relevant foreign language at the college level.
5) Religion 450, the Senior Research Seminar.
6) Thesis (Religion 457) or honors thesis (Religion 457 and 458).
110. Death and Afterlife: Bodies and Souls in Comparative Perspective. An introduction to the comparative study of religion centering around the ways in which various traditions have addressed a basic question: what happens to humans when they die? Primary attention is given to the answers of at least three of the following religions: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Chinese, and Japanese religions. Ways of studying these answers in their many dimensions (ritual, doctrinal, mythological, sociological, psychological) are introduced; and topics such as notions of heaven and hell, reincarnation, relics, burial patterns, ghosts, visionary journeys to the other world, quests for immortality, near-death experiences, and resurrections are addressed. J. Strong.
115. Sacred Space: Religion and the Sense of Place. An introductory study to the ways religious traditions help define and develop a sense of place, lending significance to landscapes and cityscapes alike. Particular attention is given to understanding the nature of religion as a phenomenon that takes place, and continues to take place, in all cultures and historical periods. C. Straub.
124. Religion and Life Stories. An introduction to Western religious thought through autobiographical writings. Topics explored include the nature and functions of religion, the formation and questioning of religious beliefs, religious conceptions of good and evil, and the links between religion and social-political action. Readings are drawn from figures such as Augustine, Joyce Hollyday, Malcolm X, Rigoberta Menchu, and Elie Wiesel. Enrollment limited to 40. T. Tracy.
200. Women's Journey: Still Waters Run Deep. Women in Biblical literature, post-Biblical literature, and in the oral literature of the Middle East are not silent bystanders. They actively define the world around them and pursue their own relationship with the divine, their environment, and the search for perfection. This course is the same as Women's Studies 200. Open to first-year students. M. Caspi.
208. Religions of East Asia: China. A study of the various religious traditions of China in their independence and interaction. The focus of the course is on the history, doctrines, and practices of Taoism, Confucianism, and various schools of Mahayana Buddhism. Readings include basic texts and secondary sources. Open to first-year students. J. Strong.
209. Religions of East Asia: Japan. A study of the various religious traditions of Japan in their independence and interaction. The focus of the course is on the doctrines and practices of Shinto, folk religion, and various schools of Buddhism. These are considered in the context of Japanese history and culture and set against their Korean and Chinese backgrounds. Open to first-year students. J. Strong.
210. The Binding of Isaac: Three Traditions. The story of Abraham and Isaac is a paradigmatic story of faith in three traditions. In the Biblical narrative, Isaac does not speak upon the altar, nor does he cry out (Jesus, Ishmael). Is it possible that he would not say a word? Still, he became the focus of a dialogic connection between God and the individual. As a reborn object of the transformative sacrifice, he became the crux (Jesus, the second Isaac) around which the world unfolded. Open to first-year students. M. Caspi.
212. Contemporary Moral Disputes. The course focuses on particular moral issues and the ethical arguments provoked by them. Topics discussed in the course may include, among others, abortion and euthanasia, war and nuclear arms, world hunger and use of natural resources. This course is the same as Philosophy 212. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30 per section. S. Conly.
213. From Law to Mysticism. The literary works of Jewish sages were largely formed under the impact of catastrophe. This course surveys how social, religious, and political events shaped Jewish writings, beginning with the post-Biblical works of the Chariot in the first century B.C.E. and C.E., through the Qabbala (Jewish mysticism) in thirteenth century Spain, to the Hassidic movement in eighteenth-century eastern Europe. This course includes readings from the Book of Formation, the Zohar, and stories of Hassidic masters, as well as interpretive texts. Open to first-year students. M. Caspi.
214. Bible and Quran. Judaism and Islam are each presented by a religious text that is considered the "word of God." This course explores the "divinity" of the texts vis-à-vis their "secular" aspects. Special attention is given to a comparative literary examination of selected stories in each text (e.g., the story of Joseph, Elijah, Queen of Sheba), and to an analysis of the sociopolitical features of these major religious texts. Open to first-year students. M. Caspi.
215. Environmental Ethics. Values are important influences on the ways human communities relate to ecological communities, and hence on the character of the interaction between persons and their natural worlds. The course examines a range of environmental issues as moral problems, requiring ethical reflection. This ethical reflection takes into account both the cultural and religious contexts that have given rise to what is understood as a technological dominion over nature, and the cultural resources still remaining that may provide clues on how to live in friendship with the earth. Recommended background: one course in philosophy or religion. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 25 per section. C. Straub.
216. American Religious History, 1550-1840. This course introduces students to the major themes and movements in American religious history from the Colonial period to the end of Jacksonian reform. Among the topics discussed are Reformation "churches" and "sects," Puritanism and secularism in seventeenth-century America, ethnic diversity and religious pluralism in the Middle Colonies, slavery and slave religion, revivalism, religion and the American Revolution, and social reform. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 40. M. Bruce.
217. Religion in the American Experience. The course seeks to understand the importance of religion in the evolution of a sense of national identity and of national destiny for the United States. Consideration is given to the importance of religious traditions both in the development and sanctioning of national mythologies, and in the critique or criticism of these mythologies. The historical background of such considerations begins with Native American religions. The course concludes with a study of "religious freedom" in a multicultural nation again uncertain of its grounds for unity. Open to first-year students. C. Straub.
222. Myths and Their Meaning. Specific examples of myths drawn from a variety of religious traditions (ancient Greece, the ancient Near East, India, and nonliterate societies) are examined in the light of classic and contemporary theories about myth. What role do myths play? What do they mean? How do they reflect and relate to other forms of religious expression? These questions are among those addressed from a variety of perspectives. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 50. J. Strong.
225. Gods, Heroes, Magic, and Mysteries: Religion in Ancient Greece. An anthropological and historical approach to
ancient Greek religion in which archeological, literary, and art-historical sources are examined and compared with
evidence from other cultures to gain an understanding of the role of religion in ancient Greek culture and of changing
concepts of the relation between man and the sacred. Topics to be explored include pre-Homeric and Homeric religion and
religious thought, cosmology, mystery cults, civil religion, and manifestations of the irrational, such as dreams, ecstasy,
shamanism, and magic. This course is the same as Anthropology 225. Open to first-year students. R. Allison,
228. Caring for Creation: Physics, Religion, and the Environment. This course considers scientific and religious
accounts of the origin of the universe, examines the relations between these accounts, and explores the way they shape our
deepest attitudes toward the natural world. Topics of discussion include the Biblical creation stories, contemporary
scientific cosmology, the interplay between these scientific and religious ideas, and the roles they both can play in forming
a response to environmental problems. This course is the same as Environmental Studies 228 and Physics 228. Enrollment
limited to 30.
230. Religion in Literature. The most fruitful approach to the meeting of religion and literature is not simply to examine literature for its explicitly religious content, but to discover how literature expresses what it means to be human (or inhuman). The course examines religious metaphors, images, and similes as they appear in literature that search for wholistic meanings and human values. Open to first-year students. M. Caspi.
235. Ancient Israel: History, Religion, and Literature. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (in English translation) with readings in related ancient literature. This course traces the history of ancient Israel from its pre-history in the Bronze Age (the time of the Patriarchs) through to the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian Empire (the end of the First Temple Period). Major topics of study include the evolution of Israelite religious ideas and practices and the various literary traditions represented in the Hebrew Bible (especially the prophetic, priestly, and wisdom traditions) and such historical issues as nationhood, women in ancient Israel, internal politics, and international relations with the ancient Near Eastern centers of civilization. Open to first-year students. R. Allison.
236. Introduction to the New Testament. Readings in the New Testament and related Greek and early Christian literature. Studies of the Gospels include investigation into the nature of the early Jesus movement and Jesus' place in the Judaism of his day, the interpretation of Jesus' teaching in the context of Roman-occupied Palestine, and the growth of the Jesus tradition in the early Church. Topics such as the diversity of ideas about salvation, influence of Greco-Roman religious thought, the place of women in the early Church, and the break between Christianity and Judaism and the formation of the early Church in its first century are covered in study of the New Testament epistles (emphasis on the apostle Paul's epistles) and the Book of Revelation. Open to first-year students. R. Allison.
238. Early Jewish History and Thought. Introduction to the later books of the Hebrew Bible and to the literature, religion, and history of Judaism from the Persian Period through the Second Temple Period and the beginnings of the Roman occupation of Palestine. Major topics of study include the formation of Judaism, concepts of nationhood and the Diaspora, the origins of anti-Semitism, Hellenized Judaism, Jewish apocalyptic. Readings include the later Biblical books, selected writings from wisdom and apocalyptic works from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha and from the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish historian Josephus, Philo of Alexandria, and selected early rabbinical writings. Open to first-year students. R. Allison.
241. History of Christian Thought I: Conflict, Self-Definition, and Dominance. A study of the development of Christian thought from the ideas of the earliest followers of Jesus to the theological systems of a dominant church. Emphasis is placed upon the interaction of Christian thought with its intellectual and social environment. Open to first-year students. R. Allison.
242. History of Christian Thought II: The Emergence of Modernity. A study of the development of Christian thought from the fall of the Roman Empire to the beginnings of the modern era. The history of religious ideas in the West is considered in its social and political context. Readings include selections from Augustine, Gregory the Great, Anselm, Hildegard of Bingen, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin. Open to first-year students. T. Tracy.
243. Christianity and Its Modern Critics. A study of some encounters between Christian traditions and modern culture, as they have developed since the Enlightenment. Attention is given to significant critiques of religion that have helped define the context for understanding religious meaning in a post-Christian culture. Readings are drawn from critics such as Kant, Hume, Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Open to first-year students. C. Straub.
245. Ascetic and Monastic Christianity: The Christian Flight from the World to God. The history of Christian
monasticism from the hermits of the Egyptian and Palestinian deserts to the monastic orders of the Western Middle Ages,
to Eastern Orthodox Palamism, and to modern monastic revivals. Topics include monastic demonology; hermit sages and
wonderworkers; ascetical mysticism; virgins, widows, and the escape from sexual suppression; pilgrimage and the cult of
relics; the rise of monastic orders. A field trip is taken to a New England monastery. Open to first-year students. Enrollment
limited to 14.
247. City Upon the Hill. From John Winthrop to Pat Robertson, Americans have tended to view themselves as a chosen people, a righteous empire, and a city upon a hill. The course examines this religious view of America and its role in shaping American ideas regarding politics, education, work, women, ethnic groups, and other countries. Assigned readings include works by Edmund Morgan, Sacvan Bercovitch, R.W.B. Lewis, and William Clebsch. Prerequisite: one course in Religion. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 40. M. Bruce.
249. Religions of India: The Hindu Tradition. An examination, through the use of primary and secondary texts, of the various traditions of Hinduism, with some consideration of their relation to Jainism, and Indian Buddhism. Special attention is paid to the Vedas, Upanishads, and Bhagavad-Gita, as well as to the classical myths of Hinduism embodied in the Puranas. Open to first-year students. J. Strong.
250. The Buddhist Tradition. The course focuses on the Buddha's life and teachings; on early Buddhism in India and the rise of various Buddhist schools of thought; on the development of Mahayana philosophies; on rituals, meditation, and other forms of expression in India and Southeast Asia. Open to first-year students. J. Strong.
258. From Shoah to Shoah: Judaism in the Modern World. This course explores issues and thinkers in modern Judaism. Topics vary from year to year, and may include one or more of the following: twentieth-century European and American Jewish experience, the varieties of modern Judaism, religion and politics in contemporary Jewish thought, gender issues in Judaism, inter-religious relations with Islam or Christianity. Open to first-year students. M. Caspi.
260. Philosophy of Religion. A consideration of major issues that arise in philosophical reflection upon religion. Particular issues are selected from among such topics as the nature of faith, the possibility of justifying religious beliefs, the nature and validity of religious experience, the functions of religious language, the relation of religion and science, and the problem of evil. May be taken for major credit by majors in philosophy. This course is the same as Philosophy 260. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 30. T. Tracy.
261. Myth, Folklore, and Popular Culture. A variety of texts, including ancient Greek myths, Grimms' folktales, Apache jokes, African proverbs, and Walt Disney comics, are examined in light of important theoretical approaches employed by anthropologists interested in understanding the role of such expressive forms in cultures throughout the world. Major emphasis is placed on psychoanalytic, Marxist, and structuralist approaches. This course is the same as Anthropology 234. Open to first-year students. L. Danforth.
262. Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion. As human societies change, so do the religious beliefs and practices these societies follow. The course examines the symbolic forms and acts that relate human beings to the ultimate conditions of their existence, against the background of the rise of science. Emphasis is upon both Western and non Western religions. This course is the same as Anthropology 241. Open to first-year students. S. Kemper.
263. Buddhism and the Social Order. The West looks upon Buddhism as an otherworldly religion with little interest in activity in this world. Such has not been the case historically. The Dhamma (Buddhist doctrine) has two wheels, one of righteousness and one of power, one for the other world and one for this world. Lectures and discussions use this paradigm to consider the several accommodations Buddhism has struck with the realities of power in various Theravada Buddhist societies in ancient India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. This course is the same as Anthropology 244. Open to first-year students. S. Kemper.
264. The Islamic Tradition. An introduction to the history and the classical forms of Islam with special attention to the Shi'ah and the Sunnis. In addition to introducing the Quran, the course explores basic teachings of Islam in their historical and social contexts, and covers such subjects as the life and teachings of the Prophet, the Khalifahs and the expansion of Islam, Islamic theology and law, Islamic worship and ritual, and Islamic mysticism. Open to first-year students. M. Caspi.
301. Seminar in Religion and Culture. A consideration of religious experience and of the consequent creation of religious symbols. Historical and theoretical study aims for an appreciation of the cultural forms of religious meaning. Written permission of the instructor is required. C. Straub.
303. Seminar in Biblical Criticism. Each year the seminar focuses upon a particular subject in Biblical studies, employing the techniques of textual, historical, and form criticism and exegesis for the purpose of developing sound hermeneutical conclusions.
303A. Tolerance and Intolerance in the Bible and Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean Cultures. This seminar, a comparative study of the phenomenon of religious tolerance and intolerance, begins with the Hebrew Bible and contemporary literature of the ancient Near East. The middle third of the semester is devoted to relations among ancient Greco-Roman paganism, Judaism, and Christianity, including the policies of Alexander the Great and his successors and the early Roman Empire. The semester concludes by turning to questions of tolerance and intolerance in the Middle Ages among the religions of the book Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Prerequisite(s): one previous course in religion or on a topic relevant to this seminar. R. Allison.
303B. Biblical Narrative. Biblical narratives present various stories where we find fear, loss of love, death,
and anxiety, all of which are part of the human condition. These aspects are examined through the narratives of
Creation, and the stories of Joseph, Moses, Samson, Jonah, and Job. M. Caspi.
306. Seminar on American Religious Thought and History. Each year the seminar focuses on a different figure, movement, or issue of significance for the development of American religious thought and history. Recommended background: a course in American cultural studies or philosophy. Enrollment limited to 15. M. Bruce.
307. Religions of Tibet. Tibetan religions are a complex mixture of Indian, Chinese, and indigenous elements. The seminar focuses on the history, doctrines, practices, literatures, major personalities, and communities of the different religious traditions that are expressions of this mixture, including the rNying ma, bKa' brgyud, Sa skya, and dGe lugs sects of Buddhism as well as the Bön and "folk" traditions. J. Strong.
308. Buddhist Texts in Translation. This seminar involves the close reading and discussion of a number of texts representing a variety of Buddhist traditions. Emphasis is placed on several different genres including canonical sutras, commentarial exegeses, philosophical treatises, and popular legends. Not open to students who have received credit for Religion 307 in 1995. Prerequisite(s): Religion 250 or Religion 263 (Anthropology 244). J. Strong.
309. Buddhism in East Asia. This seminar focuses on the teachings, traditions, and contemplative practices of a number of East Asian schools of Buddhism, including the T'ien-t'ai (Tendai), Huayen (Kegon), Ch'an (Zen), Chen-yen (Shingon), and Pure Land traditions. Special consideration is given to the question of the continuities and discontinuities in the ways these schools became established in China, Korea, and Japan. Prerequisite(s): Religion 250 or 208 or 209. J. Strong.
360. Independent Study. Independent study of individually selected topics. Periodic conferences and papers are required. Permission of the Department is required. Students are limited to one independent study per semester. Staff.
365. Special Topics. Offered from time to time on topics of special interest.
365A. The Sublime. What is the sublime? Can it be described, labeled, categorized, analyzed, and/or
presented? Or is it, as the French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard suggests, the unpresentable, that which we
can conceive of and allude to but never present? Can both the desire and attempt to present the sublime in
some enduring form become the occasion for terror? This seminar seeks to address these questions in the
writings of Lyotard and four contemporary authors who have become witnesses of the unpresentable: Toni
Morrison, Primo Levi, Edward Said, and Paul Monette. Each views narration as both a responsible act and a
way of mediating the terror of such moments as slavery, genocide, exile, and disease; each attempts to say and
write what seems and appears to be unpresentable. Students review the history of the concept of the sublime,
discuss works by the above mentioned authors, and examine the critical reception of their writings.
Prerequisite(s): one 100-level religion course. Enrollment limited to 15. Written permission of the instructor is
required. M. Bruce.
457, 458. Senior Thesis. Research for and writing of the senior thesis, under the direction of a member of the Department. Majors writing a regular thesis register for Religion 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both Religion 457 in the fall semester and 458 in the winter semester. Staff.
Short Term Units
s20. The Life and Writings of Mircea Eliade. The Rumanian historian of religions, Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), was one
of the twentieth century's leading scholars of the study of religion. Renowned for his authoritative writings on such topics
as yoga, shamanism, alchemy, myth, the sacred and the profane, he was also a diligent diarist and a prolific writer of
fiction (novels, short stories, and plays). The seminar considers both his scholarly and his fictional oeuvre in the context of
his life-story, as he moved from Bucharest to Calcutta to Paris and to Chicago. Open to first-year students. Enrollment
limited to 25.
s22. Religion, Women, and Nature. The unit explores relationships among religion, Western attitudes toward nature, and women's experience. It raises questions about assumptions that underlie the cultural understandings of culture, human nature, gender, creation, and the natural world. Recommended background: a course in religion or philosophy. This unit is the same as Philosophy s22. Enrollment limited to 30. M. Crunkleton.
s23. Environmental Ethics. This unit uses readings, seminar discussions, and field trips to examine and evaluate environmental issues. Consideration is given to the idea of expanding the moral universe to include forests, oceans, other species. The class may travel to different locales in Maine to look at specific environmental situations. Internships also may be arranged for more extended study in the field. This unit is the same as Philosophy s23. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 12. Written permission of the instructor is required. C. Straub.
s24. Religion and the City. This unit examines the specific challenges faced by religious communities and organizations working to meet the needs of inner-city residents in Washington, D.C. It analyzes 1) the manner in which religious leaders within a particular community articulate and set about realizing the social, political, and economic agenda of their communities; and 2) how religious communities and organizations often become the site of the very conflicts that characterize their interactions with other groups on their boundaries. The program involves study of selected texts dealing with intrafaith/interfaith conflicts and the problems of the city, discussions led by those working in the inner city, field trips to various institutions of the city, and fieldwork in agencies and religious communities in Washington, D.C. Recommended background: a course in religion. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 12. M. Bruce.
s25A. The Red-Letter Gospel. Jesus' words, in a red-letter Gospel book, stand out in red letters as the authoritative heart
of the Christian scriptures. But were they really his words? How do we decide between contradictory quotations in the
various Gospels? Or between the Gospel accounts and others outside the New Testament? Is red-lettered precision
reconcilable with oral tradition? This unit studies the most controversial of the sayings attributed to Jesus on issues
selected by the participants, in order to decide what Jesus is likely to have said, and to understand the interpretive issues
involved in that task.
s26. Reading in the Greek New Testament. Intensive introduction to New Testament Greek. Students begin reading immediately in the Gospel of John, while studying the Koine, or commonly spoken Greek language of late classical and early Christian times. No previous knowledge of Greek is assumed. Enrollment limited to 8. R. Allison.
s27. Field Studies in Religion: Cult and Community. The unit provides an opportunity for in-depth study of one of the many religious groups in southern Maine. In addition to mainline Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish communities, there are many nearby religious movements of particular interest: Shakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Eckanckar, Transcendental Meditation, the Shiloh Community, Catholic Charismatics, Unitarians, and others. Students carry out their own field research, focusing on the social structure, beliefs, and practices of a community of their choice. The unit ends with a seminar in which students share the results of their research. Enrollment limited to 15. T. Tracy.
s50. Individual Research. Registration in this unit is granted by the Department only after the student has submitted a written proposal for a full-time research project to be completed during the Short Term and has secured the sponsorship of a member of the Department to direct the study and evaluate results. Students are limited to one individual research unit. Staff.