Meaning and Truth in Religion [CRN 77168]

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Avrahami
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 1210
End: 1330
Field Work: Day 1 - Civitavecchia - Monday, 26 September | Italy
Prerequisites: One (1) lower-division religion or philosophy course. Per the instructor: Students can enroll in PHIL 171 (and other religion courses) and PHIL 372 concurrently. Prerequisite waived for students who have studied religion in another department (e.g. history, Middle Eastern Studies). Download Syllabus

The purpose of this course is to question the ability of words to reveal truth about the divine. In other words, it discusses the question of religious language. The course will open with an attempt to define monotheism and the related notions of the incorporeal, infinite, and transcendent god. The second part will include readings from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Quran that will demonstrate the gap between the common definition of monotheism and these texts. The subject of pre-Socratic monotheistic theology and the lack of its cultic manifestation will also be presented.

The third part of the course will look at the principles of faith or doctrines of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Four medieval attempts to solve the disagreement between these principles and scripture will be reviewed: via negative (Maimonides), univocal language (Duns Scotus), Analogy (Thomas Aquinas), and spiritual practice (Al-Ghazali).   The fourth part of the course will investigate modern replies to the problem of religious language. Particular attention will be paid to the symbolic and mythic approaches, as well as to the emergence of hermeneutics.

Field Work

Country: Italy
Day: 1 - Civitavecchia - Monday, 26 September

As the Center of the Catholic world, Rome gives a fine example of religious symbolism and representation. We will visit the Vatican Museum, where students will experience the grandeur of Western art. From Vatican City we will walk to the Great Synagogue of Rome, and then drive to the Mosque of Rome. In both places we will pay special notice to the experience and message created by architecture, ornamentation, and costumes of worship.

Learning objectives:

  1. Students will experience non-verbal representation of the divine.
  2. Students will understand the theological challenges of non-verbal representation of the divine.
  3. Students will experience the diverse architecture and ornamentation of religious space.
  4. Students should come to question the widespread dichotomy between the Judeo-Christian and the Muslim worlds