This is a course on the philosophical dimensions of religious faith and practice, the nature and scope of religious experience, and the existence and source of divinity. Students will be introduced to some of the most persistent questions within the philosophy of religion, such as: What is the relationship between human reason and religious faith?; What evidence might one have for believing in the existence (or non-existence) of God?; Can the existence of an all powerful and wholly good Being be reconciled with the presence of evil in the world?; Can ethics be grounded in something other than religious faith?. For the most part, the course will proceed in a roughly historical manner, beginning with the Greeks, moving through the early medieval period (Augustine, Anselm), and ending with a discussion of prominent modern philosophers (Hume, Kant, and possibly Kierkegaard). That said, in the interest of capitalizing upon our voyages’ itinerary, we will occasionally deviate from this strict chronological approach in order to read material directly related to the historical and political realities of the ports we will be visiting. An effort will also be made to address matters of contemporary political significance (such as the role of religious or theological language in public discourse) and to examine figures and themes relevant to the major religious traditions we will encounter along the way (including Islamic and Jewish thought).
Field WorkCountry: Ireland
Day: 1 - Wednesday, 24 September
This field lab will include a tour of one of the most historic university campuses in Europe (Trinity College), visits to a variety of significant religious sites, and a guest lecture by a local Irish scholar. The day will begin with a tour of campus led by Trinity College students. This tour will include visits to the Old Library and the famous Book of Kells (a twelve hundred year old illuminated manuscript of the Gospels). After a quick lunch on campus, we will meet up with a local scholar of religion and theology, who will address a number of philosophical and theological issues raised in class. We will then travel by foot to Christ Church Cathedral and the medieval St. Audoen’s Church, where we will enjoy a quick tour of the oldest parish church in Dublin. Time permitting, we will end the day with a visit to the grand St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Academic Objectives: 1. To discuss the works of Augustine and Anselm with an Irish scholar of religion. 2. To learn more about the political and intellectual history of Christianity in Ireland 3. To observe and admire the ways in which religious ideals have been given artistic expression.