Constructive Studies in Religion

The Committee on Constructive Studies in Religion brings together faculty and students whose work focuses on religious thought, traditions and their value.  It comprises three areas of study: Philosophy of Religions (concern with philosophical issues arising from various religious beliefs and practices, and from critical reflection upon them), Religious Ethics (concern with the meaning of religion for the lives of persons and the ordering of societies, and, therefore, with problems of the good life, justice, and the common good) and Theology (concern with the historical study of the self-understanding of a religious tradition and with the interpretation of its meaning and truth for the contemporary world).  

 

Faculty

Daniel A. Arnold, Ryan CoyneKristine A. Culp, Arnold I. Davidson, Michael Fishbane, Kevin Hector, Dwight N. Hopkins, Matthew Kapstein, Jean-Luc Marion, Françoise Meltzer, Paul Mendes-Flohr, Richard B. MillerWillemien Otten, Susan E. Schreiner, William Schweiker, Brook A. Ziporyn

 

 

Students will be expected to focus their work within one of the three areas (Philosophy of Religions, Religious Ethics, Theology), but they will also be expected to gain an understanding of the relations among these areas, and to do at least one of their written examinations outside the Committee on Constructive Studies. 

The Committee on Constructive Studies in Religion supplements the written Ph.D. examinations offered in its areas with three Committee-wide examinations:

1. Metaphysics
2. Hermeneutics and Religious Reflection view exam bibliography (pdf)
3. Issues in Contemporary Theory view exam bibliography (pdf)

Subject to the requirements of his or her area of concentration, a Ph.D. student in the Divinity School may stipulate a Committee-wide examination as one of his or her four written examinations.

 

Philosophy of Religions

The Philosophy of Religions area considers philosophical issues arising from various religious beliefs and practices, and from critical reflection upon them. Work in this area requires historical understanding of the discipline as it developed in the West, but it is also possible to specialize in the philosophical thought of a non-Western religious tradition, as well as to do constructive philosophical work that draws upon the resources of more than one tradition.

Philosophy of Religions brief overview (PDF)

Written Examinations
Ph.D. students concentrating in the Philosophy of Religions area are required to take three exams offered by the area. All students are required to take exam 1, “The Modern Background,” and one of two exams focused on particular thinkers and trends from the twentieth century: either exam 2, “Anglo-American Philosophy of Religions in the Twentieth Century,” or exam 3, “Continental Philosophy of Religions in the Twentieth Century.” A third exam emphasizing work in the field is also required, and its selection will typically be a function of the student's particular area of focus. For students pursuing a program of comparative work, this will normally be one of the exams under the rubric of exam 4, “Comparative Philosophy of Religions” (e.g., an exam in Indian Buddhist philosophy); for students not pursuing a program of comparative work, the third exam will normally be the other of the two twentieth-century exams. In some cases, students not pursuing a program in comparative work may select as the third exam one of those offered by the Committee on Constructive Studies (“Metaphysics,” “Hermeneutics and Religious Reflection,” or “Issues in Contemporary Theory”). The student’s examining committee should include at least four faculty examiners, three of whom should be members of the Philosophy of Religions faculty.

1. The Modern Background
2. Anglo-American Philosophy of Religions in the Twentieth Century
3. Continental Philosophy of Religions in the Twentieth Century
4. Comparative Philosophy of Religions view information on exams in Indian philosophy (pdf)

Full Area Overview and Exam Information (pdf)

 

Religious Ethics

The Religious Ethics area is concerned with the meaning of religion for the lives of persons and the ordering of societies, and, therefore, with problems of the good life, justice, and the common good. Study in the history and methods of religious and non-religious ethics is essential to work in the area. The examination of specific moral problems and the study of comparative religious ethics require work in the relevant social and historical sciences or in the professions. Students are thereby encouraged to pursue work in pertinent areas of the University outside of the Divinity School.

Religious Ethics brief overview (PDF)

Written Examinations
A student concentrating in Religious Ethics will take three examinations in the area, including at least two of the following: (1) Philosophical Ethics; (2) Theological Ethics; (3) Ethics and Political Life. The student must select another, third examination from those offered by the area.

A student concentrating in Religious Ethics will submit for the oral examination a twenty- to twenty-five-page paper that typically engages one major thinker, relevant primary materials, and also important secondary scholarship with respect to a question pertinent to the student's scholarly aspirations. This paper should, accordingly, explicate and assess the thinker(s) chosen and also advance, through that engagement, a constructive argument on the question. The paper should be distributed to examiners at least two weeks prior to the oral examination.

The distinctive purpose of the oral examination is to engage the submitted paper and pursue other lines of inquiry, especially, but not limited to, the written examinations.

1. Philosophical Ethics
2. Theological Ethics
3. Ethics and Political Life
4. Ethics and the Social Sciences
5. Comparative Religious Ethics
6. Moral Problems

Complete Area Overview and Exam Information (pdf)

 

Theology

The Theology area is concerned with the historical study of the self-understanding of a religious tradition, mainly Christianity and Judaism, and with the constructive interpretation of its meaning and truth for the contemporary world. Students in theology must, thereby, address questions of the history of theology, the definitive characteristics of theological claims and discourse, the criteria of meaning and of truth within a tradition, methods of theological reflection, the warrant (if any) for revision within traditions, and the manifold ways to answer or to sustain the criticism of theological ideas and religious beliefs. Students in theology thereby demonstrate their historical competence, methodological sophistication, and also grounding in some specific form of theological reflection.

Theology brief overview (PDF)

Written Examinations
Students concentrating in Theology take three exams from those offered by the area. These choices should be determined, in consultation with the relevant faculty, on the basis of the student’s intended scholarly focus in the field. All students are required to take at least two of the three offered examinations in the History of Christian Thought (i.e., exams 1, 2, and 3). In all Theology examinations attention will be given to the use of scripture in the pertinent tradition as a theological source and norm, and the student will be expected to know the exegetical foundations of the theological positions discussed. The examinations will also test historical understanding and the ability to deal critically and, when appropriate, constructively with theological texts.

Given the purpose of the examinations in the Theology area stated above, all examinations will have “set bibliographies,” meaning that examinations are not tailored to the student’s dissertation topic. Additionally, a student may not take an examination of a perspective, theologian, or doctrine that is the principle focus of his or her intended dissertation.

1. History of Christian Thought, 150–1325 (Ancient and Medieval)
2. History of Christian Thought, 1277–1600 (Early Modern)
3. History of Modern Religious Thought (1600–1950)
4. A Constructive Theological Perspective (e.g., liberation, feminist, mystical, process theologies)
5. Theological Ethics/Moral Theology
6. A Major Theologian or Doctrine (e.g., Augustine; Christology)

Research Paper
In addition to taking the written examinations, a student concentrating in Theology will submit for the oral examination a research paper that typically engages a thinker or problem, relevant primary materials, and also important secondary scholarship with respect to the student’s scholarly aspirations. This paper is to be no longer than twenty-five, double-spaced pages, and must follow rubrics of The Chicago Manual of Style. Students should consult with their adviser about the most suitable paper for submission for the examination. If possible, the paper should represent some preliminary thoughts about a possible thesis topic.

As a preface research paper, the Theology area would like each student to submit a one-page summary of the significance of the paper in light of the student’s future work in the area. This statement should include: (1) a summary of the thesis of the paper; (2) a statement of how this paper relates to the student’s current theological interests. The completed paper with preface should be distributed to all of the examiners at least two weeks prior to the time of the oral examination.

Complete Area Overview and Exam Information (pdf)

 

DVPR 30201 Indian Philosophy. Kapstein/Arnold
DVPR 31202 Spiritual Exercises and Moral Perfectionism. Davidson
DVPR 31500 History of Early Modern Philosophy. Marion
DVPR 33400 Knowledge of the Other. Marion
DVPR 34500 Spinoza and the Question of Being. Marion
DVPR 34801 Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-century Philosophy of Religion. Brudney
DVPR 35200 Modern Philosophy of Religion: The Enlightenment. Arnold
DVPR 39200 Simone Weil. Meltzer
DVPR 39400 Philosophical Thought and Expression, Twentieth- Century Europe. Davidson
DVPR 39500 Topics in Contemporary Continental Thought. Davidson 
DVPR 40500 Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy and Theology. Davidson 
DVPR 40600 The End of Metaphysics. Marion 
DVPR 41400 De-theologizing Christianity. Coyne 
DVPR 42600 Buddhist Thought in Tibet. Kapstein  

DVPR 42800 Madhyamaka. Arnold
DVPR 42802 Saints: Economies of Transgression. Metlzer/Elsner

DVPR 43100 Modern Ideas of Human Freedom. Coyne 

DVPR 43500 “Imaginaire” and “Imaginal” in the History and Philosophy of Religions. Kapstein
DVPR 43600 Lacan's Ethics. Coyne
DVPR 43700 Theology and Philosophy. Gamwell
DVPR 43800 Heidegger through the “Turn.” Coyne
DVPR 44000 Readings in Philosophical Sanskrit. Kapstein
DVPR 46300 Hartshorne: Metaphysics and Philosophical Theology. Gamwell
DVPR 46700 Pluralism and Philosophy of Religions. Arnold
DVPR 47200 Philosophical Reflections on Death. Arnold
DVPR 47400 Theories of Religion as Philosophy of Mind. Arnold
DVPR 47900 The Philosophical Career of Vasubandhu. Arnold
DVPR 48200 Music, Meaning, and Mantra in Aspects of Indian Thought. Kapstein
DVPR 48300 Topics in the Philosophy of Religion. Kapstein
DVPR 48800 Issues in Buddhist Philosophy of Language. Arnold
DVPR 50200 Buddhist Epistemology: The Philosophy of Dharmakirti. Arnold
DVPR 50201 Seminar: Contemporary Critical Theory. Meltzer
DVPR 50300 Franciscan Thought and Images. Davidson
DVPR 50400 History of Philosophical Theology. Davidson
DVPR 50600 Buddha Nature. Kapstein
DVPR 50700 Philosophy of the Ordinary. Davidson
DVPR 50800 Historical Epistemology. Davidson
DVPR 51100 Practices of the Self. Davidson
DVPR 52200 Theories of Desire. Meltzer
DVPR 53000 What Is a Phenomenon? Marion
DVPR 54700 The Phenomenology of Love. Marion

RETH 30600 Introduction to Theological Ethics. Schweiker
RETH 31100 History of Theological Ethics I. Schweiker
RETH 31200 History of Theological Ethics II. Schweiker
RETH 31500 The Letters of Cicero and Seneca. Nussbaum
RETH 32000 Religion and Political Liberalism. Nussbaum
RETH 33300 Political Philosophy. Nussbaum
RETH 33500 Introduction to Ethical Theories. Gamwell
RETH 40200 Beyond Morality: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Schweiker
RETH 40500 Justice and Religion. Gamwell
RETH 41000 Feminist Philosophy. Nussbaum
RETH 41300 Modern Roman Catholic Moral Theology. Schweiker
RETH 41500 Decision Making: Principles and Foundations. Nussbaum
RETH 42100 Problems in Theology and Ethics. Schweiker
RETH 42500 Anger and Hatred in the Western Philosophic Tradition. Nussbaum
RETH 42800 Religious Freedom in United States Politics. Gamwell
RETH 42900 Religious Ethics: The Economic Order. Gamwell
RETH 43000 John Stuart Mill. Nussbaum
RETH 44000 Methods and Theories in Comparative Religious Ethics. Schweiker
RETH 44500 Contemporary Social Ethics. Gamwell
RETH 44800 Just War Tradition. Elshtain
RETH 45100 Communicative Ethics. Gamwell
RETH 45800 Politics, Ethics, and Terror. Elshtain
RETH 46100 Reinhold Niebuhr: Theology and Ethics. Gamwell
RETH 46200 Whitehead: Metaphysics and Ethics. Gamwell
RETH 46600 Self, World, Other: The Thought of Paul Tillich. Schweiker
RETH 48800 Seminar: Theological Ethics I. Schweiker
RETH 48900 Seminar: Theological Ethics II. Schweiker
RETH 49000 Seminar: Theological Ethics III. Schweiker

THEO 30100 History of Christian Thought I. Otten
THEO 30200 History of Christian Thought II. Staff
THEO 30300 History of Christian Thought III. Schreiner
THEO 30400 History of Christian Thought IV. Staff
THEO 30500 History of Christian Thought V. Staff
THEO 30600 Introduction to Theological Ethics. Schweiker
THEO 30700 History of Christian Thought VI. Hopkins
THEO 30800 Introduction to Theology. Hector
THEO 30900 Politics and Culture of Black Religion. Hopkins
THEO 31100 History of Theological Ethics I. Schweiker
THEO 31200 History of Theological Ethics II. Schweiker
THEO 32100 Theology and Black Folk Culture. Hopkins
THEO 35900 African Thought and Worldview. Hopkins
THEO 37500 Spirituality of the Sixteenth Century. Schreiner
THEO 40200 Beyond Morality: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Schweiker
THEO 40400 The Concept of ‘Religion’ in Modern Theology. Hector
THEO 40500 Black Theology: First Generation. Hopkins
THEO 40600 Black Theology: Second Generation. Hopkins
THEO 41000 Protest and Liberation: Protestant Theologies. Culp
THEO 41300 Calvin’s Institutes. Schreiner
THEO 41400 Modern Roman Catholic Moral Theology. Schweiker
THEO 41701 The Problem of God-Talk. Hector
THEO 41800 Justin Martyr. Martinez
THEO 42100 Problems in Theology and Ethics. Schweiker
THEO 42300 Readings in Luther. Schreiner
THEO 42500 Religion and Slavery: Theological and Historical Perspectives. Hopkins/Brekus
THEO 43100 The Catholic Reformation. Schreiner
THEO 43301 Contemporary Trinitarian Theology. Hector
THEO 43900 Luther and the Old Testament. Schreiner
THEO 44301 Pilgrimage and Exodus as Christian Theological Themes. Culp
THEO 44500 Black Theology and Womanist Theology. Hopkins
THEO 44600 Theology of Schubert M. Ogden. Gamwell
THEO 45601 World Christianity (1): Asian Theologies. Hector
THEO 46600 Self, World, Other: The Thought of Paul Tillich. Schweiker
THEO 47801 Protest Theologies. Hector
THEO 48800 Seminar: Theological Ethics I. Schweiker
THEO 48900 Seminar: Theological Ethics II. Schweiker
THEO 49000 Seminar: Theological Ethics III. Schweiker
THEO 49801 Exile in Jewish Thought and Literature. Mendes-Flohr/Brinker
THEO 50901 Hermann Cohen’s Religion and Reason. Mendes-Flohr
THEO 51400 Augustine on the Trinity. Marion