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.



Sarah E. Fredericks, Stephen C. Meredith, Richard B. MillerMartha C. Nussbaum, William Schweiker, Daniel P. Sulmasy

Progress Conference format

The progress (or pre-exam) conference is normally held in the spring quarter of the second year, or the fall of the third year.  In Religious Ethics, the progress conference is held with the student's panel of examiners for the qualifying examinations, and will normally include assessment of coursework to date, cogency of the course of study petition, readiness for qualifying examinations, and development of the dissertation project. A report from the advisor and a timeline for the qualifying examinations is submitted to the Dean of Students following the conference. 

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

Religious Ethics brief overview (PDF)

Complete Area Overview and Exam Information (pdf)


Selected Religious Ethics Courses

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