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

Complete Area Overview and Exam Information (pdf)

Selected Religious Ethics Courses

This list is a sample of courses offered in this area and is for informational purposes only. For current and upcoming courses, visit

RETH 30600 Introduction to Theological Ethics. Schweiker
RETH 31100 History of Theological Ethics I and 31200, Part II. Schweiker
RETH 31500 The Letters of Cicero and Seneca. Nussbaum
RETH 32000 Religion and Political Liberalism. Nussbaum
RETH 36002 The Ethics of War: Foundational Texts. Miller
RETH 40200 Beyond Morality: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. Schweiker
RETH 41000 Feminist Philosophy. Nussbaum
RETH 41300 Modern Roman Catholic Moral Theology. Schweiker
RETH 41500 Decision Making: Principles and Foundations. Nussbaum
RETH 42500 Anger and Hatred in the Western Philosophic Tradition. Nussbaum
RETH 42604 Collective Guilt, Shame and Responsibility. Fredericks
RETH 42800 Religious Freedom in United States Politics. Gamwell
RETH 44000 Methods and Theories in Comparative Religious Ethics. Schweiker
RETH 45102 Religion, Medicine, and Ethics. Miller
RETH 45400 Ethical Issues in Care at the End of Life Sulmasy
RETH 45401 Theories of Medical Ethics. Sulmasy
RETH 45610 Seminal Texts in the History of Medical Ethics. Sulmasy 
RETH 46600 Self, World, Other: The Thought of Paul Tillich. Schweiker
RETH 50315 Amartya Sen’s Philosophical Work. Nussbaum
RETH 51204 Sustainability. Fredericks
RETH 51802 Climate Change Ethics. Fredericks
RETH 52104 Augustine, Kierkegaard, and the Problem of Love. Miller