Philosophy of Religions

The Philosophy of Religions area considers philosophical issues arising from various religious beliefs and practices, and from critical reflection upon them. 


Daniel A. ArnoldDaniel BrudneySteven CollinsRyan CoyneArnold I. DavidsonSarah HammerschlagKevin HectorMatthew KapsteinJean-Luc MarionFrançoise MeltzerJosef SternBrook A. Ziporyn

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.

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 Philosophy of Religions, the progress conference is held with the a group of area faculty,  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

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)

Selected Philosophy of Religions Courses

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

  • Buddhist Sutras Reading in Traditional Tiantai "Classification of Teachings" Rather than Historical Order. Ziporyn
  • Indian Philosophy I & II. Kapstein/Arnold.
  • Death: Some Aspects. Arnold/Brudney
  • Spiritual Exercises and Moral Perfectionism. Davidson
  • Spinoza and the Question of Being. Marion
  • Derrida's 'Of Grammatology'. Hammerschlag.
  • Seminar on the Black Notebooks: Heidegger and the Problem of Evil.  Coyne
  • Readings in Tibetan Buddhist Texts. Kapstein
  • Topics in the Philosophy of Judaism: Soloveitchik Reads the Classics. Davidson
  • De-theologizing Christianity. Coyne 
  • Knowledge of the Other. Marion
  • Anglo-American Philosophy of/and Religion. Hector
  • Recent Work on Self and Non-Self in Indian Philosophy. Kapstein
  • Philosophy of Language Seminar: Quotations, Pictures, Words. Stern
  • Readings in Tiantai Buddhism: The Doctrine of Ineradicable Evil in the Buddha-Nature, and The Shanjia/Shanwai Schism. Ziporyn
  • Topics in Philosophy of Judaism: Ethics and Halakhah. Davidson
  • Buddhist Thought in Tibet. Kapstein  
  • Simone Weil. Meltzer
  • Philosophical Thought and Expression, Twentieth- Century Europe. Davidson
  • Twentieth-Century Continental Philosophy and Theology. Davidson 
  • The End of Metaphysics. Marion 
  • Madhyamaka. Arnold
  • Saints: Economies of Transgression. Metlzer/Elsner
  • Modern Ideas of Human Freedom. Coyne 
  • American Religious Naturalism following James. Arnold.
  • “Imaginaire” and “Imaginal” in the History and Philosophy of Religions. Kapstein
  • Lacan's Ethics. Coyne
  • The Philosophical Career of Vasubandhu. Arnold
  • Music, Meaning, and Mantra in Aspects of Indian Thought. Kapstein
  • Franciscan Thought and Images. Davidson
  • Religious Diversity as a Philosophical Problem. Arnold
  • Theories of Desire. Meltzer
  • Brauer seminar: Intentionality and Belief. Arnold/Coyne