II. Course Description:

A&H 357 Topics in Philosophy is a Special Topics course in Philosophy, and has been designed with the idea of introducing students to specific THEMES and TOPICS in the world of philosophy. In this course the student will focus on a specific philosophical topic. In addition to thinking about the topic within the context of relevant historical personalities and cultures, the student will also be drawn to consider the topic interpretatively, in the light of relevant intellectual history and subsequent influence upon and importance to the creation of the Western paradigm. The semester topic of A&H 357 Topics in Philosophy B will be Hermeneutics, which will consider questions relevant to Interpretive Framing in the Arts, in the Sciences and the Social Sciences, as well as the role of Interpretation in Memory, the Creation of Identity, etc.


In the 100 and 200 level courses in the religion track the emphasis is on gaining knowledge of the core ideas, texts and practices of specific religious traditions. Philosophical debates are touched upon - particularly in the 200 level course Wisdom of the East - but they are combined with historical and factual perspectives to enhance understanding of the tradition in question. In this course, however, several important philosophical questions regarding religion will take centre stage.

In the second half of this course we will focus on the internal debates within the major world religions regarding ethical questions. Controversial topics like war, terrorism and gender inequality will be addressed, as well as benign contributions such as peace projects, creating a more just society, inter-faith dialogue and enhanced personal well-being. Where possible the focus will be on religious figures who have had a strong influence on world politics such as Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh and Osama Bin Laden.

            Whereas the second part of the course will deal with the response to certain philosophical questions by the religions themselves, the first part of the course will take a more external perspective. Here, the emphasis will be on examining the phenomenon of religion in general. Rather than focussing on specific well-known traditions, we will investigate how several philosophers  and social scientists have analysed topics like the origins and functions of religion, the truth or falsehood of religious dogma, and the existence of God. In order to investigate these topics we will discuss the ideas of thinkers like Freud, Marx, Eliade, Weber, Jung and Campbell, all of whom devoted a great deal of time and energy to answering two important questions: ‘Why is religion to be found everywhere? And what does it do?’