Course Description

 
COURSE DESCRIPTIONS PHIL 101 Introduction to Logic
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This is a course designed to help students who are beginning college to acquire basic skills necessary for critical thinking. Critical thinking is fundamentally concerned with analyzing and evaluating "arguments." The term "argument" as it is used in logic means somewhat different from what it means in everyday conversations. Thus, we will begin with explicating what an "argument" means in logic. One major part of evaluating arguments will be an examination of various sorts of fallacies (both deductive and inductive fallacies). By the end of semester, students will be equipped with skills and methods required for differentiating logically valid/strong arguments from fallacious/erroneous arguments. Co-requisite: ENGL 112
 
PHIL 200 Introduction to Ethics
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course aims to introduce students to central topics in moral and ethical theories. We will start off with the famous question raised by Plato long time ago: Why should we be moral? By examining some purported answers to this question, we will launch into an area of moral philosophy which is so-called "normative ethics". The major concern of normative ethics is to establish a coherent system of ethical theory from which we can infer the rules or the principles that can guide our moral decisions (such that when we are faced with an ethical question, we can apply those rules to our moral decision). Though this course is largely concerned with theoretical aspects of moral questions, some pressing questions on morality in our days won't be ignored. So, we will apply ethical theories to more practical issues such as euthanasia, abortion, cloning and stem cell research, decision procedure in corporate business, racial/ sexual discriminations in work places, and ethical questions raised in cyberspace and technology. Pre-requisite: None
 
PHIL 201 Introduction to Ethics and Social Philosophy
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course is an overview of the field of religious social ethics. This survey of religious social ethics necessitates a brief examination of doctrine, western religious and social thought. Our task is to discover how people, past and present, engage (d) in ethical reflection, moral reasoning, social critical analysis, and ethical action for the just resolution of social conflict. Of particular interest is an examination of the West's historic understandings of morality, ethical actions, institutions, culture, society, the "poor," and the state. Pre-requisites: PHIL 101 and ENGL 150
 
PHIL 211 Political Philosophy
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course is a comprehensive introduction to the major topics in political theory. Political theory is concerned with the fundamental questions of public life. It explores the philosophical traditions that have formed questions such as: What is the nature of political authority? What should be the relationship between individuals and states? What are the obligations and responsibility that citizens owe to one another?, What are the limits of freedom? When may government act against the will of a citizen? What characterizes a good government? What is the purpose of government? And so on. In answering these questions, political philosophers have tried to establish basic principles that will, for instance, justify a particular form of state, show that individuals have basic inalienable rights, or tell us how a society's basic material resources should be shared by its members. This constitutes analyzing and interpreting a few basic concepts - "authority", "liberty", "freedom" and "justice." Theories on these basic concepts are with a remarkable diversity, and there are two reasons for this. First, methods and approaches used by political philosophers reflect the general philosophical tendencies (for instance, epistemological and ethics theories) of their epoch. Second, the political philosopher's agenda is set up by the pressing political issues of his day. In this course, thus, we will examine and compare not only political theories propounded by various philosophers but also see how those theories have been applied to the pressing issues of relevant social and political surroundings. Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and PHIL 101
 
PHIL 212 Modern Philosophy
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
The "Modern" period in philosophy extends from approximately the 16th - 17th centuries. This period in the history of philosophy is distinguished from the Ancient and Medieval periods in number of important ways. The emergence of the new science, championed by Copernicus and Galileo, inspired and changed the world views of philosophers in this period. This period is also marked by the advancement of new technology, the reformation and religious pluralism, and the search for the foundation of knowledge. Particularly, Descartes, who is justly regarded as the father of modern philosophy, created the theory of knowledge, epistemology, as a separate discipline within philosophy for the first time. Previously, a theory of knowledge had been treated as falling under Aristotle's logical work, but with Descartes, epistemological questions came to the fore. Thus the modern philosophy has been driven by the questions about knowledge, and that has been the starting point of those two dividing traditions-rationalism and empiricism. In this course, we will examine and criticize the writings of some primary figures falling under the traditions of rationalism and empiricism respectively: for example, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Arguably, Kant is considered as the most important philosopher in modern philosophy, and his influence has had a profound impact on almost every philosophical movement followed him. Kant's philosophy, however, cannot be properly appreciated without understanding those two philosophical movements in modern philosophy, i.e., rationalism and empiricism. In this course, we will focus on the works of philosophers belonging to those two traditions, and see how Kant tries to overcome the shortcomings of those two traditions. Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and PHIL 101

PHIL 214 History of Modern Western Philosophy I: Rationalism, Empiricism and Kant
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
History of Modern Western Philosophy I: Rationalism, Empiricism, and Kant surveys the key writings of seminal western philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries, including works by Rene Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and G. W. Leibniz (the so-called Continental Rationalists); Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume (the so-called British Empiricists); and Immanuel Kant, whose epic synthesis of the two competing traditions closes the era. Starting from the great questions that moved the age (What can we know? What is mind? What is matter? Is there free will? Does God exist?), the course situates the philosophical responses within the new conceptions of science, religion, politics and morals which emerge in the early modern period and focuses on epistemology (the theory of knowledge) and metaphysics (the theory of the ultimate nature of being). Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and PHIL 101
 
PHIL 301 Black Philosophical Thought in the Twentieth Century
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Students will engage in philosophical reflection on a range of questions that arise from the experiences of black people in the United States and throughout the African Diaspora. Topics to be covered will include the complexities of black identity, theories of racism, the significance of Africa and its Diaspora, gender and sexuality, and the role of the arts in black liberation struggles. Pre-requisite: PHIL 101
 
PHIL 330 Philosophy of Religion
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
The primary purpose of this course is to explore classical issues in the philosophy of religion, such as the reality of God, the problem of evil, religious language, life after death, and the pluralism of religious traditions. Discussion focuses on proofs for and against the existence of God and various critiques and defenses of religious belief in general. The course will also explore how the claims of European thinkers translate into the African-American experience of religion. Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and REL 101
 
REL 101 Introduction to the Study of Religion
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Introduction to the Study of Religion (ISR) is the foundational course for all religion majors in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. Therefore this course is an introduction to several of the major thinkers and themes within the history of the academic study of religion. Students will acquire a working vocabulary of key terms that are required for study of religion. Alongside of developing the necessary vocabulary of the field, students will also be challenged to expand upon what they currently understand to be "religion." Finally, students will also be expected here to develop the ability to utilize appropriate theoretical tools in the study of religion to interpret "real world" encounters with religious phenomena. Pre-requisite: ENGL 112
 
REL 102 Survey of Religious Experience
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Survey of Religious Experience (SRE) is an introductory course required of all religion majors in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. The aims of this course are twofold. First, the course will introduce students to the debates in religious studies regarding the nature of religious experience and the limits of academic efforts to document such phenomena. Second, students will learn the primary sources (from a range of literary genres) that document accounts of religious experiences from a range of cultural and historical contexts. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150
 
REL 104 Leadership in the Urban Context
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course provides the critical analysis and intellectual examination of leadership. The course is designed to integrate and synthesize various leadership modalities through open discussion, honest self assessment, experiential exercises, and participatory observation of real life leadership in practice. Pre-requisite: REL 101
 
REL 111 Comparative World Religions I
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course is designed to introduce students to the major religions of the world. Although the title of the course is comparative religion, the conceptual framework, and philosophical approach will not be comparative but will lend itself to engaging in an analysis which is centered in the epistemological and ontological framework of the respective traditions. Each religion and or spiritual tradition will be studied based on its own social, historical, and theological developments and trajectories. An integral aspect of the course will be visits to holy sites, including mosques, temples, and sacred shrines. Students will be required to conduct a field research project in which include oral histories, and ethnographies of self identified practitioners of these major traditions. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150
 
REL 112 Comparative World Religions II
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
The Comparative Religion II course is designed to build upon students religious' and spiritual literacy and foundational knowledge of the world's major religions that they were introduced to in Comparative Religion I. The Course will move beyond the old paradigm of a comparative approach and engage in the literature on religious pluralism and praxis. The course will expand students' understanding of the major religions and spiritual traditions, focusing on the American landscape. Moreover, students will be exposed to a critical examination of the world's major religious and spiritual traditions as they have taken shape in America. This course will provide students with the tools to critically analyze the major religious and spiritual traditions and their attendant challenges as they attempt to apply their beliefs and practices in the American context. The course will chronicle the historical development of these religious and spiritual traditions, looking for differences and similarities, which inform our understanding of their respective theological teachings and practices and the way in which they grapple with notions of identity. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150
 
Department of Philosophy and Religion
Medgar Evers College, CUNY . 135
 
REL 201 Anthropology and Religion
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course provides a limited overview of anthropological theories related to the study of religion. It focuses upon understanding religious practice from a cross-cultural perspective, with attention to myths, ritual and symbolism. Within that purview, the course will examine the uneasy relationship of ethnocentrism to religious diversity. This investigation proposes to offer a different way of looking at the role of religion in people's lives. The course will also explore religious expressions that have received critical evaluation in popular opinion, and place them within the context of new religions, revitalized movements, cargo cults and/or charismatic. Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and REL 101
 
REL 211 History of Religious Thought: The Interfaith Movement
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Although conversations and debates between various religious and spiritual traditions have transpired gone on for centuries, the interfaith movement formally began in 1893, organized by the Parliament for World Religions in Chicago. For the first time in history, religions and spiritual traditions came together for the purpose of establishing better communications and cooperation among the world's religions. The Parliament continued its efforts to engage the world's religions and spiritual traditions in interfaith dialogue. Although it was not until 1993 that the Parliament convened its second meeting, interfaith dialogues and multi-religious programs and activities were initiated by various religious organizations locally, nationally, and internationally. Most of the early interfaith activities were organized by Christians, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, who, after the Second Vatican Council and Nostra Aetate in 1965, called for "all to forget the past" and officially recognized Muslims as "those who worship God," and instructed all of its churches to engage in dialogue with Muslims as well as with Jews. Additionally, it was the World Council of Churches who established the "guidelines for dialogue with Muslims" in 1971. Thereafter, all of the world's major religions initiated interfaith programs, including many of the traditional indigenous faith groups and organizations. This course is designed to study that history. Students will be required to study the major interfaith organizations that constituted the foundation of the interfaith movement. Additionally, students will research and analyze the various edicts, theological documents, and formal decrees of those organizations which were pivotal in facilitating interfaith dialogue and collaboration. Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and REL 101
 
REL 301 Traditional African Religions
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course is designed to introduce students to some of the central aspects of African Traditional Religion(s) presented in selected, influential studies by African scholars of religion. Utilizing interdisciplinary and multi-methodological approaches, we will examine the profile of religious plurality in Africa and pursue reading in the literature of the field. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150
 
REL 303 Malcolm Islam/Black Masculinity
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course will map the social and historical development of the concept and construction of African American Manhood and notions of Masculinity from pre-colonial Africa through the slave experience and finally up to the Emancipation. Using Malcolm X's life and legacy as a trope of black masculinity, this course will explore the variegated role that he played and continues to play in the radical Black imagination. Students will be introduced to the classical teachings and exegesis of the Islamic religion, however, the primary focus will be limited to its social and cultural manifestations in the black experience. Finally, this course will also explore several social and political movements including Garvey's UNIA and Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam in order to contextualize and historicize the trajectories and transitions of notions of black manhood, maleness and masculinity. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150
 
REL 321 Buddhism and Hinduism in Eastern Thought
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course is designed as an historical and geographical overview of the religious traditions of South and East Asia. Emphasis will be placed upon identifying and understanding the themes of renunciation and popular practices throughout the various religions of Asia. Students will also discuss definitions of religion in order to facilitate their understanding of religious traditions that are not their own. Pre-requisites: REL 111 and ENGL 150
 
REL 322 Contemporary Issues in Religious Thought
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course explores the significance of religious symbols for human self-understanding and cultural values in selected religious traditions, such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Native American traditions. The course raises questions related to human identity, religious symbol, and cultures. Pre-requisites: REL 111 and ENGL 150
 
REL 333 Peace Education
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course on Peace Education will introduce students to the historical development of peace education as a field of study and as a discipline. Students will examine the contemporary discourse on peace education and the current trends and perspectives that permeate the literature. Students will also explore some of the definitions articulated by various cultures in order to establish a conceptual framework for what it means to educate for peace. Pre-requisites: REL 101 and ENGL 150
 
REL 340 History of the Interfaith Movement
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Although conversations and debates between various religious and spiritual traditions have transpired gone on for centuries, the interfaith movement formally began in 1893, organized by the Parliament for World Religions in Chicago. For the first time in history, many religions and spiritual traditions came together for the purpose of establishing better communications and cooperation among the world's religions. The Parliament continued its efforts to engage the world's religions and spiritual traditions in interfaith dialogue. Although it was not until 1993 that the Parliament convened its second meeting, interfaith dialogues and multi-religious programs and activities were initiated by various religious organizations locally, nationally, and internationally. Most of the early interfaith activities were organized by Christians, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, who, after the Second Vatican Council and Nostra Aetate in 1965, called for "all to forget the past" and officially recognized Muslims as "those who worship God," and instructed all of its churches to engage in dialogue with Muslims as well as with Jews. Additionally, it was the World Council of Churches who established the "guidelines for dialogue with Muslims" in 1971. Thereafter, all of the world's major religions initiated interfaith programs, including many of the traditional indigenous faith groups and organizations.
 
Presently, in addition to the large interfaith groups and organizations such as the Vatican, the Parliament, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, and the World Council of Churches, there are thousands of interfaith organizations who have ongoing interfaith initiatives, programs, and projects on local, national and international.
 
This course will introduce students to the historical evolution of the formal interfaith movement, from its genesis in 1893 with the Parliament to a fully developed global movement. Students will be exposed to the critical issues that each faith group encountered often hostile-as they attempted to engage in dialogue. Students will be required to study the major interfaith organizations that constituted the foundation of the interfaith movement. Additionally, students will research and analyze the various edicts, theological documents, and formal decrees of those organizations which were pivotal in facilitating interfaith dialogue and collaboration. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150
 
REL 342 Muhammad and the Foundations of Islam
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course will consist of an historical overview of the development of Islam: from its genesis in the Arabian Peninsula, its colonization of Africa, and its contemporary formations in the western world. Students will be introduced to the fundamental teachings, precepts, practices, and beliefs of Muslims. Special emphasis will placed on Islam's founder, Prophet Muhammad. Students will review his life and his contributions to the making of a great religious tradition and civilization. It is expected that students will engage in critical discourse, examining all facets of Islamic traditions and practices, including an examination of contemporary issues and challenges faced by Muslims. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150 and HIST 201
 
REL 351 Religious Ethics
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course is designed to deepen student understanding of how religion serves as an epistemological foundation for moral reasoning and action. Religious texts and communities are presented that show how differing moral communities have justified their ways of life to themselves and others in their quests for societies of virtue, responsibility, freedom and duty. Pre-requisites: PHIL 201 and ENGL 150
 
REL 371 Caribbean Religions and Social Justice Movements
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
In a selective survey of Caribbean religious beliefs and practices, this course focuses upon the historical factors that shaped the development of the multi-religious community of the Caribbean.
 
Students will study such Caribbean traditions as Vodoun, Shamanism, SanterĂ­a, Rastafarianism, and Obeah. Students will further explore the relationship between these African diaspora religions and the Christian Church, and the intersection of religion with other vital issues such as race, history, home and migration, belief and ritual, social (in)justice, as well as postcolonial resistance and rebellion. Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and SSC 101
 
REL 402 Gender and Religion
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
In this course, we will explore the historical and contemporary experiences and roles of women, with particular attention to the ways in which religious traditions and institutions affect women's conceptions of themselves, their gynecology, and their status in the world. Using a survey methodology, the course does integrate a global religious perspective. From the historical investigation, we will focus upon ways in which women's experiences have been conditioned by religious traditions and institutions for their empowerment or oppression. We will give substantive attention to the intersection of faith, race, identity, violence, justice, and hope in women's experience. The course seeks to identify through fiction, sacred texts, personal narratives, non-fiction, films and other resources women's complicity and critique of the religious world views that birthed their identity. Its contemporary focus will underscore social, intellectual, and institutional activities that women are pursuing to transform their lives and related institutions in larger society. Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and REL 101
 
REL 410 The Role of the Church in the Black Community
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course will provide an intensive survey of the historical roots, critical developments, influences, ideologies, and the function of the church in the Black community in America. The role of church religion as an instrument of protest, escape mechanism, emotional outlet, and focal point of political organizing and of social life will also be analyzed. The narrative voice will be featured to allow students to hear historic agents tell their story in their own voice and to evoke a deeply personal and visceral encounter with certain historical periods and personalities. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150
 
REL 421 Research Methods in Religious Studies
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Research Methods in Religious Studies (RMRS) is an upper level course required of all religion majors in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. Students enrolled in RMRS are required to have already taken and passed both ISR and SRE; thus they are expected to possess a working knowledge of the major themes and approaches to the study of religion. Building on this theoretical foundation, the goals of this course are primarily practical with the intention of providing students with hands on experience conducting research within the interdisciplinary field of religious studies. To this end, RMRS will be a student-driven seminar structured readings, hands-on assignments, student presentations and four short research projects. Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and REL 211 or ANTH 201
 
Department of Philosophy and Religion
Medgar Evers College, CUNY . 137
 
REL 450 African Traditional Religion
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course is designed to introduce students to some of the central aspects of African Traditional Religion(s) presented in selected, influential studies by African scholars of religion. Utilizing interdisciplinary and multi-methodological approaches, we will examine the profile of religious plurality in Africa and pursue reading in the literature of the field. Pre-requisite: ENGL 150
 
REL 490 Islam: Post 9/11: Jihadists and the Clash of Civilizations
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Islam, a religion practiced by over 1.6 billion people, has captured the headlines of every facet of the print, television, and broadcast media in the western world. This is due primarily to the emergence of what has been characterized as Islamist terrorism, a designation coined by the west to describe the violent acts of radical Muslims who have launched violent and indiscriminate attacks on western people and interests. These ominous and well-planned attacks of terror manifested themselves in their most deadly form in a series of brutal attacks the most virulent of which was the tragic attacks on the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001 where over 3000 people lost their lives. In response to these acts of terror, the U.S., Great Britain and the "coalition of the willing" declared a global war on terror, first deposing the Taliban in Afghanistan, followed by the invasion of Iraq.
 
This sequence of events exacerbated an already contentious relationship between Islam and the West. Is this present global conflict a fulfillment of Samuel Huntington's thesis of the "clash of civilizations?" According to many academics, politicians, religious leaders, and news commentators, Huntington's dictum of the "Inevitability of the conflict between Islam and the West" has been actualized. This course will chronicle some of the historical antecedents which led up to the intense animosity that exists between these two macro-civilizations, navigating significant aspects of the intellectual and civilizational history that has created the chasm, including the crusades, imperialism and colonialism. Using 9-11 as a defining moment in the relationship between Islam and the west, the course will explore the emergence of radical Islam, Jihad, and terrorism, both from a western and Islamic perspective.
Pre-requisites: ENGL 150 and REL 342
 
REL 498 Independent Research
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Independent study is designed to provide an organized course of study for students who are unable to attend regularly scheduled classes 'for cause", and to provide opportunities for guided study and in-depth research in subject areas not covered by traditional courses. To quality for enrollment in an independent Study Courses, undergraduate students should meet the following eligibility criteria:
  • A cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.0 of better;
  • Completion of ENGL 150
  • Meet the departmental criteria for bona fide exemption from the required course plan of study
  • Written contractual agreement between student and faculty.
Pre-requisite: Permission of Chairperson
 
REL 499 Field Experience/Internship
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
This course is a practicum wherein religion majors are required to develop skill in the practice, study, or coordination of religion with external educational settings. They will work with religious practitioners, or mentors at on the job internships with religious NGOs, or, finally assist student teaching and/or research with graduate religious academics. Pre-requisite: Permission of chairperson
 
REL 500 Senior Seminar: Practicum in Religious Studies
3 credits; 3 class hours
 
Prior to graduation as a major in the Department of Religion & Philosophy, all students must demonstrate that they have mastered the coursework offered and can show a deep appreciation of the respective fields. This seminar is designed to revisit in a synthetic and cumulative way the main courses, texts, knowledge, and discourses in these majors. This seminar is designed, in addition, to help the candidate complete one of three evaluator projects:
  1. The passing of a comprehensive exam in religion;
  2. The completion of a senior thesis on a pre-selected, religious inquiry;
  3. The completion and/or exhibition of a performance or a creative project demonstrating a deep understanding of religion and its contributions to culture and society.
Pre-requisite: Permission of chairperson