Studying Philosophy and Religious Studies
The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies provides students with the opportunity to explore the pathways along which philosophers and religious traditions have sought answers to the great existential questions of life. These “big questions” about the ultimate nature and purpose of reality, the sources and quality of knowledge, the basis of ethics and morals, human claims about relating to God, the relationship between reason and faith, and the natural and ultimate destiny of human beings—all are part of our fundamental nature.
Although philosophy and religious studies are distinct disciplines, both seek to develop analytic and critical thinking, to enhance the student’s ability to express ideas in speaking and writing, and to foster a climate of engagement in ethical and moral thought. These inquiries are essential elements of the Catholic intellectual tradition that is embraced by the College of Mount Saint Vincent as an integral part of its mission. A deliberate attempt is made to help students reflect upon, explain, support, and communicate their own answers to these questions as they apply them to their own personal and professional lives. A grounding in these principles can enhance a broad range of careers and professions, from law to medicine, from the arts to economics, and from public service to the clergy.
Philosophy students engage in the study of primary philosophical texts and develop the use of philosophical argumentation. They are encouraged to think about why it is important to have reasons for one’s position. Students are encouraged to reflect upon the connection between course themes and their own lives, which requires engagement in philosophical questioning and exploration. Eventually they will be able to articulate why ethical thought and ethical questioning matter in human life and to explore the connections between speculative and practical philosophy.
Religious studies students gain practice in identifying, defining, and explaining fundamentally important concepts, terms, and practices in religious studies and theology, especially in Roman Catholicism where appropriate, and learn to evaluate these concepts and terms across several different religious traditions. They learn to describe the methodologies of various religious traditions in arriving at these concepts, terms, and practices, to demonstrate information literacy in the discipline, including knowledge of modern scholarly hermeneutical principles (rules of interpretation). Along the way they discover the cross-disciplinary implications of religious studies and investigate the influence and impact of religion on society both in the past and present. Ultimately, they begin to think critically about, discuss, and evaluate the religious and social issues in their personal lives and in their local and global communities.
A degree in philosophy, religious studies, or interdisciplinary studies opens up numerous possible career paths, from business to church administration and ministry, journalism, and other fields which encourage the ability to write and express oneself clearly and persuasively, graduate study in religion and philosophy, and positions in the non-profit sector at the community, national, or international levels. The broad background, which includes analytic and humanistic skills, can also prepare the student for graduate work in law, local or international business, government, and other careers.
Founders Hall 303