Philosophy & Religion Department

Program Description

Since few American high schools offer courses in philosophy or religion, it may well be that you have never thought about studying either of these subjects. If, however, you want to think more deeply about important features of life and the world, time spent in philosophy and religion could be of great value.

Whether you are planning to major in the Sciences or the Humanities, in Fine Arts or the Social Sciences, studies in philosophy or religion are worthy of your consideration. Serious reflection in philosophy and religion can help the student of science better to consider the nature and ethical implications of her outlook and practices. Students in the arts and humanities, on the other hand, find encouragement to pursue greater depth, rigor, and clarity in their thinking and expression.


Philosophy involves the most fundamental questioning of human experience, beliefs, and concerns. Pursuing deepened understanding, philosophers seek to employ clear, critical, logical reasoning as they examine the nature of reality, the limits of human knowledge, and the nature of a truly good and meaningful personal life and society. Not only have the concerns and outlooks of philosophers influenced many historical societies, philosophical beliefs-along with mixed and poorly examined assumptions-continue greatly to affect our own thoughts and actions.

When pursued well, philosophy can (and certainly should) promote deepening appreciations and understandings of the diversity of human concerns and possibilities. It may thus contribute to a more satisfying college experience, as well as to the achievement of a life of more thoughtful and wise engagement and fulfillment.

Entering into major currents of philosophical reflection, Cottey students wrestle with perspectives and theories that continue to exert influence in the world today. At Cottey, none of the courses in philosophy is devoted to a broad smattering of names, dates, and superficially examined problems. Instead, each course aims to confront the writings and outlooks of a limited number of thinkers, carefully selected to represent significantly different ways in which people try to understand the world, society, and their own lives.

Contributions to Career Efforts

On a more practical side, philosophical practice promotes the intellectual skills of rigorous reasoning and clear communication. Encouraging each student to analyze, articulate, and evaluate many kinds of positions and forms of reasoning, philosophy aims to develop great transferable intellectual abilities-abilities that are useful in each and every area of serious human endeavor. Thus, philosophical studies may offer excellent preparation for a variety of career areas, such as law, social science, journalism, theology, business, science, and education.

In addition to the classic areas of systematic philosophical questioning (such as metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics), many professional philosophers now pursue research in specific fundamental problems areas of science, religion, language, mathematics, art and history. While most professional philosophers seek employment in colleges and universities, employment is also possible in a number of fields of applied philosophy. For example, some philosophical ethicists work in business or medicine, while logicians and epistemologists may work in cognitive science or computer science.


The American Philosophical Association http://www.apaonline.org/
The Society for Women in Philosophy www.uh.edu/~cfreelan/SWIP
The American Philosophical Practitioners Association www.appa.edu/

Preparing for a Major in Philosophy

Students should consult the catalog of the college to which they plan to transfer for specific requirements in their major. In choosing coursework, students should aim to build a strong and broad foundation for the interests that they anticipate pursuing in philosophy. For example:

  • Students with strong interests in ethics or political philosophy are wise to pursue courses in the social sciences, literature, and religion. Interests in applied ethics could also call for coursework in such areas as business or biology.
  • Students with interests in metaphysics or theory of knowledge should build a strong base in the physical sciences and psychology. Familiarity with competing religious views of humanity and reality may also be helpful.
  • Students with interests in history of philosophy should take courses not only in history but also in any area emphasizing historical developments or historical readings. Literature, art history, and religion, as well as physical and social sciences are helpful for some philosophical areas of emphasis.
  • Please note that some graduate programs have specific foreign language requirements. In philosophy, French and/or German reading proficiency may be required.

Possible Opportunities-on & off Campus

In conjunction with philosophical interests, students are encouraged to consider participating in SGA (Student Government Association) or a local political organization. Possibilities for service exist in numerous charitable agencies and organizations, including churches and shelters. Applications of critical thinking can be tried out in even such short-term commitments as the judging of high school debates.

A student’s range of important experiences and study may also be increased through internships. Students may pursue opportunities locally with churches and religious organizations, law offices, government agencies, elementary and secondary schools, political organizations, newspapers, or other relevant organizations.


Aiming to identify and to attain harmony with that which is ultimately true, real, or good, religions often affect many aspects of life. Thus, rather than being a mere compartment of life, religions frequently involve the outlooks and the ritual and ethical practices of whole communities of people.

Concerns to live in cultural harmony with what is ultimately real, true, or meaningful tend to mark major religious quests around the world. In the academic study of religions, scholars examine not only beliefs and stories, they examine also the sacred rituals and ethical practices, as well as the overall cultural expressions and histories of various religious communities. In the religion courses at Cottey, we examine a number of major traditions of religious faith and practice. We aim, however, not merely to examine diverse details, but to attain insights into the outlooks and practices of human beings as they face certain of life’s most pressing questions.

Cottey’s courses in world religions aim to identify and reflect upon key factors in the formation and practices of major religious communities. In the case of each religion, we seek to better comprehend and appreciate the nature of its worldview and the forms of its expressions.

Educational Benefits & Career Opportunities

Academic studies in religion can help to promote understanding and appreciation of human beings and their cultures. In examining religions, the limitations and potentials of human beings come more clearly into view, contextualized in the cultures through which the various religions express themselves.

Religious studies can contribute significantly to the depth of one’s college experience, as well as to types of awareness and concern that one may continue to develop throughout life. Reflection upon religion can help the student of the sciences to think more intelligently upon diverse areas of basic human concern, as well as upon the possible limitations of scientific pursuits and their applications. Students in the arts and humanities, on the other hand, will be challenged to reflect upon the great systematic reach of competing religions across diverse areas of thought and practice.

Relative to a variety of career areas, study in religion is noteworthy, first, for its ability to promote valuable intercultural insights. Additionally, pursuits in religious studies help to produce a number of transferable skills in research, writing, and thinking. While many graduates in religious studies go on to seminary studies and ministry within a particular religious community, others pursue graduate work with the goal of university teaching and research in religion. Still others move on to careers for which the study of religions has helped to give them distinctive preparation. Such fields commonly include counseling, medicine, international or public relations, law, journalism, business, and education.

For further information on education and careers in religion, visit the web site of the American Academy of Religion at www.aarweb.org. Other organizations include:
Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, at www.cccu.org

Preparing to Major in Religion

Students wishing to receive a degree in Religious Studies should consult the catalog of the college to which they plan to transfer for specific requirements in their major. In choosing electives, students should aim to build a strong base of knowledge related to the interest they anticipate pursuing in or beyond religious studies. For example:

  • Students with interests in history of religions should pursue appropriate courses in history, art history, anthropology and other social sciences and philosophy.
  • Students with interests in religious ethics are wise to build a base in the social sciences, literature, and philosophy. Interests in applied ethics could also call for coursework in such areas as business or science.
  • Students with interests in ministry should prepare themselves with coursework in speech, English, literature, and the social sciences.
  • Please note that some graduate programs in religious studies have specific foreign language requirements.

PHI 101
Philosophical Quests

Explores questions about reality, the nature and limits of human knowledge, and the relevance of such concerns to human living. Aims to cultivate philosophical wonder and appreciation, as well as critical thinking and growing awareness of the historical and ongoing importance of philosophical views. Emphasizes select ancient and modern philosophers. 3 credits

PHI 112
Introduction to Logic

Pursues factors proper to excellence in critical thinking and its written expression. Aims to heighten student skills in identifying, clarifying, and evaluating various kinds of arguments, chiefly deductive, but inductive as well. 3 credits

PHI 205

Examines select major ethical theories having both historical and ongoing importance. Confronts select socially unsettling moral issues as the death penalty, world hunger, or controversial business practices. Aims to relate competing outlooks to ongoing debates about human choices, needs, and communities. 3 credits

PHI 210
Human Nature and Society

Examines competing philosophical theories of human nature and existence, exploring various possible implications for both individual and social life. Considers modern theorists, both mainstream and radical, as well as select traditional thinkers. 3 credits

Social and Political Philosophy
Prerequisite: Sophomore standing AND at least one previous course in PHI, POL, or INR.

Surveys major philosophical primary texts concerning questions of justifiable fundamental social and governmental arrangements. Coverage will include such key thinkers as Plato and Machievelli, the early modern contractarians (i.e., Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau), and Marx. Some further later developments will be considered. 3 credits

REL 105
World Religions 1

Initiates academic exploration of developments and practices within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Pursues intelligent appreciation of various religions’ perspectives, particularly as expressed in selected portions of their sacred literatures. Attempts to develop insights into present day religious struggles in the face of modern challenges. 3 credits

REL 106
World Religions 2

Initiates academic exploration of some of the varied outlooks and practices of religious traditions originating in India and China. Pursues intelligent appreciation of the various religions’ perspectives, as these are conveyed through their sacred literatures. Emphasizes Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. 3 credits

Kevin Rouintree, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Rubie Burton Academic Center 103
ext. 2218

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