On Wednesday, I return to teaching after a one-year hiatus (on sabbatical). Here are the–admittedly skimpy and sketchy–course descriptions of the three classes I will be teaching this coming fall semester. I am looking forward to them. I’m sure my enthusiasm will soon be tempered by encountering my university’s mind-numbing bureaucracy (and the dubious pleasures of grading) but for now, it’s good to be able to anticipate my forthcoming encounters with students and classroom discussions.
Philosophy of Religion
The philosophy of religion queries the foundations of religion and religious thought. Its central questions are among the most enduring in philosophy; they may be engaged by both theists and atheists, and involve the major branches of philosophical inquiry such as epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and ethics.
Among the most important of the questions raised in the philosophy of religion are: What is the nature of religious belief? What is the relationship between faith and reason? Does God exist? If so, what is (its/his/her) nature? Does morality require religious belief? What is evil? What problems does it create for arguments for the existence of God? What is the nature of religious experience? Is there a difference between religious belief and religious feeling? What are religious language’s distinguishing characteristics? What is the relationship between religion and science?
We will examine these in the context of several philosophical and religious traditions, finding sources in philosophical and literary texts.
In this class we examine social theory and social thought—beginning with the Enlightenment and continuing on to twentieth-century postmodernism. The issues we tackle include equality, social justice, gender relations, political structures, family life, ethnic relations, and political economy. We will read philosophers, political scientists, psychologists, economists, novelists; all contribute to grappling with the complex questions facing societies and those who interact within them.
Philosophical Issues in Literature: The Post-Apocalyptic Novel
Literature offers us a lens through which to view the human condition; it enables a literary grappling with metaphysical, epistemological, logical, ethical, aesthetic, and political issues of philosophical interest and significance. In this class, we will read several works of post-apocalyptic fiction to facilitate an exploration and discussion of some of these issues. What is the ethical and political and aesthetic vision these works embody? By imagining a radically altered state of existence, they allow us to speculate about the changes in the world and the humans who live within it; they permit a safe exploration of alternative modes of living, ethical and political systems. Of especial relevance to us is the following question: Why are the concept of the apocalypse and human responses to it of such enduring interest to novelists and philosophers?
The following is the reading list:
- Nevil Shute, On the Beach, 1957
- Walter M. Miller Jr., A Canticle For Leibowitz, 1960
- Jose Saramago, Blindness, 1999
- Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower, 2000
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road, 2007
- James Howard Kunstler, World Made by Hand, 2009
- Peter Heller, The Dog Stars, 2013
As the semester progresses, I hope to blog here about the material I teach, drawing upon reflections triggered by my preparations for the class meetings, as well as the actual discussions in the classroom.
Tomorrow: a report on my first day back in class.