About Philosophy and Religious Studies

Why Study Philosophy or Religious Studies?
What can you do with a major?

Useful Resources
Philosophy Major
Religious Studies Major

Why Study Philosophy or Religious Studies?

The department encompasses two disciplines that share a commitment to pursue the fundamental questions of human existence and to examine the various ways in which the traditions of philosophy and religion have answered these questions.

The philosophy program is designed to encourage students to think creatively and critically, to analyze important texts and issues in the history of philosophy, and to bring challenges and contemporary perspectives to that tradition. The term ‘philosophy,’ literally means ‘love of wisdom,’ and courses in philosophy, therefore, range from considerations of how we should live to the nature of human knowing.

The academic study of religion is an exciting approach to a liberal arts education. It is inherently interdisciplinary—drawing upon the insights of history, sociology, politics, philosophy and literature, among others. The program is designed to provide opportunities for students to approach religious traditions in a variety of ways—including an exploration of rituals, beliefs, theology, ethics, communal worship, etc. With courses in the study of the Bible and the history of Christian thought, the major gives students a solid grounding in Christian traditions. The program is further designed to expose students to the rich history and variety of the world’s religious traditions.

Students attend off-campus retreats and workshops, and can compete for positions in the Newberry Library study program in Chicago. Students can also join the Sam Thompson Society, named after a legendary Monmouth College philosophy professor, to discuss philosophical and theological concepts outside the classroom.

While certainly having a fulfilling career and the ability to support oneself are important concerns and goals, philosophy and religious studies are also concerned with what sort of life one leads, with what sort of person one is and becomes.

There are as many reasons to study philosophy or religious studies as there are students in the programs. Many are concerned with making the world a better place; some are attracted to the history of ideas; still others are drawn to the mysteries of existence. Some want to explore all of these and more.

There is a very compelling article entitled "I Believe in Philosophy." Click here to read it.

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But what can I do with a Philosophy or Religious Studies major?

It’s a fair question. Fortunately, majors in Philosophy and Religious Studies have many options for practical and rewarding careers. Because of the habits of mind both majors value, you’ll develop critical-thinking, and reading skills and receive a broad, liberal education, which are highly regarded by graduate admissions personnel and employers alike. Philosophy and Religious Studies majors often do exceptionally well on standardized tests, like the GRE, LSAT, and GMAT.

Richard Reeves of Industrial Society writes:

    The paramount skill required in the new economy - the capacity to learn – means that the best course to take is ancient history, if ancient history is what turns you on. Paradoxically, the old-fashioned idea of "learning for learning's sake" is precisely what the new world of work requires. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2001/feb/20/workandcareers.g2)

  • Many students of philosophy go to law school and find that the study of Ethics and Logic are a great help in their legal studies.
  • Since many Philosophy and Religious Studies students love books and ideas, consider a Masters in Library Science, to prepare for a career in a university or college library.
  • Many of our students are deeply concerned with social justice issues and go on to have careers in non-profit agencies, such as battered women’s shelters, fundraising for arts organizations, and working for youth organizations like the Boy Scouts of America or with church-related youth groups.
  • With a degree in Philosophy or Religious Studies and the required pre-med courses, medical, chiropractic, dental or veterinary school is an option. In fact, non-science majors may actually have an advantage over science majors in medical school admissions.
  • Because philosophy and religious studies emphasize good and careful writing, journalism is an attractive career for some of our students.
  • Some of our graduates have gone into teaching, either in private schools, where certification is often not required and which may include philosophy or religious studies in the curriculum, or in public schools after completing teacher certification.

*The academic study of religion (not to mention ethics and the history of philosophy) are great preparation for seminary. Some of our majors also go on to graduate school in Philosophy or Religious Studies to prepare for academic careers, careers in publishing, or for work in applied ethics fields, like business or medical ethics.

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Some useful resources

For Religious Studies: This link to the American Academy of Religion websites gives very good information about what do with a major in Religious Studies and includes information about seminary, graduate study in religious studies, and teaching careers.
( http://www.studyreligion.org/where/index.html)

For Philosophy: You’ll notice that the American Philosophical Association guide to graduate programs in philosophy requires a password. If you want to look at it, contact Anne Mamary at annem@monm.edu, and we’ll have a look together. This website has some information about interdisciplinary programs and about joint programs in philosophy and law, among other handy things. (http://www.udel.edu/GPPC/graduatestudy.htm)

Nearly all graduate programs require the GRE (Graduate Record Exam). You will do better on it if you study and prepare in advance. Here’s some helpful information about the GRE: (http://www.ets.org/gre/)

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The major in Philosophy:

The Philosophy Major consists of six required courses, four elective courses, and culminates in a senior project on a topic of the student’s choosing. 

Introduction to Philosophy (Phil 101)
Critical Thinking: Introduction to Logic (Phil 201)
Ethics: Philosophical and Religious (Phil 207)
Two courses in the history sequence (Phil 305, Phil 307, or Phil 311)
Four electives
Senior Research (Phil 452) A one-credit reading term prior to the senior project
Senior Project (Phil 450)

Philosophy Minor:

Introduction to Philosophy (Phil 101)
Two courses in the history sequence (Phil 305, Phil 307, or Phil 311)
Two electives

The strengths gained in studying philosophy not only serve students well across many disciplines, but in their lives beyond their undergraduate work. The ability to think analytically, speak persuasively, write with precision and clarity, and to attend to what is most at stake in an issue are valued in a wide variety of careers and other aspects of life. Philosophy requires not only a keen focus on argument and latent assumptions but a familiarity with systematic thinking, in which the historical, political, or social context of any argument is taken into account.

Our alumni go on to many different careers after Monmouth. Undergraduate study in philosophy is an excellent preparation for law school, journalism, seminary, and for graduate work in philosophy and various other fields (history, literature, classics, religious studies, linguistics, literature, medical ethics and business ethics). Students frequently combine a major in philosophy with a major in another field, such as biology (leading to careers in environmental ethics or bioethics), political science (in preparation for law school), business or communications (as a way of studying professional ethics).

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The major in Religious Studies:

The Religious Studies Major also consists of five required courses, four elective courses, and culminates in a senior project on a topic of the student’s choosing. 

Introduction to the Old Testament (Relg 101) 
Introduction to the New Testament (Relg 108)
Ethics: Philosophical and Religious (Relg 207) or Philosophy of Religion (Relg 213)
Topics in the History of Christian Thought (Relg 200)
A course in cross-cultural materials 
Four electives
Senior Project (Relg 450)

Religious Studies Minor:

Introduction to the Old Testament (Relg 101) or
Introduction to the New Testament (Relg 108)
Topics in the History of Christian Thought (Relg 200)
A course in cross-cultural materials (such as Relg 300)
Two electives

The major in religious studies prepares students for a wide range of opportunities beyond graduation from Monmouth College. Some students graduate with a call to the ministry and enter seminary. Other students may decide to pursue graduate study in Religious Studies programs or other disciplines in the humanities (including history, philosophy, languages, literature; history, theory and criticism of the arts; ethics; and those aspects of the social sciences that employ historical or philosophical approaches). A major in religious studies can be part of an excellent undergraduate education in preparation for law school or other professional programs (business, social work, etc.). The major often enhances a candidate’s application to these programs because it indicates a significant degree of reflective engagement with many important issues. The major in religious studies can also be combined with other majors at Monmouth, and this becomes the basis for a unique, interdisciplinary focus. Such combinations include, but are by no means excluded to, connections with history, philosophy, sociology, theatre, education and psychology.

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