About the Department
THE RELIGION DEPARTMENT
The Religion faculty takes Muskingum University's church-related status very seriously. Muskingum's express desire, outlined in its mission statement, to educate the "whole person" and to develop students both intellectually and spiritually--with a goal of positive action and ethical sensitivity--reminds us of the Greek tradition of educating body, mind, and spirit and the medieval era when theology was the "queen of the sciences."
Therefore, our mission to the student body is to help all students grasp and value a religious understanding of life and enable them to articulate the implications of their own belief systems in behavior and decision-making. Beyond that general mission, we seek for our majors to demonstrate knowledge of the fundamentals in the field of the study of religion, to utilize critical thinking in their study of religion, and to learn to articulate an argument through research and writing.
The mission statement for the Religion major identifies three objectives for our students:
- Demonstrate knowledge of the fundamentsls in the field of the study of religion
- Utilize, by written and spoken means, critical thinking skills
- Articulate an argument through research and writing
OUR APPROACH TO RELIGIOUS STUDIES
All significant aspects of life have a religious dimension. Human beings are religious, though not always in traditional ways, not always in ways that are not rational, and not always in ways that work together for good. But what is religion? That can vary from one culture group to another. Some people think of religion as belief in the unlikely. Others think of it as obedience to ethical laws. Still others think of religion as ritual and ceremony. For most of the world's peoples, religion involves connecting with a Divine Being, or Beings. At Muskingum, we want to uphold sensitivity to varieties of religious interests, even as students seek to develop in their own specific traditions.
We all should study religion to clarify our own faith. We should also be informed of the ways that others express themselves religiously. At Muskingum we encourage students to think honestly and reasonably about religion. Faculty members seek to inform and challenge but never to intimidate or coerce students.
Most of our courses reflect the Christian tradition and the importance of studying its Scriptures, to ponder the religion promoted by Jesus and his followers. and to examine its implications for our lives today. But we also encourage personal confrontation with the religious expressions of the diverse non-christian traditions.
The Hindu, the Buddhist, and the Moslem worlds influence our daily lives and demand our attention. Indeed, a person cannot be liberally educated without an understanding of the religious perspectives of others. We want our students to be sensitive, informed, and alert members of the world community.
THE PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT
Philosophy is the oldest discipline, beginning in the West some 2500 years ago in Greek culture (similar developments happened in other regions of the world). The word literally means "the love of wisdom." The first philosophers sought to replace mythological interpretations of the world with theoretical reasoning about its nature. But the wisdom "loved" by these philosophers also has a direct bearing on the conduct of life. Philosophy expresses, the ideal, first formulated by Socrates, that "the unexamined life is not worth living."
As described in Philosophy, A Brief Guide For Undergraduates, philosophy "is unique in its methods and in its nature and breadth of its subject matter. Philosophy pursues questions in every dimension of human life, and its techniques apply to problems in any field of study or endeavor. No brief definition expresses the richness and variety of philosophy. It may be described in many ways. It is a reasoned pursuit of fundamental truths, a quest for understanding, a study of principles of conduct. It seeks to establish standards of evidence, to provide rational methods for resolving conflicts, and to create techniques for evaluating ideas and arguments. Philosophy develops the capacity to see the world from the perspective of other individuals and other cultures; it enhances one's ability to perceive relationships among the various fields of study; and it deepens one's sense of the meaning and varieties of human experience" (i).
Majors can expect to learn how to interpret positions, problems, and areas of study from a wide range of sources in the philosophical tradition. However, this learning is never merely the passive assimilation of information. Philosophy is learned by “doing.” It is not a spectator sport! Students are invited to join the debates by developing the skills necessary to recognize and formulate good arguments. Philosophical education occurs through the activities of dialogue, paper-writing, and close reading of texts. Philosophy students are challenged to re-think the basic assumptions governing personal life, social practices, and the dominant paradigms of knowledge in academic disciplines.