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Philosophy of Religion MPhil Pathway


Philosophy of Religion MPhil Pathway

Michaelmas Term 2015

Philosophy of Religion I

Course Coordinator: Dr Jacob Sherman

Prerequisites: formal acceptance into the Philosophy of Religion strand of the M.Phil. is the normal requirement.

This foundation term in graduate Philosophy of Religion is designed to introduce students to a variety of different possible approaches to contemporary philosophy of religion.  In order to do so, the M.Phil. seminars in the Michaelmas Term attend to the diverse ways in which classical, analytic, continental, and various emerging philosophical schools approach one representative theme, this year the theme of ‘Religious Language’.  Five successive seminars provide focussed readings for discussion, the opportunity to share and present work in progress, and build towards the production a 5,000 word culminating essay (the topic must be approved by the course instructor and the Degree Committee).  During the term students undertake several small preparatory pieces of work that develop particular graduate-level research skills, and feedback is provided from early in the term.

Seminar 1: Philosophy of Language and the Philosophy of Religion

Seminar 2: Analogy and Univocity

Seminar 3: Language, Apophasis, and ‘Mysticism’

Seminar 4: Metaphor and Religious Language

Seminar 5: Nature, Language, and Transcendence

Sample Essay Topics:

  1. What must be the case if we are to speak literally of God?
  2. Is doxology predicative?
  3. What, if anything, does the existence of language tell us about the nature of reality?
  4. Is religious language radically different from ordinary language or continuous with it?

Lent Term 2017

Philosophy of Religion II

Course Coordinator: Professor Catherine Pickstock and Dr Daniel Weiss

Prerequisites: Philosophy of Religion I is the normal requirement

The four seminars this term will focus on central topics in contemporary Philosophy of Religion (with continuing reference to the different traditions introduced in Philosophy of Religion I) leading to an original critical research paper of 5,000 words, chosen from the topics set below.

Seminar 1, Truth

Seminar 2, The Gift and The Given

Seminar 3,  Reason and Revelation

Seminar 4,  God, Knowability, and Sayability

Essay Topics:

1.    Either (a) What is the relation between the truth of things and truths in our mind according to Aquinas, and is this account coherent?

Or (b) Is it possible to have a theory of truth without reference to God, and could such a theory then be applied to God?

2.    Either (a) If ‘the given’ is a myth, then are we always confronted with reality as a gift?

Or (b) Does the general preference of theology for the unilateral gift and of social science for the reciprocal gift made sense?  And which is right?

3.    Are critiques of reason inherently bound up with concepts of revelation?

4.    What, if any, relation is there between human language and the knowability or unkowability of God?






Candidates may chose to do one of these exercises instead of a language paper:


1.       An analysis of ‘methexis’ in 3 dialogues of Plato (e.g. Phaedo, Parmenides and Phaedrus)


2.       An analysis of philosophical method in either Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, Heidegger’s Being and Time, Whitehead’s Process and Reality or William James’s A Pluralistic Universe.


3.       An analysis of the concept of idolatry in Marion’s God without Being.


4.       An analysis of the concept of contradiction in Graham Priest’s Beyond the Limits of Thought.


5.       An analysis of the theory of predication in Schelling’s Ages of the World.


6.       An analysis of the ‘Plastic Principle’ in Ralph Cudworth’s True Intellectual System of the Universe.


7.       An analysis of technology in Martin Heidegger’s Question Concerning Technology.