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Philosophy of Religion MPhil Pathway


Philosophy of Religion MPhil Pathway

Michaelmas Term 2017

Philosophy of Religion I

Course Coordinator: Professor Sarah Coakley

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

6 lectures (Thursday, 12 noon tbc), and an introductory session followed by 4 seminars (on Friday, 2 pm – 4 pm, in alternate weeks to the D Society, the senior seminar in Philosophy of Religion.

This foundation term in graduate Philosophy of Religion provides an introduction in 6 lectures (‘The Very Idea of Philosophical Theology’) to the different contemporary competing ‘schools’ of ‘Philosophy of Religion’ and ‘Philosophical Theology’ in the West (‘analytic’, ‘continental’, ‘Thomist’, ‘process’, and post-Kantian Jewish) and an aetiology of their relation.  4 correlated seminars provide focussed readings for discussion and the opportunity by the end of term to develop a short critical research paper potentially suitable for a conference presentation.  During the term students undertake several small preparatory pieces of work which develop particular undertake several small preparatory pieces of work which develop particular graduate-level research skills, and feedback is provided from early in the term.

Michaelmas Term Seminars

Introductory meeting, with practical arrangements and bibliographic advice

Seminar 1, The questions of God at the origins of analytic philosophy of religion

Seminar 2, The Heideggarian attack on ‘onto-theology’ and its reception in continental philosophy of religion

Seminar 3, Divine ‘Being’ and revelation in 20th century Thomist philosophy of religion

Seminar 4, Ethics as ‘first philosophy’ in 20th century Jewish philosophy of religion

Supervisors and assistance with preparing seminar presentations, etc., will be arranged to be held during the term.

Michaelmas Term Coursework:

2 x critical reflection papers for seminars (approx. 2 pp. double-spaced, 500 words each), evidencing critical philosophical analysis of seminar readings.

These will each garner 10% of the term’s mark.

1 x presentation at a seminar, with an appropriate 1 p. handout for the class.

10% of term’s mark.

1 x bibliographic search prepared in advance for the end-of-term paper.  10% of term’s mark.

1 x short (3,000 word, approx. 10 pp. double-spaced) final paper, on a negotiated topic relating to the term’s seminar readings, written as for a succinct conference presentation.  60% of the term’s mark.

Lent Term 2018

Philosophy of Religion II

Course Coordinator: Professor Sarah Coakley

Prerequisites: Philosophy of Religion I is the normal requirement

The Lent Term course continues with 4 seminars on varying contrasted theories of religious language in contemporary Philosophy of Religion (with continuing reference to the different traditions introduced in Philosophy of Religion I), leading to an original research paper of 5,000 words, chosen from the topics set below.

Lent Term Seminars

Seminar 1, Philosophy of language and divine discourse in analytic philosophy of religion

Seminar 2, Analogy, univocity and equivocity in Maimonides and Aquinas, and in their contemporary defenders and critics

Seminar 3, Language, ‘apophasis’ and ‘mysticism’ in continental philosophy of religion

Seminar 4, Metaphor and religious language; vying theories

Lent Term Coursework:

Choose one from the topics given here and write an original essay of 5,000 words, with appropriate footnotes and bibliography.  The scope of your essay and reading for it will be discussed and pre-negotiated with your supervisor.

1.    Can one speak literally of God?

2.    Is God-talk ineluctably metaphorical?

3.    Is Thomas Aquinas’s theory of analogy philosophically coherent?

4.    Is onto-theology a grammatical problem?

5.    How is apophatic speech different (if at all) from nonsense?

6.    Is there a distinct problem of divine speech as opposed to speech about the divine?

7     How can God be both ‘ineffable’ and also knowable through revelation?


Theology in the Anthropocene

Course Coordinator: Dr Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal and Dr Simone Kotva

The Anthropocene is the name recently given by scientists to mark a new epoch in which human beings have become the earth’s primary geological agents.  The concept of the Anthropocene has put humanity back into planetary history, confronting her with collective responsibility, but also culpability, for the earth and its future.  These (often) unacknowledged debts to theology pose as both challenge and invitation.  Should the Anthropocene’s anthropocentrism encourage a reactionary turn to the post-human or a critical recuperation of Christian humanism?  How does the dizzying scale of geological time contrast with environmental theology’s concurrent tendency to favour smaller-scale paradigms of an ‘incarnated’ present?  The module will study the Anthropocene as an emergent concept, approaching it critically from the perspective of environmental theology.  Following an introductory seminar, four classes will address the Anthropocene through the following themes: sin, creation, afterlife, and apocalypse.

Prerequisites: A Michaelmas Term module from either the Christian Theology or the Philosophy of Religion track.

Teaching provision: Five seminars of one and a half hours each.

Seminar Topics:

1. Introducing theology in the Anthropocene

2. Sin

3. Creation

4. Afterlife

Module aims: The module aims to study understandings of environment, eschatology and ethics in relation to the conceptual and geological framework of the Anthropocene.

Description of assessment: The module is assessed through a critical research paper of 5,000 words.  Students may formulate their own essay question in consultation with the course coordinators, or they may select one questions from the list below:

1. Discuss the claim that the Anthropocene is secularity’s new theology.

2. ‘Earth felt the wound, and nature from her seat/sighing through all her works gave signs of woe’ (Milton).  Does a theology of climate change depend upon the idea of sin?

3. How does ecological theology relate to the doctrine of creation as process?

4. ‘If memento mori is sauce for the individual, I do not know why species should be spared the taste for it’ (C.S. Lewis).  Discuss the significance of ‘remembering death’ for Anthropocene ethics.

5. What is the significance, for theology, of the claim that in order to change the planet we must re-imagine it?