PHST 5010, Basic Religious Options

Andrew Porter,, (925) 443-4041

Time and Place:
Monday, 2-5, CDSP 224

Introduction to themes and issues in phenomenology of religion.

Covenantal, mimetic, exilic and other understandings of ultimate reality; relations to philosophical anthropology; relations between history, nature, ethics, and culture.

Plan and Goals of the Course

The purpose of the course is to get a functional sense of the different possible religious options.

We will not seek to prove the truth of one religion or the falsity of another, but instead just to inquire into what various religions are about, and into how philosophy of religion might approach such questions.


There will be a term paper, but no final examination. I think it would be a good exercise for students to present their term papers to the whole class in the last two weeks, as a way to tie together the work of the semester.

Reading List

  • 09/13 first class, orientation, discussion
  • 09/20 Berger, Sacred Canopy
  • 09/27 Westphal, God, Guilt, and Death, chs. 1-8
  • 10/04 Westphal, God, Guilt, and Death, chs. 9-11
  • 10/11 Eliade, Cosmos and History
  • 10/18 Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man
  • 10/25-30 no class; reading week
  • 11/01 Kristeva, Powers of Horror
  • 11/08 Adler, Drawing Down the Moon
  • 11/15 Churchland, Neurocomputational Perspective
  • 11/22 no class; AAR meeting
  • 11/29 Goldsmith, The Way: An Ecological World-View
  • 12/06 Segal, The Allure of Gnosticism
  • 12/13 student presentations

    Adler and Goldsmith are fairly long, but also fairly easy. We will not all read all of Adler, Goldsmith, and Churchland. The plan is that everybody will read Berger, Westphal, Eliade, Soloveitchik, Kristeva, Segal, and ONE of Adler, Churchland, and Goldsmith. The last three are longer. We will divide up the workload, and those who read each one will present that book to the rest of the class.

    This will be a good exercise in summarizing and presenting other scholars' work to colleagues, in an effort to make it accessible economically for criticism and discussion.

    The default term paper assignment is to apply the typology of the course in order to make philosophical sense of a text chosen by the student that is not on the reading list. Other paper topics may be proposed by the student.

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