Philosophy & Religion

Looking for Deeper Meaning

The study of philosophy and religion involves us in a quest to understand the purposes of human life and the moral, spiritual, and political values by which we ought to govern our lives.  Both disciplines invite us to reflect critically upon our own most deeply held beliefs, in conversation with traditions of inquiry that are global, millennia old, and yet as contemporary as today's news. These encounters help us appreciate the diversity and continuity of human experience over time and offer insights into the problems of the present. The questions we ask--such as, What is justice?  Is scientific objectivity possible?  Why is there evil in the world?  Does spirituality hold a key to solving the environmental crisis?  Is health care a human right?  How is religion essential to culture?  In what ways do differing interpretations, participants, images, and gestures distinguish past and present thinking about religious beliefs and practices?  How do different ways of knowing and being structure our experiences of sexuality, gender, race, and class?  Do the words "men" and "women" designate real entities, or are they arbitrary categorizations?  What is the best system of government?  Is technology bringing us closer together, or pushing us farther apart? --often do not admit of certain or unequivocal answers.  Yet asking and reflecting on such questions broadens our understanding of self, other, and world.  At WPI philosophy and religious studies combine theoretical reflection with a focus on "real world" concerns.  Our students receive training in the traditional fields of epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and social and political philosophy.  But they are also challenged to connect complex and abstract philosophical ideas to such contemporary issues as the persistence of sexual inequality and racism, global climate change, the relevance of Buddhist ethics for prison reform, the origins of war and political violence, the ethics of end of life care, and the value of science and technology.  Students learn essential skills, including critical and independent thinking, precise written and verbal expression of complex ideas, the ability to evaluate arguments, and the ability to listen to, and learn from, the perspectives of others.  Such skills prove invaluable in students' professional careers and in their identities as citizens, friends, family members, and moral beings.

Inquiry Seminars

These Inquiry Seminars may combine the topics of philosophy and religion or address them separately. Strengths in this area include environmental philosophy, biomedical and religious ethics, and the philosophy of knowledge and religion. The Inquiry Seminar is the final part of the Humanities & Arts Requirement.

Find out what Inquiry Seminars or Practicums (.pdf, 413kb) will be added this academic year here.

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Nicholas Ridley ’11, a dual Aerospace Engineering and Philosophy major, applied his Air Force ROTC experience to create an award-winning MQP within Philosophy that looked at the military’s methods, consequences, and intent.