Philosophy and Religion – Bangor University
Eryl W Davies
Head of School
In September 2013 the new School of Philosophy and Religion at Bangor University opened its doors to receive its first cohort of students. Many of the modules had been recently validated and feedback from current students suggests that they are very popular. Indeed, the School is already attracting students not only from the UK but from abroad. Here we provide an outline of some of the modules which are currently taught within the School in order to provide teachers and prospective students with some idea of what the School of Philosophy and Religion at Bangor has to provide.
Existentialism has blossomed into one of the most vibrant philosophical and cultural movements to explore the fundamental meanings and experiences of life and human existence. Its impact on other disciplines—such as literature, art, theatre, cinema, and psychology—has been huge since its heyday in Europe immediately after the Second World War. By examining philosophical prose, literature, and contemporary films, in this module we demonstrate how existentialism is as much a viable outlook on life today for all of us as it was to those darkly-dressed caricatures who debated existential theories passionately in the cafés of post-war Paris. Ideas such as the meaning of existence, consciousness, the burden of freedom, anxiety, finitude, the absurd, the existence of others, and authenticity will be explored in light of such thinkers as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, José Ortega y Gasset, Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Søren Kierkegaard.
Death of God
This module explores the powerful and provocative idea of the death of God—an idea proclaimed by the famous and wildly misunderstood philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Students will be introduced to the principal ideas within Nietzsche’s philosophy that provide a context for understanding the meaning of death of God, and its radical implications. We will examine key passages written by Nietzsche, and introduce some of the ways his ideas have been misinterpreted to reach strikingly different conclusions (for instance, one the one hand, to affirm Nazi propaganda, and on the other, to promote a ‘more authentic’ Christianity). In addition to exploring philosophical questions such as, ‘how can an all-powerful God die?’ and ‘what are the repercussions of God’s death for truth, morality, faith, and a meaningful and purposeful life?’, we will consider key philosophical concepts, including metaphysics, transcendence, immanence, and nihilism.
Psychology of Religion
This module introduces students to key ideas in the Psychology of Religion, with particular emphasis on the relationship between psychoanalytic thought and religious experience. Students will examine the role and reception of religion in a variety of psychoanalytic theoretical models in order to make sense of the interrelationships between religious experience and mental health. Accounts and case studies of demonic possession will be scrutinised in order to ascertain the extent to which perspectives of religion and psychology are in collaboration or competition.
This module is intended to examine the relevance of ethics to debates concerning controversial issues in contemporary society. This will be done in relation to some of the following issues: responsibility for alleviating world poverty; responsible care for the environment; problems relating to euthanasia; the issue of abortion and women’s rights; and the justification for war. The purpose will be to enable students to view various sides of the argument in each case and come to their own considered conclusions.
Introduction to Islam:
Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, yet for most people its beliefs and practice remain obscure despite having close religious connection with Judaism and Christianity. For this reason, this module has been designed to provide a comprehensive introduction to Islamic faith, philosophy and practice.
Themes in Eastern Religion and Philosophy:
This module offers a basic introduction to the development of key eastern philosophical and religious traditions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Confucianism and Shinto – and provides a detailed overview of their origins, histories, doctrines and philosophies.
Today people across the world are struggling to counteract the upsurge of religious fundamentalism, creating a growing interest around this phenomenon. With this in mind, the module will examine: (1) the nature of fundamentalism, detailing its historical background and manifestation in Islam, Christianity, and other world religions; (2) the relationship with scripture will be examined; and (3) The module will explore a variety of vivid case studies – from the Wahhabis in the Islamic world, the Christian coalition of the United States, to the Hindu nationalists of India – in order to provide a much-needed window into fundamentalism.