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University Catalog

Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Susanna L. Goodin, Department Head
162 Ross Hall
Phone: (307) 766-3204
Web site:

Paul V.M. Flesher, Program Director, Religious Studies
122 Ross Hall
Phone: (307) 766-3204



HARVEY HIX, B.A. Belmont College 1982; M.A. University of Texas, Austin 1985; Ph.D. 1987; Professor of Philosophy and Creative Writing 2013.
JEFFREY A. LOCKWOOD, B.S. New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology 1982; Ph.D. Louisiana State University 1985; Professor of Philosophy and Creative Writing 2006.

Associate Professors

SUSANNA L. GOODIN, B.A. Texas Technical University 1981; M.A. Rice University 1985; Ph.D. 1990; Associate Professor of Philosophy 1998, 1992.
FRANZ-PETER GRIESMAIER, University of Vienna 1986; M.A. University of Colorado 1988; Ph.D. University of Arizona 1997; Associate Professor of Philosophy 2006, 2000.
EDWARD D. SHERLINE, A.B. Princeton University 1982; M.A. University of Chicago 1983; Ph.D. University of Illinois-Chicago 1990; Associate Professor of Philosophy 1996, 1989.

Assistant Professor

BRADLEY RETTLER, B.S. Crown College 2004; M.A. Biola University 2008; Ph.D. University of Notre Dame 2014; Assistant Professor of Philosophy 2018.

Academic Professional Lecturer

ROBERT S. COLTER, B.A. The University of Puget Sound 1992; M.A. University of Colorado 1995; Ph.D. Northwestern University 2001; Academic Professional Lecturer 2013, 2007.

Professors Emeriti

James Forrester, Richard L. Howey, James A. Martin

Philosophy starts with those hard questions we all ask at some time or another. Some important questions of meaning and justification can't be answered by making observations or doing experiments. Philosophy is the effort to deal with these problems through sustained, hard, and critical thinking. Philosophy is good preparation for careers that call for you to use your mind, without prejudice but with rigor.

The Philosophy Department offers an undergraduate major, three undergraduate minors, and a graduate MA. For details on each of these programs, see the Philosophy Department web site.

Undergraduate Major

B.A. Program of Study in Philosophy

General requirements:

  • A major in philosophy requires a minimum of 33 hours (11 courses) of philosophy.
  • At least 9 hours (3 courses) must be at or above the 4000-level.
  • At least 15 additional hours (5 courses) must be at or above the 3000-level. The remaining nine hours (3 courses) may be at any level.
  • Only those courses in which a grade of C or better has been earned may count toward the 33-hour requirement.

The department strongly recommends that prospective majors take PHIL 1000, Introduction to Philosophy, as their first course in philosophy.

Distribution Requirements

Students must choose three of the four distribution areas and take at least 6 hours (2 courses) in each of the chosen areas, including at least one core course in each chosen area. The distribution areas are:

  • Metaphysics and epistemology: PHIL 2310, 3440, 3510, 3560, 4040, 4120, 4190, 4440, 4510, 4560.
  • Ethics and philosophy of value: PHIL 2200, 2300, 2330, 2345, 3250, 3300, 3350, 4300, 4340.
  • Logic and philosophy/history of science: PHIL 2420, 3140, 3420, 3500, 4140, 4420.
  • History of philosophy: PHIL 2100, 3100, 3110, 3120, 3220, 3320, 4020, 4030, 4040, 4100, 4110.

Special topics courses (for example, PHIL 3000, PHIL 4000) are assigned to the appropriate distribution area on a case by case basis. And some of the courses listed above, especially the graduate seminars in area 4, might count in other distribution areas. To work out a suitable program, please consult with the department’s undergraduate adviser.

The general level requirement and distribution requirement may be satisfied by the same courses. That is, a course may satisfy both of these requirements at the same time. No course may satisfy more than one distribution area, and no course may satisfy more than one general level requirement.

The department allows its majors to concentrate in a number of interdisciplinary areas, and we welcome double-majors in philosophy and another field. Please consult the department’s undergraduate adviser to work out a suitable program.

Minor in Philosophy

The minor in philosophy affords students the benefits, both personal and professional, of studying philosophy.

A student minoring in philosophy must earn a C or better in six philosophy courses, including four at the 3000-level or higher. No specific courses (other than the four courses at the 3000-level or higher) are required, allowing students to take the courses that most align with their interests.

Minor in Ethics

Ethical questions and problems arise in all aspects of life. A minor in ethics can complement and enrich any major field of study. The minor in ethics consists of six courses, four at the 3000 level or above. A student takes one course in each of these areas: ethical theory (PHIL 3300 Ethical Theory, PHIL 3350 History of Moral Philosophy, PHIL 3250 Global Justice); applications (determined on a course by course basis in consultation with the Philosophy Department Undergraduate Advisor); scientific, historical and social analysis (determined on a course by course basis in consultation with the Philosophy Department Undergraduate Advisor), and capstone course (determined in consultation with the Philosophy Department Undergraduate Advisor). The other two courses are approved electives, (2 courses from Areas 1, 2 or 3 -- each from a different area).

The capstone course is an independent study normally taken during a student’s senior year. The course integrates the student’s different areas of study in the ethics minor into a project or thesis. Any professor in any college can sponsor this independent study. Capstone topics must be approved by the ethics minor advisor.

The minor in ethics is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and administered through the Philosophy Department. Any undergraduate student at the university can minor in ethics.

Minor in Environmental Values

The minor in Environmental Values may be added to any bachelor's program at UW.  This minor creates a vital link among the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences through exploration of aesthetics, culture, ethics, and policy.

The minor requires a total of 18 credit hours, including at least one course within each of four areas of concentration.  At least 12 of these credits must be outside the primary major, and nine of these credits must be at or above the 3000-level.  A three-hour, core course (either PHIL 2330 Environmental Ethics or PHIL 2340 Natural Resource Ethics) is required of all students.

Areas of concentration: (note: the courses listed below are provided as examples of the type of courses that meet the various areas of concentration. Other courses may be approved on a course by course basis in consultation with the Philosophy Department Undergraduate Advisor.)

  • Aesthetics - Expressing ourselves through the performing, visual and literary arts: ART 4640, ENGL 4050, ENGL 4240, GEOG 4500, GEOG 4530, THEA 2400, THEA 3400.
  • Culture - Viewing human meaning and purpose in historical and contemporary terms: AIST 3000, AMST 3000, ANTH 4310, ENGL 3400, ENGL 4480, ENR 2000, GEOG 1050, HIST 4475, PHCY 4380.
  • Ethics - Considering right and wrong via critical and systematic thinking and doing: PHIL 2330, PHIL 2345, PHIL 3300, PHIL 3350, PHIL 4340, RELI 2060.
  • Policy - Exploring laws, regulations, and public discourse in American society: AGEC 4710, AIST 4340, ECON 2400, ENR 4900, GEOG 4040, GEOG 4400, MGT 4580, POLS 4051, POLS 4052.

Graduate Study

The Department of Philosophy offers the master of arts degree under the Plan A or Plan B.

Program Specific Admission Requirements

A writing sample of no more than 3,000 words on any subject in philosophy.
A statement describing specific philosophical interests.

Program Specific Graduate Assistantships

The department offers two to three graduate assistantships yearly on a competitive basis. These assistantships carry a tuition and fee waiver, plus a stipend. For more information, please contact the department.

Program Specific Degree Requirements

Plan A (thesis)
31 hours of graduate credit
27 hours of graduate coursework
4 hours of thesis research

Proof of proficiency in formal logic (through first-order predicate logic with identity) by either passing the department’s course (3420) or some other course judged to be its equivalent with a grade B or better or by completing a test with a grade B or better at the end of the second semester.

First year paper at the beginning of the third semester.

Defense of a thesis prospectus by the end of the third semester.

In any cases of deficiency, the department may require remedial work before admission to M.A. candidacy.

Philosophy (PHIL) Courses

Religious Studies


PAUL V. M. FLESHER, B.A. University of Rochester 1979; M.Phil. Oxford University 1982; Ph.D. Brown University 1988; Professor of Religious Studies 2012, 1993.

Visiting Assistant Professor

TAMMY HEISE, B.A. Hendrix College 1998; M.A. Vanderbilt University 2006; Ph.D. Florida State University 2016; Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies 2015.

Senior Academic Professional Lecturer

SETH WARD, B.A. Yale University 1974; M.A. 1978; M.Phil. 1979; Ph.D. 1984; Senior Academic Professional of Religious Studies 2017, 2003.

Academic Professional Lecturers

TYLER S. FALL, B.A. Mary Washington College 1999; M.A. University of Oregon 2004; M.F.A. University of Wyoming 2009; Associate Academic Professional Lecturer of Religious Studies 2017, 2012.
B.A. Williams College 1987; M.A. Syracuse University 1992; Ph.D. 1999; Associate Academic Professional of Religious Studies 2017, 2012.

Adjunct Faculty

ERIN ABRAHAM, B.A. University of Wyoming 2004; M.A. 2007; Ph.D. Saint Louis University 2011; Assistant Academic Professional Lecturer of Honors Program 2011; Adjunct Assistant Academic Professional Lecturer of Religious Studies 2015.

Professor Emerita

Kristine T. Utterback

Throughout history, religion has played an important role in shaping cultures and societies. Religious beliefs have inspired armies in their wars and leaders in their decisions. Religions have provided the foundation for ethical behavior and in many societies have been the primary source of education. In today's world, religions remain important, influencing our responses to 9/11, the Arab Spring, the Middle East crisis, and other events in other around the world. Even in our own secular United States, religions and their beliefs play a major role in our debates over public policy.

The Religious Studies department offers a range of courses in the academic study of religions. These courses seek to acquaint students with religious beliefs and behavior, helping them to understand the ability of religions to define the world in which their adherents live and the power religions have to influence the behavior of their followers. Religious Studies courses cover a broad range of religions, both modern and historical. Some courses focus on understanding a single religion in a limited time period, while others compare aspects of different religions. Yet further courses focus on religious expression, studying how religious beliefs are depicted in literature, film, art and music. Many of these courses are offered by the Religious Studies department, while others can be found in various departments, including anthropology, art, English, history and sociology.

Undergraduate Major

A major in Religious Studies requires 33 hours (11 courses) plus a second major or minor in another discipline.

For students completing their degree under the 2015 University Studies Program:

Two required courses (6 hours):

1) RELI 1000, Introduction to Religion.
2) RELI 4000, Theories of Religion.

Concurrent Concentration I (9 hours):

Students should acquire a focused concentration by taking three courses (1) on a single religion, or (2) on the religions of a particular region or culture. Courses may be from a limited time period or spread across history. Students may choose from established concentrations or create their own concentration in consultation with their adviser. [Six hours must be above 3000-level.]

Concurrent Concentration II (9 hours):

Students should take three courses in a religion, region, or culture differing significantly from that of the first concentration. [Six hours must be above 3000-level.]


Three courses in Religious Studies (see note 2 below) chosen in accordance with the student’s interests. [Six hours must be above 3000-level.]


Students should take three semesters of a single foreign language or demonstrate equivalent proficiency. See note 3 below.


Minor or second major in a different field/discipline.

For all Religious Studies Majors:


If a student wishes to pursue an Honors designation in Religious Studies, two additional requirements must be fulfilled.

A) A three-hour Thesis Seminar or Internship, during which a research paper is written, or other suitable research project is carried out.
B) Demonstration of competency in a foreign language equivalent to a fourth-semester college-level course.


  1. If students majoring in Religious Studies can use its courses to satisfy requirements in a second major or minor, this is permitted.
  2. Courses for the major should be drawn from those with a RELI prefix, or from a list of approved courses taught by other departments or programs. See the list of approved courses on the Religious Studies website. In each of the concentrations, only one course may be from outside RELI offerings. Two such courses may be used as electives. Occasionally, courses on religion are taught by outside departments as one-time opportunities. Students may propose these for inclusion in the major to the director of the Religious Studies department.
  3. The language requirement may be satisfied with American Sign Language (ASL) or, with the approval of the department, coursework in another form of non-English communication (e.g. computer science, statistics, music composition).
  4. All courses must be passed with a grade of C or better.

Undergraduate Minor

The Minor in Religious Studies requires eighteen hours of relevant courses, all with a grade of “C” or higher. These should consist of courses as set out below:

  1. RELI 1000,  Introduction to Religion
  2. RELI 4000, Theories of Religion, a capstone course.
  3. Twelve hours of courses focusing on issues in the study of religions, nine of which should be at the 3000 level or higher. See note 2.

Graduate Study

At present, no program for a graduate degree in religious studies is offered; however, some courses may be counted at the graduate level.

Religious Studies (RELI) Courses

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