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Jots and Tittles (vol. 2, no. 1)
THE NEWSLETTER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY & RELIGIOUS STUDIES
A hearty welcome to all of our new students and welcome back to all of our returning students and faculty. We hope you have a stellar semester!
The Good Fruits of PHRE
"Philosophy is the foundation for every single field of study and once you are able to understand that, I think that you can learn and pursue anything you want to."
--Hannah Secrist, junior, PHRE major
Whispers on the Wind
- Dr. Glen Martin published his new book titled Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation.
- Dr. Geoffrey Pollick joined the faculty as assistant professor of religious studies.
- Dr. Gilburt Goffstein returned in a full-time role as assistant professor of philosophy.
- Ryan Lytton joined the faculty as an instructor of religious studies.
- Katy Shepard joined the faculty as an instructor of philosophy.
- Long-time professor of religious studies, Dr. Susan Kwilecki, announced her December retirement.
Hannah Secrist (Philosophy Concentration)
The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies has many great students and Hannah Secrist stands out as among the very best. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about her time as a philosophy and religious studies major.
What attracted you to the philosophy and religious studies major?
After filling my electives with philosophy classes my freshman year, I knew that I wanted to pursue a major in philosophy and religious studies. As someone who values truth and higher knowledge, I see philosophy as the perfect way to enrich both my academic and personal life. Philosophy is the foundation for every single field of study and once you are able to understand that, I think that you can learn and pursue anything you want to.
How has taking philosophy and religious studies courses benefited you?
The personal reward I have felt from receiving an education of this caliber is one I will treasure forever. I've mostly benefited in my ability to communicate and analyze complex ideas. My classes have given me a solid precedent to be confident in studying any kind of academic material. Perhaps most importantly, I have a deeper understanding of the values, beliefs, and ideas that have shaped the world we live in.
Which classes have been among your favorites?
RELN 206 Survey's in Religious Experiences and PHIL 112 Ethics and Society.
What do you plan to do after college?
I'm currently seeking to pursue a graduate degree in school counseling.
Why should students consider a major in philosophy and religious studies?
Students should consider majoring in philosophy and religious studies because it's fun! Also because it paves the way for success in any field you choose to pair it with especially one that employs critical thinking.
Philosophy & Religious Studies in the News
- Have you ever considered what it would be like to live forever? If so, check out this Guardian article on how "eternal life would be deathly dull."
- Do you think philosophy can't be funny? Then check out Ted Cohen's new book Serious Larks.
- How are some millennials meeting their spiritual needs? Perhaps in Crossfit!
Faculty Spotlight on Research
Dr. Glen Martin (Philosophy)
Dr. Glen Martin recently published a new book titled Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence: The Power of the Future for Planetary Transformation. We asked him a few questions about his research.
In your new book, Global Democracy and Human Self-Transcendence, you link self-transcendence with global democracy. Can you explain the nature of that connection?
We understand today that human beings are all one species. Self-transcendence means (at least in part) that we grow to what many psychologists and philosophers call a “worldcentric” or kosmocentric” perspective. We begin to live from what Karl Marx called our “species-being.” Once we become genuine “world citizens” who are worldcentric in our outlook, global democracy becomes self-evident. Our future is in terrible danger. Democratic world government creates a way for human beings to pilot that spaceship before it self-destructs.
In your new book you describe humanity’s transition from personal consciousness to global consciousness. Can you explain what you mean by global consciousness?
A number of thinkers today believe that we are in the “Second Axial Period” of human development. The famous “First Axial Period,” between the 8th and 2nd centuries BCE, gave rise to our human capacity to think independently as a subjectivity looking at the world as an external objective reality. This mode of awareness has characterized the past 2500 years of human life on Earth. In the Second Axial Period (happening today), we move to global consciousness in which, without giving up our ego consciousness or individuality, we add a new dimension to consciousness that directly experiences the oneness of our planet and all human beings. A number of great thinkers like Teilhard de Chardin, Ernest Laszlo, or Raimon Panikkar write about this and look at our history in this way.
You also maintain that humanity is moving toward a world parliament and planetary democracy. Do you think this can be achieved during the lifespan of today’s college student? What role can students play in this transition?
No one can predict the future. However, I believe that it can happen within the next few decades. People worldwide are getting sick of endless poverty, wars, terrorism, and environmental destruction. If we wanted to, we could just drop these things and unite to create a decent world system. With computers, these ideas could easily go viral and transform our broken world disorder overnight. Students can join WCPA, the organization spearheading the movement toward global democracy for free at www.earth-constitution.org and begin to play an active role in creating a decent future for the Earth. They can make themselves into authentic world citizens and begin living and thinking at a truly global level.
If students wanted to learn more about self-transcendence and global democracy, what Radford University classes would you recommend?
The only other teacher, besides myself, that I know of who addresses these issues (that is global issues and our global crises) is Dr. Tay Keong Tan in the Political Science department. Students should educate themselves in global and planetary issues. They should look for books and courses that teach self-transcendence. However, ultimately, all authentic education must come out of one’s personal passion and initiative. If we have this, we do not need to take courses to become educated on these things. We learn to educate ourselves. The real point of teaching is for the student to become the master and no longer need the teacher.
Declare a Major with Us!
World turbulence and discord got you down? Looking for some bright spots in seemingly gloomy times? Consider a major or minor in philosophy and religious studies. In our classes you can explore some of the most vexing problems faced by society today and explore ways in which other cultures have found meaning in the face of challenging problems. New course substitutions make majoring in philosophy and religious studies easier than ever and our 30 credit major makes us one of the easiest double majors! Stop by CHBS 4209 for more information or email email@example.com.
Faculty Spotlight on Teaching
Dr. Geoffrey Pollick (Religious Studies)
Dr. Geoffrey Pollick joined the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies this semester. We caught up with him to learn a little bit about his classroom approach.
What initially attracted you to Radford University?
At Radford University, I was drawn to the opportunity of reaching a wide audience with the basic messages of the academic study of religion: that citizens must understand religious diversity in order to live well together, and that religion impacts society and culture in complex and profound ways that deserve careful contemplation. As a public institution of higher education that has made substantial investments in humanities and social science disciplines, Radford University seemed to me to be a place where the academic study of religion thrives (and will continue to thrive) in its public-service and scholarly modes.
What inspires you as a teacher?
The relationships that form in teaching inspire me. I think of teaching as a search for moments of connection and insight built across spaces of difference. That search drives me to find ways of developing curiosity and empathy, in myself, in my students, and among colleagues. I’m always striving to learn how to communicate the insights of my discipline while hearing insights from my students’ lives, working to braid them together in a form that fosters learning.
What do you find most challenging about the classroom?
Classrooms are spaces of difference, and differences are often difficult to bridge. The most inspiring work of forming interpersonal connection emerges from the most challenging work of building intellectual connections. Sometimes interpersonal bonds develop with ease: show students that you are human like them, and they will give you the benefit of the doubt. Teaching is a primary form of scholarly communication, and the challenge of getting students on board with grasping abstract theory as a way of seeing their worlds more clearly pushes me to refine my classroom craft.
What advice for doing well in the classroom would you offer students?
Give the gambit of learning a chance. Play along. Suspend your disbelief that a lecture class can be interesting, and enter into the little world that your instructor is trying to build around you. Learning is an investment in personhood and an opportunity at self-enhancement. Allow yourself to be equipped with new tools for encountering and understanding the depths of difference and similarity that surround you in the world. This can look like active note-taking, sleeping well enough before class so that you have attention to give to the material, or giving an honest try when an instructor asks for your participation.
Why do you think education in religious studies is important?
Religious Studies profoundly reveals the links that unite scholarly insight with lived experience. There are, in my view, few other disciplines that draw together such a wide range of knowledge around a subject that provokes such deep and different personal responses. Religion, its endless permutations, and its antitheses structure much, if not most, of human life and receive minimal critical appraisal outside the academy. Teaching ourselves and our students—here at Radford University and in higher education broadly—how to think critically about this significant sphere of human life is endlessly interesting for the expansion of knowledge in general, and is essential for learning how to live well together in community.