Jots and Tittles (vol. 2, no. 3)

The Newsletter of the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies

February 2019

Welcome back!


We hope you all had an easy start to the semester and are keeping your goals in mind. Remember that hard work allows for great things to unfold. 

Dr. Paul Thomas, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, is the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies chairperson. If you have questions about PHRE curriculum, the major and minor, or about the department, feel free to contact him at

The Good Fruits of PHRE

"I’ve always found it ironic how much people sacrifice for success and careers, but how little they’re willing to sacrifice to understand our purpose."
—David Harrison, PHRE major, senior

To learn more about our degree visit our web page, or email

Whispers on the Wind

Dr. Geoffrey Pollick and his students enjoy class outside discussing why studying religion is so important when investigating culture within a society. Dr. Pollick will be teaching RELN 111 and RELN 205 in the Fall.

We would like to congratulate both Dr. Susan Kwilecki and Dr. Sharon Hartline on their decision to retire. It was bittersweet having you both on campus last semester and your presence will be missed. Thank you both deeply and most sincerely for all you have done to educate and inspire the students and faculty at Radford University.

Dr. Amiel Bernal, in conjunction with Dr. Axtell, continues to put effort towards assembling a collected volume tentatively entitled, Epistemic Paternalism Reconsidered: Conceptions, Justifications, and Implications. We anticipate and look forward to seeing this workpiece unfold.  

Ms. Pamela Mullins picked up a contract for her book. Titled Misrepresenting Black Africa in American Museums: Black Skin Black Masks,Ms. Mullins describes this book as "an examination of the ways in which black identity in the United States is racialized and the creation of the concept of race, at the turn of the 19th century via an unexplored medium of Black African objects as displayed in U.S. museums." Forthcoming from Routledge, 2019.

We are also very happy and grateful that Ms. Mullins has created a special topics course for the philosophy department - 290 Philosophy of Race. Here is a blurb on the course: "This course is an introductory examination of a particular social issue of interest to contemporary philosophers.  Issues may include current events, technology, feminism, or medicine."

Looking for a summer opportunity in philosophy?

Please select an image.

PIKSI (Philosophy in an Inclusive Key) runs a philosophy summer institute for under-represented students. Check it out HERE.

Student Spotlight

David Harrison


What attracted you to the philosophy and religious studies major?
I had done systems engineering originally before pursuing nursing. One day I just had an epiphany and walked out of a nursing class and never came back. I then served as a corrections officers before enlisting in the military where I served 7 years in the army. Philosophy appealed to me because it combined all my unique and wide array of life experiences into one focal point.

How has taking philosophy and religious studies courses prepared you for a career?
I think that philosophy is fundamental for every person regardless of what they believe because it dictates everything they do. I believe that studying philosophy not only benefits me in my personal beliefs but also helps me understand the people around me better. I think it’s extremely important to understand what drives people’s decisions in order to interact with them in a positive manner. 

Which classes have been among your favorites?
Definitely Sacred Texts of the West and Topics in Religious Studies: Monsters & Culture both with Dr. Thomas, but I’m also really enjoying Survey of Religious Experiences with Dr. Rothgery.

What do you see yourself doing after college?
Regardless of what I pursue, I see philosophy benefitting me as a respectable and productive citizen to my community. What is important to me in finding a career is whether it gives me the ability to serve and apply the skills I’ve learned through this major. But service is the most important thing someone can do in society.

Why should students consider a major in philosophy and religious studies?
Because it really does compliment and supplement any aspect of life, any situation, all academic fields, and allcareer paths. I’ve always found it ironic how much people sacrifice for success and careers, but how little we’re willing to sacrifice to understand our purpose. “What man is a man who does not seek to make the world around him a better place.” – quote from Kingdom of Heaven

Faculty Spotlight on Teaching

Dr. Gilburt Goffstein


What initially attracted you to Radford University?
In search for further employment, at the end of a two year appointment at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, I found a position listed by Radford University in the publication Jobs for Philosophers. I suppose you might say that the letter I received back inviting me for an interview with the department of Philosophy and Religious Studies is what first attracted me to RU. That interview was in 1990. My attraction to RU continues.

What inspires you as a teacher?
Engaging students in critical conversations and noticing that they “get it” and “can question it” – this inspires me as a teacher. The attempt to liberate inquiry most inspires me. The possibility of having some of my students continuing the liberation of inquiry after leaving my class – this inspires me as a teacher.

What do you find most challenging about the classroom?
The greatest challenge is getting students to think – that is, to think critically. Students come into my philosophy classes having been prepared to memorize and “learn” information -- but they have not been prepared to think critically.

What advice for doing well in the classroom would you offer students?
 In “The Function of Education” Krishnamurti presents the following argument: 1. Intelligence is the capacity to think freely. 2. To think freely, is to think without fear. 3. Ambition breeds anxiety and fear. Therefore, 4. If you are ambitious you cannot live intelligently.

Why do you think education in philosophy is important?
In the chapter “The Function of Education” from his book Think on These ThingsJiddu Krishnamurti says: “True education is to learn how to think, not what to think.” Philosophy provides this true education.

Paving the Road to New Philosophical Foundations


Dr. Guy Axtell's book, Problems of Religious Luck: Assessing the Limits of Reasonable Religious Disagreement, was published on the turn of the year. By applying his profound knowledge and expertise, Problems of Religious Luck expands upon the discourse that naturally unfolds from religions claiming a single truth doctrine. Problems of Religious Luck has gained noteworthy praise from the Chancellor's Professor at University of Edinburgh. Kudos to Dr. Ax! Purchase his book here

Welcoming Our Newest Faculty Member: Dr. Eric Rothgery


Dr. Eric Rothgery has more than 20 years experience teaching world religions. He specializes in religions of India (Hinduism and Islam, especially), although he also researches death, near death, and mysticism, as well as Lutheran approaches to world religions. He has also spent several years travelling through Asia and South America working on international university partnerships. He is currently working on book manuscript that explores Hindu participation in Islamic healing rituals in ancient Sufi tombs in Hyderabad, India, as well as a project that explores death, near-death, and mysticism in world religions. He teaches in ways that imagine religious traditions as living, dynamic ways of life for generations of people and communities. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia, with his three sons. He enjoys camping, working with his hands—he owns his own remodeling business—and restoring his classic 1968 Chevelle muscle car.

Edited by Hannah Secrist


Hannah is a senior at Radford University majoring in Philosophy and minoring in Biology. She is currently interning with the Philosophy and Religious Studies department where she offers tutoring to students enrolled in intro level philosophy and religion courses. When she is not in her office, she is more than likely spending time with her cat, drinking black coffee, or watching YouTube videos about Alan Watts.