Tackle big questions about how we should live, pursue justice, and make sense of ourselves in an interdisciplinary community of activist scholars.
Department of Philosophy & Religion
The Department of Philosophy and Religion (PHRE) is home to an exciting and innovative major for free thinkers. Together, we seek to make sense of a complex landscape of competing worldviews as they are lived in practice. We tackle big questions about how we should live, pursue justice, and make sense of ourselves in an interdisciplinary community of activist scholars.
PHRE majors can study issues related to Race and Ethnicity, Justice, Human Rights, Gender and Sexuality, Art and Culture, and Environmental Sustainability. As a PHRE major, you can take classes in Existentialism or Death and Dying; Buddhism or Zombies; Ethics or Aesthetics. In our Community and Careers course, you will build an intellectual community while preparing for your professional life after Otterbein. You can join the editorial board of Aegis, our prestigious humanities journal; intern with a local museum; and study abroad.
In a globalized planet full of clashes between religious and ethical worldviews, being able to navigate challenging conversations is an essential skill, and one that Philosophy and Religion majors will hone. Students will develop skills so they can constructively navigate religious, racial, and ethnic difference: the ability to respectfully converse across differences of worldview and life experience and understanding those differences without being doctrinaire. Paying close attention to historical and contemporary answers to life’s fundamental questions, a major in Philosophy and Religion gives students a deep understanding of the views of peoples from across the globe, and helps them develop their own answers along the way.
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Are you wondering what you can do with a degree in Religion & Philosophy? Check out our video!
Ethics and Social Justice
This concentration will give students the tools to understand what ethics and social justice requires of them as individuals, members of communities, and professionals; and to think across and learn to navigate ethical difference. We cannot overestimate how important these skills are, and the PHRE major is uniquely positioned to deliver them, since we have faculty who are specifically trained in the field of ethics.
Philosophers seek wisdom by asking fundamental questions about what there is (metaphysics), what we can know (epistemology), what kinds of people we should be (ethics), what is beauty (aesthetics), and how we should reason (logic). A major in philosophy will help students to develop critical reading and thinking skills necessary to answer some ask and answer some of life’s most difficult questions.
The academic study of religion involves looking at religious beliefs and practices in a careful, analytic, and objective manner, studying them in their own contexts, and recognizing religion’s intersections with class, gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity, approaching our subject using the disciplines of history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and literature, among others.
Student, Faculty, & Alumni Spotlights
I love the PHRE major because it equips you with a really good understanding of the cultures and identities of people groups all around the world in a way you wouldn’t get otherwise. I love how diverse and discussion-based the courses are. I’m really passionate about understanding cultures and their histories, and that’s what this major is all about!
Mary Drobny ’23
Philosophy & Religion Major
My love for philosophy appeared during the intro class with Dr. Mills about death and grieving. I thought it was very interesting, so much so that it inspired me to go into the field of death care! I love being able to understand and help families going through some of the hardest times. I get to experience class topics every day in the real world, and I think it is the best.
Ashley Bright ’23
Philosophy & Religion Major
I’ve found the interdisciplinary aspects of philosophy to be particularly helpful for my work on Aegis, and my academic work in general.
Seth Stobart ’23
Philosophy & Religion Major
Seth Stobart ’23, is a philosophy and literary studies major with minors in creative writing and literary studies. He uses the critical thinking and writing skills developed through these departments as lead editor on Otterbein’s humanities journal, Aegis, where he reviews scholarly work from students for publication to world.
Study what is most important to you, regardless of what the world might want you to do.” Before John Srsen got to Otterbein, he was planning on going into business and recording production. That is, until his brother encouraged him to study what he was passionate about. “As a result, I switched my college of choice to Otterbein, and became a religion major. And the rest is history!
John Srsen ’12
John Posey switched his major from criminology to philosophy at the end of his sophomore year, stating that “part of the beauty of philosophy is that you can do whatever you want with it. This same concept applies to the Philosophy and Religion Department at Otterbein.” John says they encouraged him to pursue new ideas and projects, and that he and Dr. Mills created an internship intertwining John’s military service with the philosophy known as Stoicism.
John Posey ’20
My philosophy training at Otterbein provided me with a strong foundation in logic, analytical thinking, and close reading that are critical in the practice of law and have served me well in my clerkship, law firm practice, and in-house work. Otterbein’s Philosophy Department also instilled in me the importance of and ability to see issues from multiple perspectives. This focus on flexibility has helped me as an attorney by forcing me to be critical of initial assumptions and better able to predict what others may argue, making me a better advisor to my clients.
Larsa Ramsini ’09
Religions are made. This is what the historian of religion Jonathan Z. Smith calls the genius and pretense of tradition, saying you are doing the same old thing when you are never doing the same thing; this is how human social worlds are generally made
Assistant Professor, specialist in religions of the South Asian and African diasporas. Learn more about Dr. Rocklin’s first book, The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad, and his other research.
I love this quote about the importance of philosophical thinking by the existentialist philosopher Simone De Beauvoir, “In life, there is no divorce between philosophy and life. Every living step is a philosophical choice.
Professor of Philosophy
Dr. Patridge is an internationally recognized scholar who studies issues at the intersection of virtue theory, social aesthetics, and race and gender. Her work brings insights from ancient philosophy to help us understand the nuances our contemporary social world, particularly in friendly contexts, like joking around and playing games.
Department Features & Student Opportunities
Design department programming. Work on your resume. Get internships. Our innovative, seminar-style Community & Careers class lets you build an intellectual community and engage in professional development.
PHRE majors can travel to places like West Africa, Spain, Wales, and Italy. PHRE classes also visit local houses of worship, art museums, and even cemeteries to get a different perspective closer to home.
Engage with world renowned scholars and activists speaking on today’s hot button issues, like Eboo Patel, above. PHRE majors can even help to plan and organize on-campus visits for guest speakers.
Combine your passions into a meaningful whole by double majoring. The major in Philosophy and religion is very flexible and easily integrated with another major, which many of our students do.
News - October 26, 2021By Catie Duzzny ’21, MBA’23 The study of humanities has a long history at Otterbein University and a new creative and cultural community is bringing first year students together with faculty and students. Dunlap-King Hall, better known as “DK,” is one of many residence halls students call home at Otterbein. DK is the oldest residence hall on campus and was built in 1926. “DK has naturally had a higher concentration of humanities majors in the building; students who are in related areas of study, and these students have gravitated…
News - March 1, 2021Students at Otterbein are realizing their personal best both inside and outside the classroom by pursuing their chosen careers and their side interests, too. Examples are everywhere —from a marketing major who competes on the equestrian team to a religion and philosophy student in the ROTC. Rachel Muti '21 conducting research Rachel Muti is a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major and member of the marching band, and her love of both contributed to her choice to attend Otterbein. “There’s no academic or outside-your-major interests sacrifices at Otterbein,” she said. “Being able…
News - February 19, 2021By Madelyn Nelson ’23 Ben Willis ‘14 was awarded the Art Unites CBUS grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council for his photographs of the Black Lives Matter protests in Columbus in 2020. Willis produced hundreds of photos from the protests of people in his community. Ben Willis '14 According to his artist’s page: “From May 28 through June 30, I made hundreds of photographs, all on film covering the uprisings in Columbus. I plan on using the money from this grant to make a…
Programs of Study in Religion & Philosophy
Towers Hall 320
1 South Grove St
Westerville, OH 43081
Religion & Philosophy students leave Otterbein with the skills and knowledge to pursue a plethora of careers, from law school to the Peace Corps to the military.