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
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.
Philosophy expanded my horizons on issues and topics I was never introduced to, yet the theories and arguments proved to be insightful, allowing me to critically assess any given issue, argument, or challenge.
Vince Reda ’21
Political Science major with minors in Philosophy and Pre-Law
After he graduated, Vince decided to return to Otterbein and complete a second major in Philosophy & Religion.
Read Vince’s reflection from his internship with Healing Broken Circles >
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
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
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
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 >
Department Features & Student Opportunities
Scholarships & Awards
The Department of Philosophy and Religion awards several endowed awards and book prizes to PHRE majors each year!
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.
Cultivate intellectual life in the humanities on the editorial staff of our journal Aegis. Shape rich conversations about art, culture, history, and justice for a 21st-century public.
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.
Religion & Philosophy Department News
How is a Philosophy and Religion Major or Minor Perfect for a Future Doctor, Lawyer, Software Engineer, and More?
News - April 6, 2023By Erica Bush ’25 When considering what major to study, many students choose one with a career in mind, so they may overlook a versatile degree like philosophy and religion. We asked Assistant Professor Alex Rocklin, Department of Philosophy and Religion, why students should consider studying philosophy and religion at Otterbein. What specific jobs are out in the market for people with an undergraduate degree in philosophy and religion? Career outcomes are so much more diverse than most people realize.…
Cool Courses: Ghosts, Zombies & the Unquiet Dead Reveals the Roots of Spooky Stories
News - October 19, 2022Ghosts and zombies are all around us — in movies, comic books, song lyrics, and on our TV screens. But do you know how they became so prevalent in pop culture? Assistant Professor Alex Rocklin, Department of Philosophy and Religion, teaches a course that explores the complex roots of these phenomena. If it’s too late to sign up for the course, Rocklin is teaming up with Assistant Professor Amy Sheeran, Modern Languages and Cultures, to host two spooky events to get…
Ghosts, Zombies, and the Unquiet Dead at Otterbein — OH MY!
News - October 29, 2021By Catie Duzzny ’21, MBA’23 A first-year student course called “Ghosts, Zombies, and the Unquiet Dead” taught by Assistant Professor Alex Rocklin connects global history to the ideas of spirits, ghosts, and zombies. Alex Rocklin Rocklin is an assistant professor of philosophy and religion at Otterbein University. His research examines the politics of religion in the interactive making of Hinduism, Islam, and Afro-Atlantic religions in the colonial Caribbean. A part of one of the courses Rocklin took as an undergraduate…
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.