Philosophy and Western Religions

Important Note 

Philosophy and Western Religions is no longer accepting any new students.

'Socrates students' in a 13th century Syrian manuscript al-Mubashshir's of work

This interdisciplinary program, in which the Department of Philosophy, the Institute of Islamic Studies, the Department of Jewish Studies and the Faculty of Religious Studies collaborate, was designed for students who wish to study the encounter between philosophy and the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, an encounter which shaped the basic patterns of Western and Muslim intellectual history.

The program covers the period from Antiquity to the Enlightenment during which philosophy and religious thought were inseparably interwoven, making visible the wide range of links between the intellectual worlds of these three religious traditions. Although the interaction between philosophy and religious thought continued in a variety of forms also after the Enlightenment's critique of religion, this critique transformed their relationship in a fundamental way, and for this reason will be used to delimit the chronological scope of the program. During the period in question, the impact of Greek philosophy on theologians, philosophers, and mystics within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam determined often in a decisive way — both positively and negatively — the interpretation of their Holy Scriptures, and their understanding of crucial religious concepts such as God, creation, revelation, providence, divine Law, and the origin of evil. The interdisciplinary approach takes into account that the history of the encounter in question crossed the linguistic, cultural, and religious boundaries which define the areas of the traditional academic disciplines. This approach permits the student to pursue the development of a philosophical or religious concept from its origin through the different historical and geographical contexts in which it was received by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim thinkers.

In order to achieve its goal the program focuses on (i) the acquisition of relevant languages (Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew), (ii) the history of Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Philosophy, (iii) the Holy Scriptures and the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, (iv) the reception and transformation of philosophical ideas in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thought, and (v) the multiple points of contact among the different traditions of religious thought.

The program provides excellent preparation for graduate studies in Philosophy (with the appropriate choice of electives, or in combination with a Minor in Philosophy), in Religious Studies, and, with the relevant language component, in Islamic Studies and Jewish Studies as well. Students wishing to pursue graduate studies in a particular discipline should consult about specific requirements with a faculty member of the corresponding department at McGill.