Offered Spring 2011

Dedicated to exploring religious foundations for environmental ethics, this course is offered to juniors and seniors who have taken Theology 1001 and a second-level course.  Theology 4440 introduces students to and engages them in critical thinking about religious traditions that goes beyond ethical behavior toward other human beings to include the diverse species, land, water and air that constitute Earth.  
     During the first part of the semester, we will examine the place of religious foundations for ethics in relation to other ethical systems, calls by Pope John Paul II and other religious leaders to the moral responsibility that humans have for functioning within the physical environment, and the US Catholic bishops' appeal to theologians to examine the Catholic tradition for teachings that can be brought to bear on the ecological crisis.  We will proceed critically to identify promising notions in the Bible and texts by eminent Christian theologians and, where necessary, to reformulate those that suggest promising ways of responding to ecological concerns.  Among the notions to be explored are the goodness, beauty, sacramentality and integrity of creation, the kinship of all creatures, human "dominion" over and stewardship of the world, the restrained and virtuous use of creatures, and loving more-than-human beings out of love for God.  To facilitate assessing the fruitfulness of these notions, students test them on ecological problems they have researched from the scientific literature.  Individual assessments of the themes are used in a group exercise to identify the most promising theocentric foundations for environmental ethics.
     Focus shifts during the second part of the semester to examining sacred texts of and contemporary scholarly reflections on Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and other world religions in which students are interested.  Students will ascertain the extent to which each of these religious traditions contributes to thinking about and acting more compatibly toward other species, ecosystems and the biosphere of Earth.  The possibility of formulating a global system of ethics based on notions common to these traditions will be explored.
    Theology 4440 is one of six courses required for the 18 credit hour Interdisciplinary Minor in Environmental Ethics that was launched in Fall 2001.  Contact Dr. Schaefer for information about this exciting program at Marquette.

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