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Philosophy & Religion

Philosophy explores the nature of the world, the basis of human values, and foundations of reason. Philosophy also offers the challenge of interpreting the work of thinkers who have created our intellectual traditions. Students approach these issues through study of both historical literature and contemporary developments.   

The study of Western and Eastern religious traditions introduces students to a major influence on all civilizations. Journalists, diplomats, and government specialists benefit from a serious consideration of the inner workings of the religious ethos of civilizations. Daily events remind us that there is no more motivating factor in the culture of nations than ardently held religious belief. A thorough understanding of the modern world requires familiarity with its religious heritage. American University's Washington, DC setting is advantageous for the study of religion, with national offices and centers for many religions. The Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area also offers a variety of courses in philosophy and religion that are available to American University students.

The department of philosophy and religion offers a BA in philosophy, a BA in religious studies, a combined BA and MA in philosophy, an undergraduate certificate in applied ethics and professional responsibility, and MA programs in History of Philosophy; Philosophy and Social Policy; and Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs.


Why Study Philosophy or Religion?

Students often want to know the practical value of studying philosophy or religion. In other words, how will it help you in the future? What jobs are available for philosophy and religious studies majors? What if you want to continue on to graduate school, but don't want to teach philosophy or religion?

The study of philosophy or religion helps students develop valuable skills leading to work in any number of fields. Studying philosophy or religion provides excellent preparation for graduate study in many disciplines and areas of study.

Check out a short piece from NPR on the need for philosophers engaged in public debate here.

Career opportunities

Students graduating with majors in philosophy or religion have chosen careers in law, medicine, social work, the ministry, computer science, environmental protection, human rights, journalism, communication, government, business, education, race relations, and applied ethics.

New studies have also shown that degrees in the Humanities, especially Philosophy, have great returns on investment.

Graduate school

Students have pursued graduate study in philosophy, religious studies, theology, history, psychology, linguistics, anthropology, medicine, law, economics, public health, literature, and education.

Intellectual development and skills

Philosophy and religion courses are ideal for students who want to develop and improve writing and analytical skills. Students of philosophy or religion become more aware of themselves and the world around them. By raising questions that explore the basic principles of existence and ultimate human concerns, the study of philosophy or religion helps students develop many skills such as the ability to

  • reason clearly
  • extract what is essential from large amounts of information
  • understand and analyze complicated texts
  • develop a well-structured argument
  • express ideas in a clear and persuasive manner
  • solve problems


Why Study Philosophy in DC?

Our location in the heart of DC provides:

  • Easy access to Smithsonian Institutions, museums, national monuments, and the Library of Congress
  • A wealth of varied and diverse internship and service opportunities with the federal government and non-profit organizations
  • Opportunities to see and participate in political life and history as it happens


Why Choose AU?

At American University, our graduate and undergraduate programs prepare students to enter into the field of professional philosophy or many fields of postgraduate education. Besides teaching the classics of historical and contemporary philosophical thought and important philosophical developments, many classes are devoted to the application of philosophy to issues concerning biomedicine, environmental protection, human rights, the media, business, and race relations. Alumni of our BA program pursue graduate work not only in philosophy but also in other fields such as history, psychology, linguistics, computer science, anthropology, and literature. Many positions in science and industry require the analytical skills gained through the study of philosophy. In addition, the Philosophy program emphasizes clear thinking, accurate writing, and problem solving as well as the application to today's practical problems. These skills are excellent preparation for further study toward law, medicine, social work, the ministry, and other professional careers.


What Is Philosophy?

The best way to find an answer to this question is to take one or two philosophy courses (as part of your general education requirements). However, for those of you looking for an instant answer, philosophy is the study of ideas, whether moral, legal, religious, or aesthetic. Philosophers explore the nature of the real world, the basis of human values, and the foundations of reason. Students at American University approach these issues by studying texts from different periods as well as from different regions. For example, students study both historical literature and contemporary developments in Western and Asian philosophy as well as other traditions such as the Latin American and African.




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Philosophy Professor Addresses Intersex Ethics

Ellen Feder

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Global Ethics Fellow

Evan Berry has been appointed a Global Ethics Fellow with the Global Ethics Network, an initiative of the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. As a Global Ethics Fellow, Professor Berry will work to build connections between scholars working on international ethics issues at American University and other schools in the Global Ethics Network and will host an annual event focusing on the philosophical dimensions of globalization. At the annual meeting of the Global Ethics Fellows last fall, Dr. Berry presented his research on the role of religious non-governmental organizations at the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

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Dr. Evan Berry Receives Inaugural AAR-Luce Fellowship

Dr. Evan Berry LinkedIn

The first AAR-Luce Fellowship in Religion and International Affairs was awarded to Dr. Evan Berry. The fellowship will fund Dr. Berry's work at the Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the US Department of State. As an AAR-Luce Fellow, Dr. Berry will be involved in communications with policymakers aimed at clarifying the role of religion in parts of the world affected by American foreign policy. Dr. Berry was selected for this fellowship by a diverse group of university affiliated scholars of religion.

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Professor Park Translates the Work of Kim Iryop

Originally published in Korea when Iryop was in her sixties, Reflections of a Zen Buddhist Nun makes available for the first time in English a rich, intimate, and unfailingly candid source of material with which to understand modern Korea, Korean women, and Korean Buddhism. 

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Alum Jeffrey Epstein Publishes New Book

Democracy and Its Others was published February 25 by Bloomsbury Publishing.

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