Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Are you curious about faith and world religions, classic literature and languages, or philosophy’s "big questions" about life? Do you want to know how these long-evolving disciplines connect with today’s society and a variety of professional and academic fields? The three regular majors, three combined majors, and Ethics minor offered in Butler’s Philosophy, Religion, and Classics department will develop your understanding by immersion in the humanities and ideas that have shaken up the planet.
Through internships, faculty-guided research, study abroad, and other hands-on learning, our students sharpen their abilities in critical reasoning, decision-making, speaking, and writing. Our graduates have gone on to be attorneys, pastors, and musicians, and more. Or entered graduate studies in such areas as geography, ministry, medicine, or public health.
PRC Statement of Commitments on Anti-racism (October 6, 2020)
Angered and devastated by the continued police killings of Black people, including here in Indianapolis, and inspired by movements calling for justice, the faculty of the Department of Philosophy, Religion, and Classics are galvanized by the events of the past summer to reflect, educate ourselves and our students, and act to address anti-blackness and white supremacy.
The police killing of Dreasjon Reed in Indianapolis, as well as documented racist incidents on our campus are reminders that our community is a part of the nation’s ongoing reckoning with structural racism. The state of Indiana was once home to the largest chapters of the Ku Klux Klan in the nation. Today, Blacks comprise 9% of Indiana’s population, but 34% of the state’s incarcerated population, whereas whites make up 82% of the population and only 59% of the state’s incarcerated population (Hispanics make up 6% pf the population and 6% of incarcerated people). Police kill Blacks in Indianapolis at a rate 3.5x greater than that of whites. Though founded by a prominent abolitionist, Butler University remains a primarily white institution (PWI). The university’s own research reveals that people of color often feel less welcome and face greater obstacles at Butler (as at other PWIs). We must, therefore, work with intention to ensure that we live up to our highest ideals of inclusivity, equity, and justice.
We believe that our disciplines in fact provide us important tools, methods, and practices to do this work, i.e. to understand the social, political, and moral nature of our existence and to investigate how to address injustice and oppression. We are grateful for the intellectual labor of many scholar in our disciplines (including some even within our own department) who have helped us understand and combat racism and other forms of oppression. However, we want to acknowledge that not all the practices in our disciplines serve this purpose. We believe that we cannot make further progress without considering more deeply the ways each of our disciplines have histories bound up in systems of racism and oppression, and without reexamining our pedagogical goals and approaches.
Here we name only a selection of the issues related to our respective disciplinary histories. For example, Philosophy, as it has been commonly practiced in US academic institutions, has often been the province of the privileged, unaware of its own biases and its exclusionary dynamics, and both tolerating and advancing systems of oppression. In Religion, we need to acknowledge the colonial and racist legacies of religious studies as a field, the responsibility and rewards of decentering whiteness and Christian colonial categories in the study of religion, and our own participation in and benefit from legacies of institutional racism. Regarding Classics, we should point out that the legacy of the ancient world has been used to justify, excuse, and apologize for egregious acts of slavery, the systematic oppression of people of color, and white supremacy. We acknowledge that, without understanding this troubling history and sharing our knowledge with our students, we cannot combat its lingering effects or prevent the perpetuation of harmful ideas.
We recognize that statements such as this risk falling into the traps of performative allyship, and are vulnerable to bureaucratization at a moment when so many feel compelled to say something.
We therefore commit to...
- Continue educating ourselves on issues of anti-racist pedagogy, productive allyship (in general, and in the workplace), in order to become better educators of all students, and more supportive colleagues to BIPOC faculty and staff, by
- Participating in reading groups (including within our department)
- Attending webinars, and conference panels on race, diversity, and inclusion in our fields
- Conduct an inventory of our program curricula with a view towards decentering whiteness, promoting anti-racist practices, and diversifying the voices and perspectives we highlight in courses.
- Create and/or reconfigure departmental courses in order to increase the department’s contribution to the Social Justice and Diversity of Butler’s Core Curriculum
- Increase attention to issues of race and social justice in our programs and existing courses, by
- Designing new course sections and modules on relevant topics
- Inviting speakers who can address the role of and history of our fields with regard to racism and social justice
- Reconsidering our own approach to our discipline’s history and methods
- Investigating how we connect our scholarly inquiries with harm, violence, and injustice experienced by marginalized communities
- Initiating reading groups aimed at informing majors and minors about the too often racist past of our fields as well as the potential for anti-racist futures in these same fields
- Encouraging PRC student groups to lead discussions/workshops around these topics
- Recognize the value and importance of antiracism/diversity/decentering whiteness work, as well as the significant labor involved in this work, by...
- Sharing the responsibility for it equally among all department members
- Including this kind of work as an expectation and standard by which departmental faculty are evaluated in annual reviews
- Advocating for the inclusion of such expectations in college and university evaluative processes
- Evaluate and improve departmental recruitment, hiring, and retention practices
With this statement, we wish to hold ourselves accountable to students, colleagues, and community, and declare our commitment to a number of specific short and long-term actions.
We make these commitments during a time when we are constrained by financial cutbacks and other demands resulting from the pandemic. While we shall not let this prevent us from moving forward, we ask for support from the college and university to help us fully realize these commitments.
In Butler’s urban setting, Religion majors can meet and learn from practitioners of many world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity—opening them to the rich diversity in belief and non-belief.
Ethical choices influence many human activities and professions. Our Ethics minor complements various majors and careers ranging from law and medicine to government and business. Ethics also helps you find your way in life.
Classics majors get to uncover artifacts of ancient Rome and Greece and see where these influential cultures began, during our annual overseas archaeological dig. Courses focus on Latin and Greek language, literature, theatre, and philosophy.