B.A. in Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (4-year Curriculum)
RELI1005 Quest For Truth and Meaning
- This is an introductory course in philosophy and religious studies for students with no background knowledge. It begins by assisting students to discover the quests for truth and meaning in popular culture. After introducing some basic critical thinking skills, this course guides students to explore and appreciate the multiple relationships between philosophy, religious studies and various dimensions of human existence–individual life, society, and civilization. Students will experience the joy and excitement of studying philosophy and religious studies.
RELI2006 Introduction to Christianity and Civilizations
- This course is an introductory survey of the vast influences that Christianity has had on Western as well as Chinese civilizations. Both its successes and failures will be scrutinized. Topics to be discussed include higher learning, art, modern science, politics, society, war and cross-cultural exchange. It also provides an overview of the major phases of development of Western Christianity.
RELI2007 Problems of Philosophy
- This course aims to provide a critical study of some basic problems of philosophy. Particular attention is given to philosophical issues in metaphysics and epistemology. It is hoped that students will be helped not only to acquire basic knowledge of philosophy, but also to develop their own reflective and critical attitudes and the analytical ability to tackle issues in philosophy.
RELI2015 Approaches to the Study of Religion
- This course gives students an introduction to different approaches to the study of religion – internal approaches (textual, hermeneutical and theological studies), perspectival approaches (anthropological, psychological, philosophical, sociological and historical), and religious dialogue. It aims to equip the students with an ability of understanding religion and quasi-religion from different angles. The course will evaluate religious cases through combinations of approaches. It helps the students to develop a multi-disciplinary apparatus of analysing what is happening in typical religious acts.
RELI2027 Introduction to Chinese Philosophy and Religion
- This course aims to introduce students to the major philosophical and religious teachings and practices in China. The course has twofold goals: (1) an introductory course in philosophy which offers a systematic way of discussing some fundamental questions in the Chinese intellectual traditions; and (2) an introductory course in Chinese religion which focuses on how the “Three Teachings,” –– Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism –– have shaped the Chinese way of life. The approaches taken are both historical and comparative.
RELI2035 Introduction to Ethics
- The course focuses on the philosophical views concerning ethics and their implications for thinking critically about the moral and socio-political dimensions of various philosophical or religious traditions. It will give attention to the philosophical theories or ideas that have important bearings on how we should go about answering the fundamental questions in ethics such as “How should we live?” “What do we owe to other people?” “Do we have good reason to believe that judgments of value are capable of being true or false?” “What rights and liberties should people have?” and “What rule or principle should govern the distribution of goods within society?”
RELI2036 Social Scientific Study of Religion
- This course introduces students to the concepts and tools central to the social scientific study of religion. It is divided into two sections. In the first section, we discuss what social scientific study of religion is by studying methodologies of social sciences and their relations to sociology, anthropology, psychology, and feminist study of religion. The second section focuses on topics and research methods students are interested in as a class. Materials throughout the course are drawn from across theoretical and methodological approaches, as well as application of theories and research methods in studying religion.
RELI4898 / RELI4899 Honours Project
- This course aims to (1) help integrate the various courses studied over the last two years into an independent research project; (2) further develop and to apply the professional skills to a topic of the student’s own interest; and (3) write a thesis which is clearly defined, well argued and sufficiently supported by relevant material.
Study Area A: Philosophical Studies
RELI3006 Major Streams in Chinese Philosophy
- This course introduces the origin and development of major philosophical themes in the traditional schools of Chinese philosophy and religion such as Confucianism, Daoism, and Mohism. While providing a survey of the history and interrelationships between main streams of Chinese thought from before Confucius and stretching up to the modern period, the course also presents to students some critical assessments of these trends. In the course of discussions, some attention will also be given to sub-traditions such as the teachings of Gongsun Long and Hui Shi, as well as some of the new doctrines developed by Neo-Daoists, Chinese Buddhists and Neo-Confucians, and the criticisms raised by some modern Chinese philosophers. By this means students will be provided with broad historical accounts to the background and development of the problems addressed in various Chinese philosophical and religious traditions.
RELI3007 Philosophy, Meaning and Knowledge
- This course aims to (1) introduce major problems in contemporary epistemology and philosophy of language, including the nature of knowledge and justification: their types, origins, structures, methods and limits, as well as the relations between language, mind and reality; (2) examine various philosophical views concerning knowledge and language; (3) develop students’ critical abilities to tackle philosophical issues and problems; and (4) reflect on problems of knowledge and language in particular fields of concern.
RELI3027 Existentialism and Nihilism
- What is the meaning of life? What is the contingency of human existence? What relation is there between our inner life and the outer world? How do we understand nihilism and the experience of boredom and meaninglessness? What shall we do about God or the ultimate reality? Can we really DO anything via freedom of choice? Existentialism is a profoundly active and engaged form of philosophy which flourished in the last century but still influences most intellectuals who wish to grapple with the world rather than simply watch from outside. This course is a study of the existentialists’ quest for understanding the struggle of human life and existence. It begins with a brief historical and thematic overview of the philosophical movement of existentialism: its historical background and its distinctive features in contrast with other forms of philosophy. The central problematic of nihilism is introduced and discussed in conjunction with Existentialism. Then the thought of the major existentialists (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Camus, and Sartre) as well as their different responses to nihilism will be explored. Finally, the existentialists’ insights about the meaning of human existence and human suffering will be systematically explored and critically assessed.
RELI3056 Philosophy of Mind, Consciousness, and Personal Identity
- Philosophy of mind is the study of the nature of the mind and various conceptual puzzlements related to any mental aspects and activities of life, in particular humans. It is one of the oldest yet still the most prolific fields in philosophy. Contemporary discussions are fuelled by tremendous advances in many areas – neurosciences, psychology, psychiatry, medical sciences, linguistics, sociology, artificial intelligence, computer studies, robotics, to name but a few – giving the area a huge interdisciplinary character without detracting from its unique philosophical relevance.
- This course aims to survey a particular issue in the philosophy of mind, namely, the mind-body problem. Dualists claim that mind and body are distinct substances, whereas physicalists claim that mental states are just physical states. The course starts by examining the origin and the implications of Descartes’ dualism, and moves into the current philosophical debate on the relationship between the mental and the physical. Various theories will be examined including behaviourism, identity theory, functionalism, interpretativism, and eliminativism. The focus is on whether physicalists can reply to the challenges on intentionality, propositional attitudes and phenomenal consciousness. It explores what it means to be a person and how personal identity is formed. In the end of the course, we reflect on some assumptions such as the distinction of the subjective versus the objective, and whether the mind is confined by the body.
RELI3065 History of Modern Western Philosophy
- This course aims to systematically introduce students to philosophies that shape the modern world. It covers the period from Descartes (the 17th century) to Marx (the 19th century). The course will outline the thoughts of various significant thinkers in the period, trace debates among their contemporaries, and show how they set the agenda for later generations. Students are expected to philosophize with the great thinkers. The objective is to develop an entrenched understanding of ideas that still influence us today.
RELI3087 Metaphysics: Quest for Reality
- Metaphysics concerns itself with certain fundamental questions about reality, which include the questions of what there is, what we are and why we need to take these questions seriously. To the question of what there is, materialists’ answer is that material things, and only material things, exist. Is it the case that only material things exist? Or do material things exist at all? Do non-material things such as mind, qualities, time, causal relation and numbers exist? Besides the above questions, this course also addresses the mind-body problem and the reality of free will.
RELI3095 Logic and Philosophy of Logic
- This course consists of two parts. The first part introduces the basic methods of modern formal logic. Topics will include propositional logic and predicate logic. Special emphasis will be given to validity and soundness of arguments, truth-functions and truth-tables, and natural deduction. The second part discusses some philosophical problems raised by modern formal logic: What is validity? How does formal logic help one to understand the validity of informal arguments? What is logical truth? Can logical truth be understood outside formal logic? How do we recognize a valid argument or a logical truth?
RELI3096 Contemporary Analytic Philosophy
- Contemporary Western philosophy is divided into two main traditions. Continental philosophy prevails in countries such as Germany and France, whereas analytic philosophy, pioneered by the German logician Gottlob Frege, is prominent in the English-speaking world. This course introduces the development of some main ideas under the analytic tradition since the late 19th century. It covers five topic areas: the early founders; logic, language and metaphysics; epistemology and mind; ethics and political philosophy, and finally, methods in philosophy.
RELI4005 Philosophy of Religion
- The course explores a whole range of philosophical problems related to religion, including issues such as: proofs for the existence of God, the problem of evil, the intelligibility of religious language, the rationality of religious belief, the relationship between religion and morality, and the significance of religious experience. A selection of influential philosophers will be studied in depth, and students will be encouraged to compare and contrast their various approaches. This is an advanced course; students without adequate background should consult the course instructor before enrollment.
RELI4016 Selected Topics/ Readings in Philosophical Studies
- This course aims at helping the student to investigate a specific philosophical theme through a detailed study of a selected text: (1) to arouse students’ interest in the important issues concerning philosophical issues and problems; (2) to engage in a close reading of a selected philosophical topic/text so as to discover the major philosophical themes and insights contained therein; (3) to cultivate students’ ability in critically assessing various philosophical viewpoints towards a specific topic. This is an advanced course; students without adequate background should consult the Course instructor before enrollment.
RELI4047 Mind in Chinese Buddhist Philosophy
- The course aims to provide a comparative study of the Buddhist philosophy of mind in the context of Chinese Buddhism and the philosophy of mind developed in the contemporary Analytic Philosophy. In this course, we will address a number of fundamental questions which are often discussed in the contemporary analytic philosophy of mind: What is consciousness? Can science explain consciousness? What is the place of consciousness in nature? Is consciousness physical or non-physical? Is the mind nothing but the brain? How do we know about our mind? What are the contents of our mental states? How does mind relate to body and the external world? We will discuss this set of questions from the perspectives of Chinese Buddhism. Throughout the course, philosophical theories and concepts developed in the contemporary analytic philosophy of mind will be brought into dialogue with the Chinese Buddhist perspectives.
Study Area B: Christian Studies and Comparative Religion
RELI3005 Daoist Religion
- This course explores the development of the Daoist tradition and introduces its basic concepts, doctrines and practices. Guided studies of some selected texts from the Daoist canon will enhance students’ understanding of the religion and arouse a general awareness of the complexity of the Daoist texts and traditions. Students will also be encouraged to explore the significant influences of Daoist religion in the past and in the contemporary world. The approach taken will be both historical and comparative.
RELI3017 A Survey of Jewish and Christian Scriptures
- This course of scriptural study investigates the background, growth, contents, and messages of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures and the history from which they emerged. It introduces the results of modern biblical scholarship and its contribution to our understanding of the Bible. The situation, form, content, and message of a biblical text (or book) is studied as an integrated whole in order to arrive at a balanced understanding of the meaning of the text (or book). Attention is paid to the unity and diversity of different representations of various traditions, and the religious ideas behind them. The procedure of exegesis and the use of the pertinent tools are introduced.
RELI3026 Christianity, Humanism and the Contemporary World
- This course gives a broad view of the emergence, development and interactions of major Christian thought since early twentieth century. The impact of the Enlightenment and the critical issues raised by modern humanism since then will be discussed. Fundamental ideas and main themes of selected contemporary Christian thinkers and related theological movements will be examined. Emphasis will be given to the contextual problems faced by the theologians who struggled to relate Christian faith to their life-situations and the integration of theological insights and humanistic values in the public world.
RELI3037 Christian Spirituality
- This course aims at providing an introduction to the historical, intellectual as well as the experiential dimensions of the spiritual heritage of the Christian faith. The course will be complemented by a critical evaluation of some of the major conceptual components of the discipline of Christian Spirituality.
- This course seeks to pursue a historical study of Islamic doctrines, religious practices and institutions. Emphasis is placed on understanding the nature and teachings in the Qur’an, the sacred traditions (hadith), and some of their representative interpretations in medieval and modern settings.
RELI3127 History of Christian Thought
- This course is a study of major theological issues that have emerged in the history of the Christian Church. Focus will be given to epistemological and soteriological issues, together with other contextual problems, faced by theologians of each period who struggled to relate Christian faith to their life-situations.
- This is an introductory study of Buddhism, providing a comprehensive view of the historical development, major schools, fundamental ideas and social impact of Buddhism. While the course lays emphasis on the religious thought of major schools of Buddhism, it will also pay attention to their religious practices and social ramifications.
RELI3136 Religious Rituals and Practices in Hong Kong
- This course aims to provide an understanding of rituals and practices of various religious traditions in Hong Kong, their social and cultural significance for the local population. The subject will focus on three areas: (1) Chinese religions, including Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism and popular religion; (2) Christianity, including Catholicism and Protestantism; (3) religious minorities, such as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Zoroastrianism.
RELI4025 Christianity and Chinese Culture
- The course utilizes a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to provide a solid platform for the mutual reflections both on the Christian faith in its western form, as well as on Chinese culture in its current modernization and rejuvenation. Special attention will be paid to Chinese Christian thinkers who have tried to address the cultural dilemmas that arose from their conversion to Christianity, or to non-Christian Chinese thinkers who felt a special need to address the cultural challenges from Western Christianity.
RELI4027 Selected Topics/ Readings in Christian Studies or Comparative Religion
- This course is a study of primary texts of major theological (Christian or other world religious) thinkers and/or ecclesiastical documents. The texts to be studied in detail may cover one or more periods of history, or focus on one or more thinkers or themes. This is an advanced course; students without adequate background should consult the course instructor before enrollment.
RELI4035 Comparative Religious Themes
- This course aims to (1) enhance students a deeper understanding of the world’s living religions by building upon what the students have learnt in the first two years of their programme; (2) explore underlying causes of religious pluralism in the contemporary world; (3) invite students to explore, compare and contrast the world’s religions; (4) assess the prospects for inter-religious dialogue and religious co-existence; and (5) offer students opportunities to see and think in new ways, opening possibilities for richer and deeper lives.
Study Area C: Interdisciplinary Study of Religion
RELI3075 Religion and Animal
- This course is mainly designed to explore the role and status of animal in different religious traditions, in which the positive and negative resources will be addressed in order to equip students to understand the influence of religious traditions on human attitudes towards animals. The course will introduce the contemporary discussion about animal rights and animal welfare movement in order to have dialogue between ethical and religious perspectives towards the human-animal relationship.
RELI3077 Religion and Social Movements
- This course introduces students to the major social science theories of religion. We look at the explanatory value of these theories for various aspects of political development and social movements: institutions and structures, various forms of social movements, church-state relationship, civil society, and democratization. What effect does religion have on political democratization and social change within and across societies? How effective are current theories in adequately explaining the interplay between religion and social life? The course encourages a dialogue between different methodological approaches to the study of religion, politics and social movements.
RELI3086 Religion, Violence and Peace
- The complex relationship between religion, violence, and peace is a central problem that bridges the boundaries of academic disciplines, historical periods, and global cultures. In recent years it has taken center stage in a number of academic disciplines including history, anthropology, political science, and of course, religious studies. While some scholars have argued that religion has been “hijacked” by violence, others have asserted that religion is inherently violent. Still others have moved for a more nuanced argument by positing that religion, conflict, and violence are interwoven across history and cultures. They have stressed that religions sometimes nurture their identities by being in conflict with dominant cultures, and that this conflict is not necessarily always violent, but can produce enormous benefits. But are conflict and violence necessary components of religion? Can religion be a resource for peace? We shall explore this question and the viewpoints and arguments that inform it.
RELI3097 Psychology and Religion
- Why do humans need religion or spirituality? Is it rooted in the ignorance about or fear of the natural phenomena? Or the answers lie in a more sophisticated level, such as the existential search for meanings and values? The course will start with (1) a survey on the classical theories in Psychology of Religion proposed by Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung, and then (2) examine the current theoretical advancement in the field from the perspectives of Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Science and Social Psychology; and (3) the related issues of mental health, practices of mindfulness as well as religious terrorism.
RELI3105 Anthropology and Religion
- This course introduces students to anthropological approaches of studying religion. We will explore different theories in anthropology of religion. In the light of these theories, the course will further investigate different important themes, such as ritual, sacrifice, death, healing, religious activism and identities. In addition, we will explore the application of these anthropological theories and concepts in the field of Chinese religions in this course.
RELI3106 Religion and Modern Chinese Societies
- Since the beginning of the 20th century, religion in all its varied forms has come to play an increasingly visible and dynamic role in the transformation of Chinese societies. This vitality of religious practice has been witnessed in different dimensions such as secularization, modernization, post-modernism, post-colonialism and post-secularization. It draws attention to the role of religion in all Chinese societies, including Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, as well as overseas Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia and elsewhere. This course begins with exploring the religious, ethical and cultural issues in modern Chinese societies, as reflected through films and literature. Then, the course goes on to examine the interactions of religions with, and their impact on, Chinese societies.
RELI4015 Mysticism and Religious Experience
- This course examines the standard philosophical problems relating to the nature and interpretation of experiences that lead a person to believe he or she has come into contact with a “transcendent reality” (e.g., God). Special emphasis will be given to thinkers who have developed worldviews that center upon such religious or “mystical” experiences.
RELI4036 Religion and Ideology
- This course introduces students to the concept of ideology and its significance for the understanding of religion in the modern world. Through the particular example of Marxist critique of religion as ideology, the classical formulation of the concept of ideology is introduced. The validity and nature of this critique will then be considered. Various modern ideologies will then be surveyed, and their inherent strength and weakness will be set out in contrast with traditional religions.
RELI4037 Sociology of Religion and Modern Society
- This course is designed to introduce students to tools and concepts with which to understand the social organization of religion. We will analyze religion as it is embedded in and related to other aspects of the social and cultural system. Analyzing religion in relation to non-religious systems provides opportunities to develop understanding of both continuities and changes in the structure and role of religion in modern societies and the shifting boundaries of religious and non-religious activities.
RELI4046 Selected Topics/ Readings in Religious Studies
- The special course explores the advanced studies in the field of Religious Studies, geared toward the research interests of the faculty. The contents are designed by our faculty to engage students with new subject matter, current research approach, advanced methodological studies, etc. This is an advanced course; students without adequate background should consult the course instructor before enrollment.
RELI4065 Dialogue between Religion and Modern Science
- This course is mainly a study of the complex interplay between science and religion. Some emphasis will also be placed on how religion and modern science deal with issues concerned with the meaning of life. It begins with an invitation to the perennial problems of truth and meaning in science and religion. Different models of the interaction between religion and science will be explored. Then we will discuss whether modern science and religious worldviews are compatible in several major areas: biology, physics, and methodology. Important cases of conflict will also be analyzed in their historical contexts.
Study Area D: Ethics and Society
RELI3016 Philosophy, Morality and Society
- This course aims to (1) introduce students to major philosophical concepts, problems and theories of moral philosophy; (2) help develop students’ critical ability to tackle philosophical problems through studying the major philosophical concepts, problems and theories of moral philosophy; and (3) elucidate moral and sociopolitical implications of some religious traditions by means of relevant concepts, distinctions, and theories in moral philosophy.
RELI3045 Contemporary Ethical Problems: Hong Kong and Beyond
- This course will tackle three or more clusters of ethical issues that are especially relevant to Hong Kong society. Ethical issues in birth, death, sex and love will be discussed here because of public concern lately. Some other issues will be included when deemed necessary.
RELI3107 Chinese Moral and Political Philosophy
- This course offers an introduction to major Chinese moral and political philosophical traditions spanning the periods from the Warring States Period through imperial ages to the establishment and consolidation of the People’s Republic of China. It investigates the historical developments, notable divergences, and major ideas of key philosophical writers from various cultural and historical periods.
RELI3115 Theological Ethics
- This course aims to lay a foundation for RPE students in the third-focus of this degree, viz., ethics, with particular attention to the developments since World War I. Students will gain a basic knowledge of the major religious thinkers of the West such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Rahner, Helmut Thielicke, Jurgen Moltmann, and Paul Ramsey. In the process, some perennial topics will be discussed as well, such as the use of Bible in Christian ethics, love and justice, personal sanctification and social resistance, the principle of double effect, natural law theory and divine command theory, church and state. Philosophical critiques of Christian morality (e.g., Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell) will also be discussed.
RELI3116 Islamic Values and Contemporary Society
- This course will introduce central texts, beliefs, ethical understandings and religious practices of Islam. Special attention will be given to some specific ethical issues facing Muslims in contemporary society. The relationship of Islamic ethics to Islamic scholastic theology (kalām) and the Islamic law (Shari’ah) will be examined as well.
RELI3117 Service Leadership and Meaning of Life and Death
- This course aims to (1) deepen the understanding of meaning of life and death through both service-leadership learning and in-depth discussion and reflection upon relevant issues; (2) provide hand-on experience with practical application and invite in-depth reflection through fostering learners’ service leadership competencies; and (3) cover emotional aspects and practical skills so as to help students to be better prepared to understand and to face with matters like suicide, grief, bereavement, loss.
RELI3125 Social Justice, Liberalism and Economic Equality
- One main area of issues in social justice is the distribution and redistribution of resources and people’s proper rights to social and economic goods within a society. This course introduces some major philosophical theories of distributive justice, focusing on the specific debates between Rawlsian liberalism and other schools of thought like libertarianism and communitarianism. While Rawls strives for a balance among right, liberty and equality, libertarians emphasise choice and communitarians focus on social solidarity. This course explores the implications of these debates upon various concrete social issues, particularly under the Hong Kong context, and integrates them with theoretical discussions.
- This course incorporates policy and current issues into theoretical discussions. Special topics are incorporated from time to time to exhibit the wide range of perspectives on social justice. Flexibility in the choice of topics is allowed to reflect the expertise of individual course instructors, though some suggestions are made herewith.
RELI3126 Theology, Liberalism and Sex in Chinese Societies
- This course introduces students to the dialogue between Christian theology and Liberalism on human sexuality with reference to their impacts on Chinese societies. It studies the changing sex culture in the last few decades in the west and subsequent movements in contemporary Chinese societies. It explores the underlying ideologies and their impact. It introduces Christian theology of sexuality from historical, philosophical, and theological perspectives. The values of liberal sex culture and the Christian tradition are compared and evaluated in light of the problems, tensions and challenges arising from various selected issues in contemporary Chinese societies. These issues include pornography and prostitution, marriage and family, procreation and reproductive technologies, gender and homosexual relations, etc. The relevance of Christian values in public life and postmodern society will also be explored.
RELI4066 Ethics of Human Rights: Theories and Controversies
- The objective of this course is to teach students a balanced and comprehensive understanding of the debates on the ethics of human rights. This course covers both the theories of human rights and controversies of human rights in real cases. Some questions relevant to the ethics of human rights include: What are human rights? Are some rights more fundamental than others? Is it ever justifiable to violate these rights? Students will learn the concepts, philosophical traditions, and historical development of human rights. Some topics, which include the natural rights tradition from John Locke and liberalism, and the Asian values debate and Confucianism, will be discussed in class. This course also aims to enable students to apply ethical thoughts to contemporary political contexts of human rights. Students in this course will be expected to read texts critically. They should also be expected to contribute to class discussion.
RELI4067 Environmental Ethics
- After a brief historical introduction to the topic, main issues and interpretive positions found in contemporary environmental ethical discussions are introduced and explored. While presenting these issues as matters of ethics, there are also a number of practical concerns that have also been addressed in relationship to decision-making by persons, communities and governments in relationship to environmental problems. This course also includes a service learning element that will increase students’ awareness of practical means to address matters highlighted by various interpretive positions within environmental ethics.
RELI4075 Selected Topics/ Readings in Ethics
- This course aims at helping the student to investigate a specific ethical theme through a detailed study of a selected text; to arouse students’ interest in the important issues concerning social issues and social problems; to engage in a close reading of a selected ethical topic/ text so as to discover the major philosophical themes and insights contained therein; and to cultivate students’ ability in critically assessing various ethical viewpoints towards a controversial issue. This is an advanced course; students without adequate background should consult the course instructor before enrolment.