Course Descriptions

Spring 2024

PHIL 156-01T
Buddha & Benedict
Mon/Wed/Fri 12:40-1:35pm with Charles Wright
CRN #19070
(HM, HE, BN)

This class will investigate how one gains authentic insight into one's own true nature, into the true nature of the world we inhabit, and the relation between the two.  We will examine the answers given to this question in Buddhism and in the Rule of St. Benedict.

What students in this class will learn is that whether one seeks understanding of God, or of the way humans nurture their dissatisfaction with life, or of the way all things exist in dependence on one another, there are striking resemblances and affinities between the practices by which Buddhists and Benedictines seek to come to this understanding, despite differences in doctrine.  Students will also learn about the remarkable similarities in the challenges experienced by practitioners of these different Ways as they seek to attain understanding.


The class will start with the teachings of Buddhism, first in their oldest form and then as they have taken root in the United States.  We will then familiarize ourselves with the Rule of St. Benedict.  Finally, we will read Benedict’s Dharma, a book conceived and written on the campus of St. John’s University in which contemporary American Buddhist teachers share their reflections on their encounter with the Rule of Benedict. 

Class requirements will include journaling, regular contemplative practice (prayer or meditation), and a reflective essay.

PHIL 367-01A
Philosophy of Mind
Tue/Thurs 11:10am-12:30pm with Emily Esch
CRN # 19518
(CS, ES)

Philosophy of Mind explores a number of issues of interest to contemporary philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists. It is designed with a particular interdisciplinary aim: to examine how the empirical work of scientists informs the theories of contemporary philosophers and how the work of philosophers deepens our understanding of the science.

The course is designed around two topics: the relationship between the mind and the body and the nature of our concepts and mental representations. As we discuss these topics, we will be examining the ways these metaphysical questions are intertwined with questions of gender and race. The first unit is built around the psychologist Cordelia Fine's book about the latest science on the age-old nature versus nurture debates around gender. The second unit is built around the philosopher Ron Mallon's book about the categories humans use for thinking with a special emphasis on racial categories. Both books are remarkable because of the ways that they bring together biology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and several branches of philosophy.

PHIL 377A-01J
Feminist Ethics
Tues/Thurs 11:30am-12:50pm with Jean Keller
CRN # 19517
(HE, ES)

From analyses of power, privilege, and oppression, to the embodied feminism of Beth Berila, to the intersectional justice-oriented feminism of Ross and Solinger, and more, students in this course will explore contrasting – and complementary –feminist conceptions of justice and apply them to a burning contemporary gender issue—reproductive justice.

Berila reminds us that how we get “there” matters. Thus, while the course focuses on developing and applying feminist justice theories, just as important for us will be learning, and practicing together, how to “embody feminism.” That is, examining what it means to take responsibility for social injustice and be an ally, how to listen to others charitably--even when we disagree, and how to sustain our selves, as we learn to engage in actions—whether small or large--that help create a more just world. 

College of Saint Benedict
Saint John’s University

Erica Stonestreet
Chair, Philosophy Department
SJU Quad 362F

Laura Schmitz
Department Coordinator
SJU Quad 362D