Senior Seminar: Religion and Philosophy

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Senior Seminar: Religion and Philosophy

REL/PHIL 465 (3 hrs), Manchester College, Fall 2009


Dr. Steve Naragon []: Ad Bldg., #231c (Phone — office: 982-5041; home: 982-6033)

Prof. Kate Eisenbise []: Ad Bldg., #201 (Phone — office: 982-5348)

Required Texts

(1) Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference (recent edition).

Course Objectives

A seminar is a class-format that arose at the very end of the eighteenth century in certain German universities. The word comes from the Latin seminarium, which means “seed plot.” It is the responsibility of each member of the seminar both to plant seeds as well as to nurture and otherwise encourage the seedlings of others, when it turns out that one of their seeds was viable and sprouted.

This seminar is an advanced study of topics in religion and philosophy, focusing on the research and evaluation of the current literature. It is an opportunity for religion and philosophy majors, near the end of their college career, to explore various topics in these two disciplines by reading — and presenting to each other these readings — from the recent professional literature, viz., scholarly journals, as well as essays written for the educated lay audience.

The first half of the semester will be given over to this free exploration and study of ideas, but during this time students should also be considering and exploring possible paper topics, as the second half of the semester will be devoted to researching and writing a major research paper (15-20 pp). Apart from learning a great deal about some particular topic in your discipline, this will provide you with an opportunity to develop your research and writing skills. The articles that you present to class should be directly related to your research project, and a significant portion of class time will also be given over to discussing research strategies.

Requirements and Grading

Readings. Study the readings closely prior to class, and always bring them with you to class.

Class Participation. A seminar succeeds to the extent that its members attend regularly, arrive prepared, and engage in constructive discussion. A significant part of your course grade will reflect your contribution to the class discussions. Each class period will be graded following a 6 pt. rubric (see below).

Presentations. Seminar members will take turns presenting articles to the class (about six each). Everyone will have read the article closely, but the presenter will lead the discussion, and will be expected to have gathered together and studied any other materials useful for understanding the article. See the 6 pt. rubric, below.

Copies of the articles need to be distributed to the class at least 48 hours before we are to discuss them, and preferably one week before. If the article is in a digital format (.pdf, .doc, .rtf), then email it to me and I’ll post it to ANGEL (each member should then print off their own copy). If the article is in a paper format only, then give me a clean photocopy or the article and I’ll make copies for everyone and leave outside my office door.

Presentation Essays. Students will write a two-page (600 word) summary and response to each article they present to the seminar, due no later than the night before. See the 6 pt. rubric, below.

Please submit your 2pp. essays into the appropriately numbered “drop box” (E1-E6) on ANGEL. All seminar members are able to read all submissions made here.

Essays are due at midnight before the day of presentation.

Late submissions are docked one point per day late.

Research Paper. One research paper, due near the end of the term. This must be typed, 15-20 pp. It will be graded on the clarity and concision of your writing, grammar and mechanics (such as spelling), documentation (MLA please), and how well you appeared to have understood the topic itself. Please see the 10 pt. rubric, below.

One-fourth of this grade (= 10% of the course grade) is determined by successfully meeting certain deadlines: (1) topic [Mon, Sep 21], (2) thesis paragraph and preliminary bibliography [Mon, Oct 5], (3) annotated bibliography [Mon, Oct 26], (4) outline with summary paragraphs [Mon, Nov 16], (5) first draft (= the best paper you can write) [Fri, Dec 4], (6) final draft [Mon, Dec. 14].

Grading. Participation, the set of class presentations, and the set of presentation essays is each worth 20% of the course grade, while the research paper is worth 40%. We will use the following letter grade conversion scale: A (94-100), A- (90-93), B+ (87-89), B (83-86), B- (80-82), C+ (77-79), C (73-76), C- (70-72), D+ (67-69), D (63-66), D-(60-62), F (0-59).

Plagiarism. Avoid this or perish! Plagiarism consists of submitting the statements, ideas, opinions, or findings of another as if they were your own. It is not plagiarism to copy from or paraphrase a source as long as this is acknowledged and the source is properly cited. See the college Catalog for a fuller discussion.


Participation Rubric (6 points total)

Strong work (2)

Needs development (1)

Unsatisfactory (0)


Comments indicated a careful attention to the comments of others

Comments indicated some attentiveness to others.

Comments unrelated to what others said

Quality of contributions

Comments were relevant and re­flected an understanding of the text(s) and previous remarks of other stud­ents

Comments betrayed a lack of prepar­ation or lack of attention to the re­marks of others

Comments reflected little un­der­standing of either the assign­ment or previous remarks

Frequency of participation

Actively participated at appropriate times

Sometimes participated but at other times “tuned out”

Seldom participated and was generally disengaged

Presentation Rubric (6 points total)

Strong work (2)

Needs development (1)

Unsatisfactory (0)

Accuracy of Information

Clear grasp of the text and related ideas; no factual misstatements.

Presentation contained some confusions.

Serious misunderstanding of the text.

Clarity of Presentation

Easy to follow, a joy to listen!

A bit lacking in focus, or difficult to follow.

Considerable room for improving your oral presentation skills.

Use of Time

Focused presentation; well-planned.

Some rambling in evidence.

Vita brevis!

Presentation Essay Rubric (6 points total)

Strong work (2)

Needs development (1)

Unsatisfactory (0)


Clear grasp of the text and related ideas; no factual misstatements.

Some unclarity or lack of focus.

Serious misunderstanding of the text or unfocused discussion.


Careful and fair handling of the arguments in the article; awareness of surrounding context and issues.

Fails to make certain obvious points, or misrepresents the author’s position.

Serious failures in this regard.


Good use of topic sentences; no errors of spelling, punctuation, or grammar.

Two or more errors.

A close study of Hacker is in order.

Research Essay Rubric (10 points total)


(4) There is one clear, well-focused topic or thesis; the support given displays a good understanding of the issue.

(3) The thesis is ambiguous or vague, or a significant aspect of the topic is missing or lacks support.

(2) The thesis displays a limited sense of the issue, or else support is nearly absent.

(1) There is little focus to the paper.

Organization and Expression

(3) The material is presented clearly and concisely; paragraphs are well-ordered and with good transitions; writing is fluent and clear

(2) Three or more problems [awk (awkward construction), WC (word choice), tr (transition), ¶? (paragraph?), TS (topic sentence)]

(1) Five or more problems.


(2) Good use of topic sentences; no errors of spelling, punctuation, or grammar.

(1) Three or more errors [circled misspellings, missing or incorrect punctuation].


(1) The sources used are properly incorporated (quoted/paraphrased) and cited (in-text/bibliography).

(0) See Hacker.

Reading, Presentation, and Discussion Schedule

Wed, Sep 2

Introduction to the class

Fri, Sep 4

Class will meet in the library.

Mon, Sep 7

Presenter: Naragon

Reading: Weinberg, “Without God”

Wed, Sep 9

Presenter: Eisenbise

Reading: Attridge, “The Case for Judas”

Fri, Sep 11


Mon, Sep 14



Wed, Sep 16



Fri, Sep 18



Mon, Sep 21



Camp Mack Day —

Fri, Sep 25
Mon, Sep 28
Wed, Sep 30
Fri, Oct 2
Mon, Oct 5
Wed, Oct 7
Fri, Oct 9
—— Fall Break ——
Wed, Oct 14
Fri, Oct 17
Mon, Oct 19
Wed, Oct 21
Fri, Oct 23
Mon, Oct 26
Wed, Oct 28
Fri, Oct 30
Mon, Nov 2
Wed, Nov 4
Fri, Nov 6
Mon, Nov 9
Wed, Nov 11
Fri, Nov 13
Mon, Nov 16
Wed, Nov 18
Fri, Nov 20
Mon, Nov 23
Wed, Nov 25
Thanksgiving —

Mon, Nov 30
Wed, Dec 2
Fri, Dec 4

[Naragon gone]

Mon, Dec 7
Wed, Dec 9
Fri, Dec 11

Finals Week

Mon, Dec 14: Final Draft due

Finals period: Presentation of Research

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