Philosophy & Religion

The Department of Philosophy and Religion at Coe offers courses designed to lead students to reflect on their views concerning fundamental issues in life and thought. These issues concern the nature of our world; the nature and possibilities of knowledge; and issues concerning the nature of society, values (both moral and religious), faith commitments and the divine.

The Department of Philosophy and Religion houses two distinct programs each offering a separate major with a broad range of course offerings. Class sizes within the Department vary, with most classes limited to twenty students, and enrollment in upper-level courses is generally fewer than fifteen. This small class size permits individualized attention and provides the opportunity for active participation in classroom discussion.


Philosophy & Religion Department Newsletter:
Fall 2017

Newsletter Archive

Fall 2016 (PDF)

Fall 2015 (PDF)

Fall 2014 (PDF)

Fall 2013 (PDF)

Philosophy Program News

Student News:

Last spring, the Philosophy Program graduated five philosophy majors; these were: Sarafina Feldman, Erik Franklin, Wesley Hoyer, Robert Kowynia, and Julie Rooney. Erik Franklin earned the Eutsler Prize, an award given annually to the outstanding senior philosophy major. In the spring, he defended his senior honors thesis, "A Moral and Metaphysical Examination of Retributive Punishment." After graduation, he moved to Portland, Oregon, where he lives with other recent Coe grads. He is contemplating attending a philosophy Ph.D. program in the future.

Several of our students presented philosophy papers at conferences during the spring semester. Wesley Hoyer presented "Freedom to Hate and Freedom to Harm: How a Tort Action Can Properly Address Both Concerns" at the second annual Iowa Human Rights Research Conference held on the campus of Cornell College on Saturday, April 1, 2017. Robert Kowynia presented "Responses to Criminal Behavior on a Hard Incompatibilist Perspective" at the Midwest Undergraduate Philosophy Conference held at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska on April 7-8, 2017. At this same conference, Julie Rooney also presented a paper entitled "Legal Paternalism." McCabe Professor of Philosophy, John Lemos, was in attendance at the conference with Robert and Julie, as well as other up and coming philosophy majors, such as Lucas Boley, Destiny Perry, Zeki Salah, Cy Spicer, and Meredith Wall. 

Wesley Hoyer is attending law school at the University of Iowa this fall. Julie Rooney was married this summer to Campbell Hunter and has taken a position working for Intervarsity in Omaha, Nebraska. Robert Kowynia and Sarafina Feldman have moved out to Colorado to find work.

Faculty News:

Howard Hall Professor of Philosophy, Jeff Hoover, continues with his research on the philosophy of subjectivity and self-awareness. He is working on a translation of F.D.E. Schleiermacher's Lectures on Dialectics which are arguably the principal source for his most central philosophical ideas.

This fall Professor Peter McCormick is in his last semester of teaching at Coe College. He is teaching a beginning level FYS courses on the philosophy of science course which features a lab and guest appearances by Coe faculty from five different sciences. In retirement he plans to read and write from his porch in Durango, Colorado.

Joseph McCabe Professor of Philosophy, John Lemos, was on sabbatical during the spring semester of last year. During that time, he wrote a book-length manuscript, A Pragmatic Approach to Libertarian Free Will, which he is hoping to publish. In the past academic year, he published the following papers:

  • "Waller, Responsibility Denial, and the Punishing of the Innocent," Syndicate Philosophy
  • "Hard-heartedness and Libertarianism Again: A Rejoinder to Double," The Journal of Philosophical Research DOI: 10.5840/jpr2017511104
  • "God's Existence and the Kantian Formula of Humanity," Sophia: An International Journal for Philosophical Theology.
  • "Moral Concerns About Responsibility Denial and the Quarantine of Violent Criminals," Law and Philosophy 35 (2016): 461-483.

In addition, he presented the following papers at conferences:

  • "Comments on Neil Campbell's 'Dual Efforts and Dual Responsibility'" presented at the Canadian Philosophical Association Meetings in Toronto, Canada on May 29, 2017.
  • "Is Free Will Denial a Threat to Human Dignity?" presented at the Future of Human Dignity Conference in Utrecht, Netherlands on October 12, 2016.

Religion Program News

Student News:

Our most recent crop of graduates are off doing great things. Last year, Religion major Gibson Odderstol successfully defended his Honor’s thesis in Religion on the Nineteenth-century Catholic thinker Orestes Brownson. After graduating, Odderstol spent the fall interning in Washington D.C. with the Kurdish Regional Government's envoy to the United States. He is currently in Malaysia as a Fulbright English Language Teaching Assistant. Religion major Tristan Menachof  is also abroad in Morocco with the Peace Corps. Slightly closer to home, Religion major Anton Jones relocated to Portland, OR, where he works with Two Men and a Truck and volunteers as a scribe with Write Around Portland, an organization that holds writing workshops for retirement homes, homeless shelters, and other groups, and publishes an anthology of participants' writing at the end of the year. As Anton explains, "When their hands can no longer write, I write down their thoughts for them." Religion minor Marina Silva currently works with College Possible in Chicago, an organization which helps low-income students access higher education. Religion minor Aimee Hyndmann published her second novel, Seasons of the Wind (Clockwork God Chronicles) in September with Curiosity Quills Press.  

Faculty News:

Last fall, Meira Kensky's paper "The Divine Courtroom in the Book of Job: God as Prosecutor, Judge, and Defendant," was presented at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting, with a formal response by Dalit Rom-Shiloni of Tel Aviv University. She spent the year acting as Coe's Director of First-Year Experience, and is currently on Sabbatical working on several ongoing projects. She just completed a paper called "Ephesus, Loca Sancta: The Acts of Timothy and Religious Travel in Late Antiquity," which will be published in a Fetzschrift for Judith Perkins next year. This summer, Chris Hatchell visited Menri Monastery, a Tibetan monastery located in northern India, where he worked on his translation of a biographical text known as the Zermik (gzer mig). In August, he was granted tenure at Coe and promoted to Associate Professor. In the upcoming year, he will be on sabbatical, and will continue work on his translation and research into the Tibetan Bon religious tradition. He will spend part of the spring semester at Menri Monastery in India. With both Kensky and Hatchell on Sabbatical, the program was left in the capable hands of Geoff Chaplin and William McGrath, who spent a year at Coe as Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion. Next fall, Kensky will co-direct the Associated Colleges of the Midwest's Newberry Library Seminar in the Humanities, and Chaplin will spend the term as Scholar-in-Residence at the Newberry Library.