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PonderingPerson400

Insight on Princeton University's Religion, Ethics, and Politics program?

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So, I'm looking at potential PhD programs and noticed that Princeton's Religion, Ethics, and Politics PhD program is seldom mentioned on this site. For those who know, what are the logistics among this program in terms of reputation or teaching style? For specifically, are the professors more analytic or continental when it comes to their approach of studying Religion? My MDiv concentration would be in this field and I want to know what classes I should take to best prepare for PhD programs such as this.

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@PonderingPerson400

I know one PhD candidate who is currently working on his dissertation, and while he has a background  in religious ethics - I don't believe he or his faculty advisory committee is explicitly analytic/continental or really anything. I definitely can't speak for all of their students, but his dissertation would just as easily fit into a Religion & Society or even Patristics concentration. Hope this helps.

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Analytic/continental is not really a meaningful distinction in Religious Studies programs. The vast majority of RS scholars doing politics/social theory/ethics/etc. engage continental philosophy as it is utilized as "theory" broadly speaking. But many folks are not reading the primary source philosophers on which theory is based. Many RS scholars have not read, for example, Foucault, Deleuze, or Agamben but instead receive these figures through others who have read them and formed their own theories related to religion, e.g. Talal Asad. Even when you do encounter people who have read these figures, their understanding of them seems to be somewhat idiosyncratic, at least with respect to how philosophy/literature/theology programs engage them.

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I did my undergrad at Princeton years ago. It would be wise to read some articles/books from the current key players in the REP subfield. The senior faculty include Andrew Chignell, Eric Gregory, and Leora Batnitzky. To the extent that analytic/continental distinctions matter, Chignell is the most deeply steeped in Anglo-American philosophy, and does a lot of work on Kant as it pertains to analytic philosophy of religion (read any of his articles on Kant to get a taste). Gregory is more likely to be the adviser if you are interested in Christian ethics/theology. His approach tends to be more “analytic” also, as the field of religious ethics tends to be (it bears a lot of similarities to political theory and moral/political philosophy, with *perhaps* a greater appreciation for culture and/or history than those fields typically allow for). I’d take a look at his book on Augustine and liberalism. It’s pretty representative of the sort of style he operates in / traditions he takes part in. I don’t know much about Batnitzky, but she would be someone to research if you are interested in Judaic studies and the associated figures (Levinas, etc.).

The sort of poststructuralist, deconstructivist, phenomenological approaches (to lump a few distinct traditions haphazardly together) that you find used by people working in theology at, say, Chicago are in short supply in the Princeton department. I’m sure there are students there who do work that feels more “continental,” but I would imagine that they are swimming upstream to a certain extent.

Ultimately, though, I would read some of their stuff and see if you take to it. If you do, I’m sure by looking at their footnotes you can determine what sort of courses would be favorable to take in your MDiv program. Good luck!

Edited by Dewey

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