Philosophy and Religion

Programs and Events

Events for Academic Year 2016-2017


2017 Annual WC Philosophy and St. John’s Roundtable on March 21


Tuesday, March 21 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. in stadium skybox

“A Brief Case for the Useful Arts” is an essay by Matthew Crawford featured in our discussion this year co-lead by Tutors Tom May and Matthew Holtzman of St. John’s College in Annapolis. Copies of the essay to read beforehand are available from Prof. Kevin Brien ( ). Dr. Holtzman was formerly a Visiting Assistant Professor in the WC Philosophy Department.

The event has been an annual tradition since 2002-03.  Each year, students and faculty of the two institutions gather for a St. John’s-style seminar discussion, usually regarding a classic philosophical or literary text, or an otherwise notable essay.     


Spring 2017 Series on “Faith And…”


Sponsored by the WC Institute for Religion, Politics, and Culture, and supported by the WC Philosophy and Religion Program, this series features talks by noted scholars and public figures on interdisciplinary topics in faith and religion.

All talks are in Litrenta Auditorium in Toll Science Bldg. 


“Faith and Leadership”  March 22 at 6 pm

Al Sikes, former FCC head


“Faith, Politics, and the Ivory Tower”  March 24 at 5 pm

Josh Dunn, Center for Government, U Colorado Springs  


“Faith and Science”  April 6 at 7 pm

JP Moreland, noted philosopher, Talbot School of Theology


“Faith, Law, and Liberty”  April 12 at 7:30 pm

Shannon Holzer, award winning author


“Faith and the Emotions”  April 18 at 6:30 pm

James Smith, theologian, Calvin College


“Faith and Music”  May 3 at 6 pm

Andrew Balio, Principle Trumpet, Baltimore Symphony




Philosophy and Religion Events:

Academic Year 2014-15

Fall 2014

“On Forgiveness” with Dr. Steven Wolin


Steven J. Wolin, M.D. is clinical of professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical School in Washington DC, where he was a long time investigator at the Center for Family Research (1975-1995) and director of the Department of Psychiatry’s family therapy training program (1985-2009). September 11th, 2014, at 4:30 p.m. Hynson Lounge - open to the public.

“Life and Thought of Edmund Burke” with Burke expert


Noted Burke scholar Ian Crowe speaks about the 18th century British politician and political theorist on Monday, Oct. 6 in Hynson Lounge at 7:00 p.m.


Spring 2015


Annual Philosophy - St. John’s Roundtable: ‘The American Scholar’


The Department of Philosophy and Religion annually hosts a seminar, open to the public, on a classic philosophical text, normally co-led by Thomas May and Matthew Holtzman, both Tutors at St. John’s Annapolis. Holtzman was until recently (2013) a Visiting Professor in the WC department for some years.

The event emphasizes audience and co-leader discussion of a text read prior to the event.

This year’s roundtable is on Wed., March 18th at 4:30 pm in Sophie Kerr Room of Miller (Main) Library. The text will be Ralph Waldo Emerson’s classic, The American Scholar, an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Cambridge, MA in 1837.

Link to the text for the audience is here:

Expert on Jewish Historical Jewish Communities Presenting April 15th


Dr. Gary Schiff, a scholar of Jewish history and culture, annually presents his ongoing research on the history of certain Jewish communities. Dr. Schiff, of Chestertown, taught for many years in the WC graduate program in history.

This year’s presentation, “In Search of Dutch Jewry: Mokum and Mediene,” is in Hynson Lounge from 5:00-6:30 p.m.


Academic Year 2013-2014 —-


Panel on Catholic Social Teaching, April 30


Students shared their research from the Spring 2014 ‘Religion and the Law’ course taught by Ernesto Velazquez and Joseph Prud’homme, and visiting experts commented, during an April 30, 6:30 pm Hynson Lounge panel on “Catholic Social Thought and the Law.”

Distinguished guest commentators included: Ernesto Velazquez (Supreme Court of Ecuador, Catholic U of Ecuador, WC Philosophy and Religion Dept); William Gorman (Archdiocese of Wash. DC); Fred Israel (Attorney); Anthony Annett (International Monetary Fund)

Annual Roundtable: Kant on What is Enlightenment?


On Wednesday, March 26th, the Department of Philosophy and Religion hosted a seminar on Immanuel Kant’s highly influential essay, What is Enlightenment? The seminar was co-led by Thomas May and Matthew Holtzman, both Tutors at St. John’s Annapolis. Holtzman, who was Visiting Assistant Professor at WC from 2010-2013, recently accepted a permanent position with St. John’s, his undergraduate alma mater. We were pleased to have him return to WC. The discussion was 4-6 p.m. in the Sophie Kerr Room on the second floor of the Miller Library. The roundtable format encourages audience discussion and (if possible) prior reading of a select translation. 

Philosopher on ‘Learning to Flourish’

The Theta of Maryland chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society presented a talk by philosophy professor Daniel DeNicola, author of Learning to Flourish: A Philosophical Exploration of Liberal Education, on Thursday, March 27.  The lecture, “Flourishing as an Educational Project,” took place at 4:30 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, at Washington College.

The Oxford Seminar

Students of the Philosophy and Religion Program, in partnership with the Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture, have been going on the Oxford Research Seminar. The seminar, usually revolving around a theme in religion and politics, takes place over ten days at Oxford University in England, at the end of June while Oxford undergraduates are still in session. The program includes one-on-one tutoring and advising with Oxford faculty. Past philosophy students have subsequently been admitted to Oxford graduate programs. Students have obtained ample funding from a variety of sources. Ask the program director, Prof. Joseph Prud’homme (, for details.

Bringing Philosophy to Prisoners Program

The Partners in Philosophy Prison Program continued this Summer 2013 in Jessup Correctional Institute, a maximum security prison near Baltimore. The program was begun in 2011 by James Schelberg ’12 and Jared Rankin (formerly WC ’13 now Bard College ’14). They began on their own initiative and do not receive outside funding, often using their own money for travel and teaching expenses. (In Summer 2013 they did obtain a very modest grant to pay for copies of the prisoners’ books.)

Prisoners meet with a series of WC professors twice a week for several weeks in courses devoted to the Humanities. Each meeting in a course will normally be with a different WC instructor. In Summer 2013 Rankin organized over two dozen prisoners and several WC professors in a close, multi-week reading of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.  Profs. Kevin Brien and Peter Weigel of the WC Philosophy and Religion Dept. each contributed a session introducing Aristotle and the Ethics. Jim Schelberg in Spring 2014 taught a course in basic logic and argumentation.
More information on the program is available by request from the Department.

Philosophy Club

The Philosophy Club meets regularly for scheduled, student lead events, from September through April. The Club holds its own events, outings, and discussions over and above department scheduled events.

Contact Meghan Cooney (mcooney2) or Kevin Brien (kbrien2) to be placed in regular contact. Membership carries no obligation and is open to all WC students regardless of major.

Senior Thesis Becomes an Intellectual Odyssey

Senior philosophy major Patrick Cannon ’12 wrote his thesis on “The Neural Basis of Spiritual Experience.” In the process he interviewed Noam Chomsky and Huston Smith.

Researching his nearly 80 page thesis on possible neurological basis of mystical experiences across cultures involved in-person interviews with Huston Smith, the comparative religion scholar of public television fame. He also spoke at length with Noam Chomsky, noted MIT linguist and public activist.


Dept of Philosophy and Religion Speakers and Events, 2012-2013

Events are open to the WC community and public.


Scholar’s Insights on Dead Sea Scrolls

One of the foremost experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lawrence Schiffman, lectured on  “Scholars, Scrolls and Scandals: The Dead Sea Scrolls, Judaism and Christianity” on October 22.
One of the foremost experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Schiffman, spoke to a standing room only crowd in the Litrenta Lecture Hall of the John S. Toll Science Center.


The talk was co-sponsored by the Department of History, the Department of Philosophy and Religion, and the Institute for Religion, Politics & Culture.

On Religion and Music from India

On February 23 a well-occupied Hotchkiss Recital Hall listened to a talk on the spiritual teachings of Swami Vivekananda by Rev. Victor Parachin, who recently edited and introduced a new book, Swami Vivekananda: Essential Writings and
a performance of Northern Indian Music featuring Allyn Miner on sitar and Sudev Sheth on tabla drum.

Swami Vivekananda has been called a “great awakener of the Soul of India in modern times” who influenced the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and many others. 

Co-sponsored by the Dept. of Philosophy and Religion, the William James Forum, the Dept. of Music, and The Institute for Religion, Politics and Culture.

St. John’s College / WC Annual Philosophy Roundtable: Plutarch’s Life of Cato the Younger

On Wednesday, March 20th, the Department of Philosophy and Religion hosted a seminar on Plutarch’s portrait of Cato the Younger, Roman statesman and Stoic philosopher. The seminar was co-led by Thomas May, St. John’s Tutor, and Matthew Holtzman from the Department of Philosophy and Religion, and took place from 4.30 until around 6 p.m. in Hodson Faculty Lounge.

Holtzman, who was a Visiting Assistant Professor at WC from 2010-2013, recently accepted a full-time, tenure track job with St. John’s, his undergraduate alma mater, starting in the Fall of 2013. We bid him farewell with all good wishes for returning to St. John’s now with the title of ‘Tutor’ Holtzman.

Theologian Speaks on Boredom

“How to Be Bored: Thoughts from Literature, Philosophy, and Theology,” was a lecture by Rev. Nicholas Lombardo, O.P. The talk begins at 7 p.m. on April 15 in Litrenta Lecture Hall, Toll Science Center. It is free and open to the public.

Lombardo explored shifting cultural attitudes and assumptions about boredom throughout human intellectual history. Drawing on literature, philosophy, and theology, he will discuss what it means to be bored and what makes us bored, and then suggest ways to minimize the world’s aggregate boredom, starting first of all with ourselves. Lombardo is an Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at The Catholic University of America.

The National Holocaust Museum and a Life in Philanthropy

Joseph M. Brodecki shared his deep involvement in getting  started the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and he now serves on its governing council. He visited Washington College Tuesday, April 23 to talk about the museum and his life in philanthropy.