LLS On-Campus

LLS On-Campus

Spring 2017:

Four Religious Thinkers Who Changed the World (LLS 175)
Meets Thursdays, 7 – 9:30 p.m.
Feb. 9 - April 6, but not Mar. 9
Trotter Hall, Room 301

Among the most influential spiritual philosophies of the modern world are Christian existentialism, liberal humanism, Jewish animism, and liberation theology.  The thinkers behind these worldviews are, in the 19th century, Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche, and in the 20th century, Martin Buber and Martin Luther King, Jr.

This course explores formative works by each of those thinkers. We will do a critical reading of their major texts and discuss the promise and dangers of each on its own and in comparison with the others.


Major topics:

  • Regarding each thinker, we will examine the question of genuine selfhood in the modern world, and the similar and divergent responses each thinker offers to this question.
  • Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling asks the question, What does it mean to be human, to live authentically, in a world without the security of traditional religion?
  • Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals asks a similar question, but now from the perspectives of secularism and atheism—namely, how does the collapse of customary religion and morality set free a life filled with passion and purpose?
  • Martin Buber’s I and Thou offers the trove of Jewish mysticism to the modern world.  His central question is, What does it mean to enjoy an intimately spiritual relationship with both other human beings and the more-than-human beings in the natural world?
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World asks the profound question, How can a person of conscience, steeped in the ancient wisdom of the Abrahamic religions, confront massive injustice through direct, non-violent action?

The professor:

Mark Wallace, Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies at Swarthmore College.  He has been a visiting professor at The University of Pennsylvania, and he is core faculty for the U.S. State Department's program in interreligious affairs at Temple University. His books include Green Christianity (2010) and Finding God in the Singing River (2005), and he is a frequent contributor to the magazine Tikkun: Politics, Spirituality, Culture.

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