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John Kelsay


Chair, Department of Religion
Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences 
Distinguished Research Professor
Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion
Bristol Distinguished Professor of Ethics

 

Departmental Area: Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy
Research Areas : Comparative Religious Ethics; Political Ethics; Religion and War

Address: Department of Religion
641 University Way / P.O. Box 3061520
The Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL 32306-1520
Office: 206D Dodd Hall
Email: jkelsay@fsu.edu
Office Hours: By Appointment

Curriculum Vitae

Background


John Kelsay (Ph.D. '85, University of Virginia, Ethics) focuses on religious ethics, particularly in relation to the Islamic and Christian traditions. His current work deals with religion and politics. Professor Kelsay serves as editor of Soundings:  An Interdisciplinary Journal, as well as Director of FSU’s Center for Humanities and Society.


Research Interests


  • Comparative Religious Ethics
  • Political Ethics
  • Religion and War

Selected Publications


Books

Articles

  • “Islamist Movements and Shari`a Reasoning” in Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 10/2 (July 2009): 121-134.
  • “Response” to critiques of Arguing the Just War in Islam by Davis, Ilesanmi, Johnson, Oh, and Tibi in Journal of Church and State 53/1 (2011):  73-83.

Current Research Projects


  • A book currently entitled The Just War Idea:  Historical and Comparative Perspectives
  • Articles on doctrines of predestination and their political implications 
     

Teaching Specializations

  • Religious Ethics
  • Christian and Islamic Political Thought

Recent Courses

Fall 2014


REL3170                       Religious Ethics    
Religious Ethics: In this class, you will get the chance to examine the moral problems raised by issues such as war, capital punishment, lying, the environment, and sex in the context of religious views about love, duty, good, and evil (yes, this is the big stuff).  This introduction to the study of religious ethics meets the writing, liberal studies area IV and the multicultural X requirement.

RLG5035                Introduction to the Study of Religion   
This seminar will review the theoretical and methodological foundations of the academic study of religion. It will focus on authors viewed as the founders and subsequent exponents and critics of the discipline. We will interrogate the arguments and evidence on which they ground the operating assumption that religion exists as an object of study and that, as a result, religious studies exists as an academic discipline. Our approach will be a critical one.  We will examine religion as a heuristic category and religious studies as a form of interdisciplinary research in which authors have made arguments as relevant to ritual and symbolic concerns as to those one could also label economic, political, or sociological. We will read and discuss germinal writings by Feuerbach, Marx, Durkheim, Freud, James, and Weber as well as works by their successors, such as Eliade and his students, major anthropologists of the British and French schools, as well as Bourdieu, Foucault, Asad, McCutcheon, Mahmood, Evans, and Vásquez. The course aims to provide students a context in which to hone their own formative questions about and develop their own theories of religion and religious studies.

Spring 2014


REL 3171-02  Topics in Ethics:  Courage in Ethics and Film 
This course introduces students to a variety of conceptions of courage.  In particular, we will be interested in the relationship between an Aristotelian account of courage as a virtue and a biblical conception by which courage involves heroism in the performance of one's duty.  Readings from philosophers, theologians, and historians are joined with viewing of several films, the point being to analyze characters in the films and to see how they exemplify one or the other of these notions of courage.  Through lectures, discussions, and several short papers students will develop an understanding of diverse accounts of courage as these relate to characters involved in war, resistance to injustice, politics, the possibility of martyrdom, and existential despair. 

REL 3430       Issues and Thinkers in Western Religious Thought:  Religion and War 
Exodus 15: 3 proclaims "The Lord is a warrior."  In this class, we will focus on the ways various communities of Jews, Christians, and Muslims have understood this notion in relation to changing social and political conditions. 

RLG 5937-03    Special Topics in Religion:  Religion and War
Exodus 15: 3 proclaims "The Lord is a warrior."  In this class, we will focus on the ways various communities of Jews, Christians, and Muslims have understood this notion in relation to changing social and political conditions.

RLG6176        Seminar: Ethics & Politics:   Comparative Religious Ethics
The focus of this seminar will be on describing and evaluating a variety of approaches to the comparative study of ethics proposed by scholars past and present.  

 

Fall 2013


REL3170           Religious Ethics  
This introduction to the study of religious ethics meets the Gordon Rule requirement, the liberal studies area IV requirement and the multicultural x requirement.  Students will examine the moral problems raised by issues such as deception, capital punishment, war, the environment, and human sexuality in the context of religious views about love, duty, good, and evil.  They will undertake this examination through close readings of texts describing views of different religious traditions including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam.  They will also develop and fine-tune their writing skills by completing two 1500 word papers.

REL4491/RLG5497         Sem Religious Thought: Muslim Theology
Readings and discussion of major authors, themes, and developments in classical and modern Muslim (especially Sunni) religious thought.  A particular interest will be the relationship between interpretations of doctrine and judgments about politics.