Ethics and Society
This program prepares students to do research and teach courses in theological
education and religious studies. The program focuses on the social and
moral significance of religion in modern society. Students are expected
to complete and integrate course work in the academic study of religion,
philosophical, theological, and social ethics, and social theory and analysis.
Students in Ethics are also expected to have a minor field of study. This
requirement may be satisfied in one of the other areas of study in the
Graduate Department of Religion (i.e., Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Historical
Studies, History and Critical Theories of Religion, Homiletics and Liturgics,
Religion and Personality, or Theological Studies). Students may also take
a minor in a variety of cognate disciplines within the human studies and
social sciences (i.e., philosophy, classics, political theory, comparative
literature, historical studies, medical humanities, anthropology, sociology,
political science, et al.).
II. Program Guidelines:
Successful completion of the program depends on meeting four requirements.
Students must  satisfy all course work with a minimum grade of B; 
pass two language examinations;  complete a set of Qualifying Examinations,
which are normally taken by or during the fifth semester after matriculation;
and  successfully complete and defend a dissertation.
1. Course Work: The Graduate School requires that students complete 72
hours of course work, of which a minimum of 24 hours are to be done in
residence at Vanderbilt. As much as 24 hours may be transferred from prior
post-baccalaureate work having a grade of B or higher and showing relevance
to the student’s major. (The number of transfer credits is determined
by the area faculty.) At least 12 hours of course work taken at Vanderbilt
will be required for the student’s minor; no transfer credits may
satisfy this requirement. The remaining hours may be distributed among
other courses, dissertation research hours, or special reading courses.
Methods in Ethics is the only required course for majors and must be successfully
completed prior to taking the Qualifying Examinations.
2. Language Examinations: Ph.D. students in Ethics must demonstrate research
competence in two languages. At least one of the languages should be a
modern European language, normally French, German, or Spanish. The choice
of the second language can depend on the student’s research area
and method: usually a second modern language relevant for research, a
biblical or other ancient language, the student’s native language
if not English, or a social science research method. Language examinations
are to be satisfied according to the specifications of the GDR and Graduate
3. Qualifying Examinations: Qualifying Examinations are given twice a
year, in November and April. After the completion of at least 36 hours
of graduate course work and the satisfaction of the language requirements,
examinations can be scheduled. The examinations, which are administered
by a qualifying committee, must be satisfied by the eighth semester after
enrollment. The Ethics program requires five examinations. The exams are
in (1) Social Theory and Policy Analysis, (2) Philosophical Ethics, (3)
Theological Ethics, (4) Minor Field, and (5) Dissertation Research. The
examinations in Social Theory and Policy Analysis, the Minor Field, and
Dissertation Research are usually satisfied by submitting papers. Philosophical
Ethics and Theological Ethics are sit-down, timed examinations.
4. Dissertation: Dissertations in Ethics must meet scholarly criteria
as well as the procedural specifications of the Graduate School. Some
important considerations to observe when anticipating the dissertation
are: [a] Is the student methodologically equipped to complete the project?
[b] Is the project sufficiently focused?  Are there ample resources
for pursuing the project in a reasonable time? [d] Does the dissertation
make a significant contribution to the field? [e] Is the dissertation
of publishable quality? After the dissertation has been completed, it
will be defended before the Ph.D. committee.
NOTE: This description of requirements supplements The
Bulletin of Vanderbilt University Graduate School and "The
Guidelines of the Graduate Department of Religion." Students are
expected to meet all of the common requirements of the graduate program
as described in those publications.
in Ethics and Society are eligible for fellowships
in Theology and Practice.