7 existential crises RPE students deal with daily

Imagine contemplating life, religion, and good and evil in a Tuesday morning lecture

Religion, Philosophy and Ethics students at King’s can sometimes have a tough time in their course, from battling existential crises weekly to trying to convince others that their degree is actually valuable. Here are 7 existential problems and questions RPE students constantly struggle with:

1. You’re not sure anything is real

Studying epistemology is rough– it makes you question whether everything is a simulation, or if we’re living in a dream, or maybe even if we live in the imagination of an evil demon. RPE students learn that nothing can be truly proven. Seeing objects exist around us does not prove anything, and we learn to question whether anything outside our minds is real. (And then there’s the path of solipsism…)

2. Wondering why all the language is so complex

Our reading lists features very little from the current century, so the language used is in sharp contrast to most students’ course texts. And take it from an RPE student, Latin phrases never make for straightforward reading. As a result, our readings take far longer to get through, as we keep reading and re-reading the same sentence simply to understand it.

3. Actually agreeing with Nietzsche

There can be nothing scarier for an RPE student than actually agreeing with Nietzsche’s radical claims. From his claim, declining belief in God and institutionalism, studying his works leads students to question the meaning of values and their own existence to the concept of nihilism.

4. So many questions about religion

Studying religion and philosophy guarantees that you will question God’s existence or at least study material that does this. Even if we assume that God does exist, would He be the God of the Abrahamic religions or would He be the God of Hinduism? Do we reincarnate until we reach enlightenment to go back to the four elements of earth as Buddhists believe? Can God change? These are all questions that we’ll never get just one answer to but will take ages to figure out. Since RPE students gain in-depth knowledge about many religions, we begin to identify with some parts of them all. Learning about other religions is all about trying to comprehend why certain groups of people believe in what they do, despite contradictions in their thoughts. Whether you belong to a different religion or don’t believe in it, there are takeaways relatable to every student.

5. Is there life after death?

From studying the Buddhist dhamma and the detachment of the self to investigating the Judeo-Christian concept of resurrection, RPE students consider the question of life after death from every possible angle. Questions about letting go of attachment to our bodies or whether we have a soul are just another Tuesday morning lecture, really.

6. Writing essays and exams about unanswerable questions

RPE students not only have to read about and ponder these difficult questions, but also write essays and answer exam questions about them. Most queries dealt with in our course do not have one, unchanging answer– they require abstract logic and reasoning skills. Figuring out how to develop essay responses worthy of at least a 2:1 is a crisis all on its own.

In spite of all this, being an RPE student has so many advantages, including developing a clear and analytical thinking style, learning to write and speak persuasively, as well as innovative questioning and practical reasoning that allow you to win any debate. I wouldn’t want to be studying anything else– even with all the existential crises, my degree gives me endless insights into the world.

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