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COMPARATIVE RELIGIOUS ETHICS AND THE PROBLEM OF “HUMAN NATURE”

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ABSTRACT

Comparative religious ethics is a complicated scholarly endeavor, striving to harmonize intellectual goals that are frequently conceived as quite different, or even intrinsically opposed. Against commonly voiced suspicions of comparative work, this essay argues that descriptive, comparative, and normative interests may support rather than conflict with each other, depending on the comparison in question, and how it is pursued. On the basis of a brief comparison of the early Christian Augustine of Hippo and the early Confucians Mencius and Xunzi on the topic of “human nature,” this paper advocates a particular account of comparative religious ethics, and argues for the complexity of the idea of “human nature.” Different elements of this family of concerns are central to religious ethics generally, and to theories and practices of moral development and personal formation specifically.
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Keywords: Augustine; Christian ethics; Confucian ethics; Mencius; Xunzi; comparative ethics; human nature; moral development; person

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-06-01

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