Finding One's Place in the Text: A Look at the Theological Treatment of Caste in Traditional India

Journal of Religious Ethics 17 (1):1 - 29 (1989)
Abstract
Comparative ethics has become increasingly aware of the worldviews and patterns of moral values imbedded in the data collected from various cultures and religions. This paper argues that we must also attend to the explicitly developed theories and analyses articulated outside our "modern" contexts. As truly explanatory constructs, such theories are more than data awaiting our interpretations; as indigenous, they often do not mirror our contemporary theories in presuppositions or implications. To exemplify this kind of highly developed position as a true "peer" of our modern theory, several connected orthodox Hindu evaluations of caste are examined. Such positions can usefully illuminate issues in the observer's culture, thus widening the scope and value of comparison; unexpected parallels between the debate over caste and the debate over women's ordination in the Roman Catholic church are noted to illustrate this latter potential.
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