On Comparative Religious Ethics as a Field of Study

Journal of Religious Ethics 42 (2):358-384 (2014)
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This essay is a critical engagement with recent assessments of comparative religious ethics by John Kelsay and Jung Lee. Contra Kelsay's proposal to return to a neo-Weberian sociology of religious norm elaboration and justification, the authors argue that comparative religious ethics is and should be practiced as a field of study in active conversation with other fields that consider human flourishing, employing a variety of methods that have their roots in multiple disciplines. Cross-pollination from a variety of disciplines is a strength of comparative ethics, which has enlivened recent and ongoing research on ethics, not a problem to be resolved by convergence on a single, distinctively comparative project. The authors also argue in response to Lee and Kelsay that while individual comparative studies of virtue and personal formation can be flawed in various ways, this line of research has been productive and at times very compelling. Moreover, attention to comparative virtue ethics shows how scholarship on some ethical topics necessitates drawing on a variety of perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds, a conclusion relevant to all work in religious ethics today



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