A survey of developments over the last forty years suggests that little progress has been made in the development of comparative religious ethics as a discipline. While authors working in this field have produced a number of interesting works, the field lacks structure, including an agreement on the basic purpose, terms, and approaches by which contributions may be evaluated as better or worse. I provide an account of this history, suggesting that a way forward will involve marrying ethicists' interest in (...) arguments with close attention to the more and less formal structures by which groups of people organize the giving and taking of reasons. (shrink)
The Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) project represented here through papers by Thomas Lewis, Aaron Stalnaker, Hans Lucht, and Lee Yearley (with responses) was motivated by the judgment that the trend toward a focus on virtue ethics, with attendant concern for techniques of forming selves, creates an opportunity for a dialogue with ethnographers. I argue that the CSWR essays neglect social and institutional considerations, as well as overdrawing the distinction between “formalist” and virtue approaches to the study (...) of comparative ethics. (shrink)
What can the study of the comparative ethics tell us about the similarities and divergences between the just war and jihad traditions? How can the discipline help locate shared concerns, identify persistent differences, and reveal common narratives?
This essay illustrates the kind of moral analysis Jeffrey Stout advocates in "Democracy and Tradition" by way of examining a conversation among Muslims that took place between June and December 2002. Their debate centers on al-Qaìda's legitimacy as God's chosen defender of Islam, which is called into question due to the tension between al-Qaìda's military tactics and the concepts of honorable combat held within the Islamic tradition. This giving and taking of reasons in both defense and detraction of al-Qaìda's tactics (...) demonstrates the living reality of Islamic tradition--the ongoing process of striving to discern God's will in light of communal agreements about the authority of certain texts and the validity of established rules for interpreting them. (shrink)
Has moral relativism run its course? The threat of 9/11, terrorism, reproductive technology, and globalization has forced us to ask anew whether there are universal moral truths upon which to base ethical and political judgments. In this timely edited collection, distinguished scholars present and test the best answers to this question. These insightful responses temper the strong antithesis between universalism and relativism and retain sensitivity to how language and history shape the context of our moral decisions. This important and relevant (...) work of contemporary political and social thought is ideal for use in the classroom across many disciplines, including political science, philosophy, ethics, law, and theology. (shrink)
This essay was written for the 1984 General Motors Intercollegiate Business Understanding Program. It consists of three sections, each responding to a separate issue posed by General Motors. The opinions expressed are not those of the General Motors management.The first section attempts to document, through the use of Harvard Business Review articles, a shift in the notion of managerial responsibility from a narrowly focused role responsibility to a more widely focused moral responsibility.
Al-Shafi'i (d. 820) is clearly one of the most important figures in the early history of Islamic jurisprudence. His Risala or "Treatise" on the "principles of jurisprudence" (usul al-fiqh) is also of interest as an example of an approach to ethics that focuses on divine commands. Following a brief introduction, I offer the reader a few comments about al-Shafi'i's context. I summarize the content of the Risala and then analyze it as an example of divine command reasoning in ethics. Finally, (...) I present some observations on the place of al-Shafi'i's theory in the history of Islamic ethics, particularly with respect to his comments on ikhtilaf, "disagreement.". (shrink)
Students of Christian ethics have often noted the special relationship between Christianity and just war thinking in the West. For a variety of reasons, however, many of these have suggested that this " special " relation may not be unique. This essay begins to build on this suggestion by examining materials from the classical period of Islamic development. The conclusion of this examination is that a number of concerns identified with just war thinking are reflected in Islamic circles, as are (...) certain features of moral reasoning, e.g., the rule of double effect. Such similarities are, however, intimately connected with a worldview which is uniquely Islamic. And so the author closes with reflections and questions on the relationship between religion, morality, and war as illumined by the case of classical Islam. (shrink)
Qur'an 3:104 speaks of "commanding right and forbidding wrong" as a constitutive feature of the Muslim community. Michael Cook's careful and comprehensive study provides a wealth of information about the ways Muslims in various contexts have understood this notion. Cook also makes a number of comparative observations, and suggests that "commanding" appears to be a uniquely Muslim practice. Scholars of religious ethics should read Cook's study with great appreciation. They will also have a number of questions about his comparative comments. (...) In this article, I suggest that scholars of comparative ethics should think less about the "uniqueness" of the materials examined by Cook, and more about the ways groups of human beings discipline their members, thereby constituting and maintaining themselves as communities of virtue. (shrink)
One of the ways Islamic tradition addresses questions of military ethics is through inquiries into the shari'a, indicating the ideal way of life and usually rendered as Islamic 'law'. Discussion of the shari?a includes an extended conversation concerning the justification and conduct of war. The work of al-Shaybani (d. 804) and other early scholars in the Hanafi school illustrates an important moment in this conversation, establishing precedents to which subsequent generations of Muslims (including contemporary Muslims) must respond. Further, the accomplishments (...) of these scholars provide an important example to all those engaged in thinking about military ethics. (shrink)
The late twentieth century has provided both reasons and occasions for reassessing just war theory as an organizing framework for the moral analysis of war. Books by G. Scott Davis, James T. Johnson, and John Kelsay, together with essays by Jeffrey Stout, Charles Butterworth, David Little, Bruce Lawrence, Courtney Campbell, and Tamara Sonn, signal a remarkable shift in war studies as they enlarge the cultural lens through which the interests and forces at play in political violence are identified and evaluated. (...) In his review of the contribution made by these texts, the author focuses on the cohesion of just war theory, the asymmetry between Christian and Islamic attitudes toward holy war, and the need to develop just war theory into a tool adequate to assist in the moral evaluation of violent conflicts within, not just between, nation-states. (shrink)
In this essay, I take up the critique of Christian pacifism offered in Nigel Biggar’s In Defence of War. 1 Focusing on the New Testament, Biggar argues that the evidence does not suggest a requirement of pacifism for Christians. This seems correct, but I argue that Biggar’s critique should be extended through an engagement with the Old Testament and other sources that inform Christian practical reason.
This article provides a brief introduction to articles reflecting on the current state of conversation regarding religion and violence. I begin by noting the occasion for which the articles were developed, then note some of the points made by each of the authors.
We can begin with a story. In his account of the reign of Harun al-Rashid, al-Tabari spends considerable time on the matter of Yahya ibn Abdallah. Scion of the family of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, Yahya was the leader of a group active in Daylam, a region in present-day Iran. Al-Rashid and other Abbasid leaders laid claim to the territory, but at the time they did not have effective control over it. Ever-sensitive to the challenge presented by sentiment favoring the (...) house of ‘Ali, al-Rashid and his advisers devised a scheme by which the ruler of Daylam received payment for persuading Yahya to turn himself in. He did so, but only on the condition that al-Rashid provide him with a written aman, or guarantee of security. (shrink)
Recent discussions of religious, cultural, and/or moral diversity raise questions relevant to the descriptive and normative aims of students of religious ethics. In conversation with several illustrative works, the author takes up (1) issues of terminology, (2) explanations or classifications of types and origins of plurality and pluralism, (3) the relations between pluralism as a normative theory and the aims of a liberal state, and (4) the import of an emphasis on plurality or pluralism for the comparative study of religious (...) ethics. (shrink)