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Keywords:

  • comparative religious ethics;
  • virtue;
  • Lee Yearley;
  • spiritual exercises;
  • practical rationality;
  • anthropology

Abstract

This paper presents a critical appraisal of the recent turn in comparative religious ethics to virtue theory; it argues that the specific aspirations of virtue ethicists to make ethics more contextual, interdisciplinary, and practice-centered has in large measure failed to match the rhetoric. I suggest that the focus on the category of the human and practices associated with self-formation along with a methodology grounded in “analogical imagination” has actually poeticized the subject matter into highly abstract textual studies on normative voices within traditions, largely in isolation from considerations of socio-historical context, political and institutional pressures, and the lived ethics of non-elite moral actors. I conclude with some programmatic suggestions for how the field of comparative religious ethics can move forward.