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2024 | OriginalPaper | Buchkapitel

Normativity and Solidarity

verfasst von : Bharat Ranganathan

Erschienen in: Religion and Social Criticism

Verlag: Springer Nature Switzerland

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Abstract

What methodologies should characterize religious ethics? How should religious ethics relate (or not relate) to religious studies? These questions have long confronted religious ethicists. But in the last decade, debates about what is and isn’t religious ethics have expanded and intensified, including not only disciplinary relationships and methodological commitments but also what the meaning and goals of religious ethics ought to be. In this chapter, I first briefly rehearse recent debates concerning whether and how religious ethics ought to be practiced. Second, I offer my own constructive proposal. Drawing from Richard B. Miller and David Hollenbach, my proposal argues that religious ethicists should use normative methodologies and by informed by a sense of intellectual solidarity. Given that we live in increasingly diverse and interconnected communities and are confronted by ever more pressing moral and political issues, however, demands that we move further to employ methodologies that are normative and solidaristic.

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Fußnoten
1
In addition to the iterative genitive, Patil also identifies what he calls the “subjective genitive” (i.e., the study of the texts, practices, individuals, and institutions that make up diverse religious traditions) and the “objective genitive” (i.e., what we commonly call “theory of religion”).
 
2
Germane to this volume, when I teach my introduction to religious ethics, I often frame it as a debate between Richard B. Miller (2005, 2016), on the one side, and Stanley Hauerwas (1983, 2003), on the other side. In this debate, students consider whether to follow Miller and identify ethical-political principles that stand independent of religious traditions; whether to follow Hauerwas and argue for the dependence of ethics on community and narrative; and reflect on how we are supposed to think about our ethical and political obligations in diverse contexts such as the contemporary U.S. and our increasingly interconnected world, including whether we can engage in normative evaluation in conditions of diversity and whether we can even have ethical obligations to one another. I signal this framing because it speaks to my discussion in Sects. 3 and 4.
 
3
I briefly sketch my intellectual formation in Sect. 2.
 
4
My effort in this chapter might be read as what J.Z. Smith calls a “bio-bibliographical essay” (2004, 1), locating my intellectual interests and identifying how I have brought these interests to bear in religious ethics and religious studies.
 
5
From 2012 until approximately mid-2016, I organized and ran an online religious ethics, philosophy of religion, and methods and theories reading group and workshop called Love & Sandwiches, the origin for which was the 2012 Indiana University Religious Studies Graduate Conference that I co-organized. The reading group and workshop’s aim was to bring together junior scholars who were intellectually likeminded to read articles and discuss one another’s work independent of our respective institutional contexts. While many of us disagreed with one another on matters of substance, we were able to find common ground about the rules of the game. On the rules of the game in religious ethics, see Ranganathan and Woodard-Lehman (2019), 4–6.
 
6
In the past decade, several prominent religious ethicists have contributed to methodological debates in religious ethics. For example, see Bucar and Stalnaker (2012), Davis (2012), Heim and Monius (2014), Kao and Ahn (2015), Lewis (2015), Miller (2016), Jung (2018), Lewis (2020), Schweiker and Clairmont (2020), Beckley et al. (2022), Oh (2022), Schweiker et al. (2022). And with the 50th of its publication approaching, the Journal of Religious Ethics is sponsoring several focus issues reflecting on the history and future of religious ethics.
 
7
In this chapter, I bring together and attempt to further refine ideas that I have explored in previous publications, e.g., Ranganathan (2016), Ranganathan (2017), Ranganathan and Clairmont (2017), Ranganathan (2018), Ranganathan and Woodard-Lehman (2019), Ranganathan (2020), and Heron and Ranganathan (2022). Several sentences are repeated.
 
8
According to Lewis (2015), Mundra (2017), religious studies is implicitly and ineliminably normative. On their respective views, religious studies scholars should recognize and make explicit their implicit normative commitments. See also Griffiths (2006), Cooper (2017).
 
9
On concerns about chauvinism, see Schofer (2012), 5–6.
 
10
The six-part series featured talks and responses from: (1) Donald Swearer (Buddhism and comparative religious ethics) with responses from Charles Hallisey (Buddhism, ethics, and literature), Ronald Thiemann (theology and religion and democratic theory), and Mark Jordan (theology, philosophy, and gender studies); (2) Leela Prasad (anthropology of ethics) with a response from Thomas A. Lewis (philosophy of religion and religious ethics); (3) Hans Lucht (anthropology and human rights) with a response from Simeon Ilesanmi (comparative ethics, human rights, and just war theory); (4) Aaron Stalnaker (comparative religious ethics and philosophy of religion) with a response from Elizabeth Bucar (comparative religious ethics); (5) Saba Mahmood (anthropology of ethics) with a response from John Kelsay (comparative religious ethics); and (6) Lee Yearley (comparative religious ethics) with a response from Francis Clooney (comparative theology). Audio recordings from this six-part series may be found here: https://​cswr.​hds.​harvard.​edu/​news/​topic-tags/​moral-worlds-and-religious-subjectivities-series.
 
11
By the time the series took place, Mahmood had published Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (2005) and Prasad had published Poetics of Conduct: Oral Narrative and Moral Being in a South Indian Town (2006). Lewis (2010) responds to Prasad’s lecture in the series.
 
12
Bucar (2008) conceptualizes and periodizes what she terms the three waves of comparative religious ethics. In her telling, Little and Twiss (1978) is a notable example from the first wave and Yearley (1990) is characteristic of the second wave.
 
13
On the periodization of and methodologies that characterize the three waves of comparative religious ethics, see Bucar (2008), Bucar and Stalnaker (2012).
 
14
On thick description, see Geertz (1973), 5–6, 9–10.
 
15
Heim and Monius (2014) share many commitments with Bucar and Stalnaker (2012). “The distinctive contributions that cultural and linguistic anthropologists are making in this area,” Heim and Monius write, “[have] centered on the quotidian, on the ‘everyday’ ways in which morality and ethics are experienced, constructed, discussed, and lived, often tacitly, in particular ethnographic contexts … Moral anthropology in this vein becomes the attentive study of the way ethical experience and concerns are inscribed in the everyday contexts in potentially all spheres of life” (2014, 386). In offering this description of about third wave comparative religious ethicists, I don’t wish to homologize their diverse commitments. Some religious ethicists associated with the third wave, e.g., Clairmont (2011), Cline (2012), and Kao (2011), have continued working in a register consistent with previous generations.
 
16
Cf. Ranganathan and Clairmont (2017), 615n.4.
 
17
The other contributors to Ranganathan and Clairmont (2017) are Cline (2017), Dunn (2017), and Jung (2017). My own contribution to Ranganathan and Clairmont (2017) was published as Ranganathan (2020).
 
18
In some ways, our volume might be read as updated and expanded version of Santurri and Werpehowski (1992), focusing on a wider range of topics central to Christian ethics and representing a younger generation of scholars.
 
19
Or as Richard B. Miller writes, “among the many things religious adherents do, they argue. They stake claims over and against alternative beliefs and practices, and they do so in a number of ways … Religious believers understand their religious convictions as (among other things) cognitive matters that provide a vision of the good life that invites if not requires practical forms of implementation in social and political institutions” (Miller 2016, 274).
 
20
See, e.g., Lewis (2015), Miller (2021).
 
21
Following Korsgaard’s definition, normativity pervades both deontological and teleological (i.e., consequentialism and virtue ethics) theories. Both deontological and teleological theories are normative in that both think about right and wrong, good and bad, virtue and vice.
 
22
For Korsgaard, the normative question is a special problem for modern moral philosophers who have adopted the “Modern Scientific World View,” which is “somehow inimical to ethics, while in different ways, the teleological metaphysics of the ancient Greek world and the religious systems of Medieval Europe seem friendlier to the subject” (Korsgaard 1996, 18). In her account, there are four possible sources of normativity available to modern moral philosophers: voluntarism, realism, reflective endorsement, and the appeal to autonomy.
 
23
This section repeats arguments found in Ranganathan (2020).
 
24
On bridge concepts in comparative religious ethics, see Stalnaker (2006), 17–19.
 
25
On the relationship between genesis and validity, history and philosophy, see Joas (2013); cf. Cohen (2000), 18.
 
26
By conceiving ethics in such a way, Hauerwas positions himself against several widely endorsed views in philosophical and religious ethics: Aristotelian-Thomistic notions of natural law; Kantian views about universalizability; and analytic philosophical accounts of commonsense realism. For overviews about normativity in philosophical and religious ethics, see Korsgaard (1996), Jung (2017).
 
27
On the idea of a conceptual scheme, see Davidson (1973).
 
28
When religious ethicists compare traditions, however, it is not traditions as a whole but rather Tradition A and Tradition B about X, where X might designate nonviolence, the moral status of nonhuman life, or the salvific significance of material simplicity. That is to say, such comparison is occasional and specific. On this point, see, for example, Griffiths (1991), DeCosimo (2018).
 
29
On this view of the Christian’s relation to the wider world, see Hauerwas and Willimon (2014).
 
30
In his own ethics, Miller develops what he calls political solidarity: “a kind of moral sovereignty, an imagined community that is energized—I am tempted to say ruled—by the commitment for a better life and a better society, a commitment shaped by shared norms and ideals. Such a society has an ethos that is shaped more by an egalitarian ethic of self-respect and mutual respect than by an ethic that focuses on avoiding cruelty or promoting universalist human visions; it targets privilege, has a polemical edge, and agitates against the power that money can buy” (Miller 2016, 140).
 
31
On this point, see, e.g., Bretherton (2016), who emphasizes that the relationship between Christians and non-Christians, on the half of Christians at least, should be one of hospitality. For qualifications of Bretherton’s view, see Weaver (2020), 33–34.
 
32
On the telos for religious studies, see Miller (2021).
 
33
Many thanks to Caroline Anglim, Jason Heron, Matt Kaul, Jamie Pitts, and Gordon Warren for comments on earlier drafts.
 
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Metadaten
Titel
Normativity and Solidarity
verfasst von
Bharat Ranganathan
Copyright-Jahr
2024
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-48659-3_11

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