Moral Struggle and Religious Ethics - On thePerson as Classic in Comparative TheologicalContexts
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More About This Title Moral Struggle and Religious Ethics - On thePerson as Classic in Comparative TheologicalContexts


Moral Struggle and Religious Ethics offers a comparative discussion of the challenges of living a moral religious life. This is illustrated with a study of two key thinkers, Bonaventure and Buddhaghosa, who influenced the development of moral thinking in Christianity and Buddhism respectively.
  • Provides an important and original contribution to the comparative study and practice of religious ethics
  • Moves away from a comparison of theories by discussing the shared human problem of moral weakness
  • Offers an fresh approach with a comparison of the understanding of the problem of moral weakness between the two key thinkers, Bonaventure and Buddhaghosa
  • Written by a highly respected academic in the dynamic and fast-growing field of comparative religious ethics


David A. Clairmont is Assistant Professor in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He is the co-author of American Religions and the Family: How Faith Traditions Cope With Modernization and Democracy (2007).


List of Figures.


List of Abbreviations.


Part I Questions and Contexts.

1 Person as Classic: Questions, Limits, and Religious Motivations.

Persons, Limits, and Religious Classics.

Classics: questions and limits in thought and action.

Religious ethics: interpreting limited persons.

The model of person as classic.

Classic Persons: Ideas, Practices, and Questions.

Bonaventure as mediator of classic ideas and practices.

Buddhaghosa as mediator of classic ideas and practices.

Moral struggle as classic question.

2 Context: The Symbolic Religious Cosmologies of Roman Catholicism and Therava-da Buddhism.

Moral Struggle in Greek, Roman, and Christian Philosophy.

Weakness of will and volition in classical philosophy.

Law, love, and wisdom in Christian scriptures.

Love, sin, and self-examination in Patristic theology.

Natural law and rational appetite in medieval theology.

Moral Struggle in Indian and Buddhist Philosophy.

Universal dharma and individual dharma in the Vedas and epics.

Self and world in the

Moral perfection in the Buddhist Nika-yas.

The Symbolic Religious Cosmology of the Trinity.

Trinitarian doctrine.

Trinitarian symbolism.

Trinitarian exemplarity.

The Symbolic Religious Cosmology of Buddhist Abhidhamma.

Constitution of persons: aggregates, characteristics, and ultimate realities.

The nature of reality and the structure of causality.

Intention, volition, and personal continuity in Buddhist Abhidhamma.

Abhidhamma and Trinity as Comparative Contexts and Categories.

3 Context: Material Simplicity in Christian and Buddhist Life.

Historical Introduction to Material Simplicity.

Poverty and avarice in Bonaventure's Europe.

Simplicity and sponsorship in Buddhaghosa's Ceylon.

Bonaventure on Material Simplicity.

Material sufficiency in institutional life.

Voluntary poverty in individual life.

Buddhaghosa on Material Simplicity.

Wealth, giving, and the sacrifice of purification.

On the twofold nature of materiality.

Material Simplicity and the Problem of Moral Struggle.

Part II Ideas, Practices, and Persons.

4 Bonaventure and Buddhaghosa: From Ideas to Practices.

Bonaventure's Continuity with Medieval Debates on the Nature of Will.

Buddhaghosa's Manual of Practical Abhidhamma.

Bonaventure on the Connection Between Sacrament and Virtue.

Buddhaghosa on the Connection Between Morality and Meditation.

5 Bonaventure and Buddhaghosa: From Practices to Persons.

Bonaventure on Prayer.

Buddhaghosa on Meditation.

Bonaventure on Moral Exemplars.

Buddhaghosa on Moral Exemplars.

Comparing Persons in the Process of Struggle: Two Notions of Person as Classic.

6 Personal Horizons: Moral Struggle, Religious Humility, and the Possibility of a Comparative Theological Ethics.

Bonaventure and Buddhaghosa on Personal Struggle.

Comparative Theology and Comparative Ethics: A Religious-Interpretive Work.

The Methodological Struggles of Comparative Persons: Five Roads of Return.

Struggles for a Comparative Horizon: Religious Humility and the Problem of Conversion.

Appendix: Some Common Buddhist Lists, Their Relation, and Their Significance in Abhidhamma.




"Clairmont has given us a significant contribution to comparative ethics and comparative theology more broadly. Best of all, Clairmont reflects in depth on the current discussion concerning the hermeneutics of comparison. I strongly recommend this book."
Rev. James L. Fredericks, Ph.D. Loyola Marymount University

"Over the past several years, comparative religious ethics has emerged as a centrally important interdisciplinary line of research, crossing the boundaries among religious studies, history, anthropology, and ethics. David Clairmont's book offers a strikingly original contribution to this emerging field."
Jean Porter, John A. O'Brien Professor of Theological Ethics, University of Notre Dame

"David Clairmont is one of a new generation of scholars who possess the requisite philological and philosophical skills to undertake serious comparative study of thinkers from radically different traditions. This work shows what we have been missing up to now. It offers meticulous comparisons between them on issues such as sacramental and meditative practices, understandings of the cultivation of virtue, and the nature and purpose of religious and ethical languages, and he has acute and thought-provoking things to say on all of them. This book is part of a new era in religious ethics."
Charles Mathewes, University of Virginia