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Holism and comparative religious ethics1

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

This article is devoted to an examination of Jeffrey Stout's holistic approach to comparative religious ethics. Although the strategy I pursue involves a close examination of Stout's criticism of a particular work in comparative religious ethics, defending that work is incidental to my purpose. I argue, first, that Stout is seriously mistaken about the implications of holism for comparative study and, second, that his own approach to doing comparative religious ethics is unacceptable for a variety of theoretical and practical reasons. On a more positive side, I briefly explain what I take the purpose of comparative ethics to be. I also set out to show that how one understands the task of comparative religious ethics, and the way one undertakes comparative work in general, cannot be divorced from the type of concern with method and theory (e.g., a theory of religion) that Stout surprisingly sees as detrimental to comparative study.

Affiliations: 1: University of Western Australia


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