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Harvard University Extension School

Fall 2010
RELI E-1015/W

Comparative Religious Ethics


Tuesdays 5:30 7:30 pm
Harvard Hall 201

Instructor: Anne Monius


Professor of South Asian Religions
Harvard Divinity School
Office: CSWR #214, 42 Francis Avenue
Office Hours: Thursdays, 1:00 5:00 pm, by appointment (please contact
Lori Holter at 617-495-4486 or at
lholter@hds.harvard.edu to schedule an
appointment)
Email: anne_monius@harvard.edu

A comparative examination of conceptions of the moral self and ways of


thinking and acting ethically within the framework of three religious traditions:
Hinduism, Buddhism (with a focus on the Theravada), and Christianity (with a
focus on South Africa). These issues will be explored in each tradition in four
distinct ways, through: (1) a general overview of the tradition; (2) an
ethnographic or narrative consideration of the formation of the moral self; (3) a
fictional account of the moral life in the modern world; and (4) a consideration
of possible responses to the contemporary moral problems of violence and
globalization.

No previous study of either world religions or ethics is presumed, and there are
no prerequisites for enrolling in the course.

Please note that this course is writing intensive. Writing-intensive courses at


Harvard Extension School offer students the opportunity to develop their
writing skills in the context of a particular academic discipline (in this case, the
study of ethics/religion), and they all feature common elements, including:

* the development of core writing skills


* multiple writing assignments of varying lengths, including revisions
* detailed feedback on drafts and revisions, on both content and style/
expression

Requirements:

(1) Regular class attendance (or viewing of weekly lectures on the web) is
obviously a must.
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(2) There will be three writing assignments of 3-4 pages each, due as indicated in
the syllabus below. The fourth and final paper will be slightly longer, roughly 10
pages. Specific instructions for each shorter assignment and for the final paper
appear below.

(3) Each of the first three essays will be rewritten according to specific
instructions given out when the first version of the paper is returned to you. NB:
Rewriting is NOT optional! If you fail to turn in a rewritten assignment as
indicated below, your initial grade will be averaged with a 0.

(4) The final paper will be slightly longer and on a topic of your choosing
relating to religious ethics. Those taking the course for graduate credit must
submit a substantially longer final essay (20 pages). A proposal for your final
paper (of roughly one page) will be due on November 2nd.

(5) Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the expectations of academic


honesty found in the Extension School Catalogue. Plagiarism is a serious
academic offense, and all caseswithout exceptionwill be reported to the
Extension Schools Dean of Students.

Grading:

Your overall grade for the course will be calculated as follows:

First writing assignment (averaged with rewrite grade) 20%


Second writing assignment (averaged with rewrite grade) 25%
Third writing assignment (averaged with rewrite grade) 25%
Fourth writing assignment 30%

Note on Late Submission:

Given the large enrollment in the course and the demands placed upon the
graders, unexcused late submissions of paper assignments will be very severely
penalized. The graders are instructed to deduct a full grade for each day an
assignment is late. An A paper, for example, handed in a day late will receive
a B, the following day a C, and so on. Papers submitted more than four days
late, unless an extension has been granted in writing by the instructor, will not be
accepted.

Writing Assignments:

Please note that there is no one correct answer to any of the broad questions
posed below. An A paper will have a clear and focused thesis statement /
argument supported by specific evidence. Please also be sure to cite sources
fully and correctly, according to whichever style you are accustomed to using
(Chicago, MLA, social science, etc.).
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ALL papers must be submitted via the relevant Drop Box on the course
website no later than 5:30 pm on the appropriate due date. Course graders will
be assigned alphabetically based on the students last name.

WRITING ASSIGNMENT #1
(DUE AT 5:30 PM ON SEPTEMBER 14TH)
(REWRITE DUE AT 5:30 PM ON SEPTEMBER 28TH)

In a paper no more than three pages in length (double-spaced, in 12-point font,


with one-inch margins on all sides)and based on lectures and your reading
thus farplease answer the following question: What does it mean to be a
human being in the Hindu tradition?

WRITING ASSIGNMENT #2
(DUE AT 5:30 PM ON OCTOBER 12TH)
(REWRITE DUE AT 5:30 PM ON OCTOBER 26TH)

In a paper no more than three pages in length (double-spaced, in 12-point font,


with one-inch margins on all sides)and based on lectures and your reading
thus farplease answer the following question: How might a Buddhist evaluate
a Gandhian satyagraha campaign?

WRITING ASSIGNMENT #3
(DUE AT 5:30 PM ON NOVEMBER 9TH)
(REWRITE DUE AT 5:30 PM ON NOVEMBER 30TH)

In a paper no more than four pages in length (double-spaced, in 12-point font,


with one-inch margins on all sides)and based on lectures and your reading
thus farplease consider the following:

Imagine the Buddha and Augustine sitting down together to chat about
the moral life. How might Augustine evaluate the Buddhas assumptions
about the human condition? Where would he see continuity with his own
worldview? What would the most important points of disjuncture be?

PROPOSAL FOR FINAL PAPER


(DUE AT 5:30 PM ON NOVEMBER 2ND)

Describe the topic you plan to take up for your final paper and include a list of
sources you will use (roughly one page).

FINAL WRITING ASSIGNMENT


(DUE AT 5:30 PM ON DECEMBER 14TH)

The final paper topic is of your own choosing, provided that it somehow deals
with religious ethics. Since the final assignment is relatively short (10 pages
for undergraduate credit, 20 pages for graduate credit), keep in mind that your
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topic must be manageable and that your paper must have a clear and concise
thesis statement. This final paper will not be rewritten.

Books Available for Purchase:

The following required readings for the course are available for purchase at the
Harvard Coop; all required readings are also on reserve in Grossman Library,
Sever Hall.

(1) Kim Knott, Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2000), ISBN: 0-19-285387-2.

(2) Steven M. Parish, Moral Knowing in a Hindu Sacred City: An Exploration of


Mind, Emotion, and Self (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), ISBN: 0-
231-08439-0.

(3) U. R. Anantha Murthy, Samskara: A Rite for a Dead Man (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1979), ISBN: 0-19-561079-2.

(4) Joan V. Bondurant, Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict


(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), ISBN: 0-691-02281-X.

(5) Damien Keown, Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2000), ISBN: 0-19-285386-4.

(6) Sid Brown, The Journey of One Buddhist Nun: Even Against the Wind (Albany:
State University of New York Press, 2001), ISBN: 0-7914-5096-1.

(7) Michael Ondaatje, Anils Ghost (New York: Knopf, 2001), ISBN: 0-375-72437-
0.

(8) Stanley J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri
Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), ISBN: 0-226-78950-0.

(9) Linda Woodhead, Christianity: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2005), ISBN: 0-19-280322-0.

(10) Saint Augustine, Confessions (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998),
ISBN: 0-19-283372-3.

(11) Zakes Mda, Ways of Dying (New York: Picador USA, 2002), ISBN: 0-312-
42091-9.

(12) Michael Battle, Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu


(Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1997), ISBN: 0-8298-1158-3.

Schedule of Classes:

Hinduism: An Ethics of Human Particularity


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Week I (August 31st): Introduction to the Study of Comparative Religious


Ethics

Week II (Sept. 7th) Overview of Traditions of Hindu Thought and


Practice

Reading: Kim Knott, Hinduism: A Very Short Introduction

Week III (Sept. 14th): A Hindu View of the Moral Subject

Reading: Steven M. Parish, Moral Knowing in a Hindu Sacred


City: An Exploration of Mind, Emotion, and Self,
pp. 1-11, 71-232

NB: FIRST PAPER DUE

Week IV (Sept. 21st): Moral Choice in the Modern World

Reading: U. R. Anantha Murthy, Samskara: A Rite for a Dead


Man

Week V (Sept. 28th): Hindu Responses to Violence

Reading: Joan V. Bondurant, Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian


Philosophy of Conflict, pp. 3-145

NB: FIRST PAPER REWRITE DUE

Buddhism: The Interdependent Subject

Week VI (Oct. 5th): An Overview of Traditions of Buddhist Thought and


Practice

Reading: Damien Keown, Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction

Week VII (Oct. 12th): A Theravada Buddhist View of the Moral Subject

Reading: Sid Brown, The Journey of One Buddhist Nun: Even


Against the Wind

NB: SECOND PAPER DUE

Week VIII (Oct. 19th): Moral Choice in the Modern World

Reading: Michael Ondaatje, Anils Ghost

Week IX (Oct. 26th): Buddhist Responses to Violence


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Reading: Stanley J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed? Religion,


Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka

NB: SECOND PAPER REWRITE DUE

Christianity: Autonomy in Community

Week X (Nov. 2nd): An Overview of Christian Approaches to the Moral


Life

Reading: Linda Woodhead, Christianity: A Very Short


Introduction

NB: FINAL PAPER PROPOSAL DUE

Week XI (Nov. 9th): A Christian View of the Moral Subject

Reading: Saint Augustine, Confessions, especially pp. 3-154

NB: THIRD PAPER DUE

Week XII (Nov. 16th): Moral Choice in the Modern World

Reading: Zakes Mda, Ways of Dying

Week XIII (Nov. 23rd ): NO CLASSHAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Week XIV (Nov. 30th): Christianity, Violence, and Reconciliation

Reading: Michael Battle, Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology


of Desmond Tutu

NB: THIRD PAPER REWRITE DUE

Week XV (Dec. 14th): FINAL PAPER DUE