R474 | 25407 | New Hire In Comparative Religious Ethics

Topic :  Self-Cultivation and Spiritual Exercises
This seminar focuses on theories and practices of personal
formation, a topic of growing interest in religious and
philosophical ethics. Pierre Hadot refers to such disciplined
efforts to reshape emotion, desire, habit, and overall consciousness
as “spiritual exercises.” Others have studied similar phenomena
as “askesis,” “technologies of the self,” or “self-cultivation.”
Examining such practices sheds new light on the broader question of
how flawed and frail human beings can actually become good, and
perhaps even heroic, sagely, or saintly. After an introduction and
some contemporary historical analyses, we will turn to several
mostly ancient primary texts, both Western and East Asian, and then
close with some other recent works on the subject. Historical study
and comparison should shed light on both the accuracy and wider
applicability of the European-derived secondary accounts, and
provide impetus for refining a cross-cultural understanding of
spiritual exercises. All readings will be in English translation.
This course is recommended for juniors and seniors only.