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Natural law ethics :
b a comparison of the Theravda and Thomistic traditions
h [electronic resource] /
by David Lantigua.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: This thesis investigates the topic of natural law in the Theravda and Thomistic traditions by utilizing the methodology of comparative religious ethics. Approaches to the method such as ethical formalism, ethical naturalism, and narrative ethics are assessed with the author opting for a multidimensional approach that is religious and ethical. This multidimensional approach, as defined by William Schweiker, conducts natural law inquiry from a hermeneutical standpoint of moral diversity and democratic pluralism. The hermeneutical standpoint warrants a historicizing of natural law ethics that is compatible with modern secularity instead of a classicist metaphysical worldview. To achieve this task, the thought of moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and Jewish theologian David Novak is used to formulate a concept of a natural law tradition.Three normative features define the natural law traditions in question: rationality as tradition-constituted, revelation as a historical phenomenon, and natural law as a cultural construct that is both comparative and ontological. The central claim of this thesis is that the Theravda and Thomistic traditions provide a similar conceptual apparatus for rational discourse that can locate ethical commonalities and respect differences across traditions. The commonality between traditions is secured in natural law ethics because these traditions adhere to a constitutive truth that is the objective ground of all truths and of nature which designates a shared humanity. On the other hand, these natural law traditions are able to at least respect difference because they recognize the autonomy of other traditions outside of and pre-existing their own. Natural law ethics in these religious traditions therefore avoids the ethical challenges of relativism and authoritarianism.Both traditions define a concept of "nature" with a proper teleological orientation for the moral life. "Nature" is an open category in these traditions that can never be fully defined. This demonstrates how these natural law traditions avoid ontological violence. The overall claim is that natural law ethics, which are evident in the Theravda and Thomistic traditions, offer something essential to a pluralistic secular democracy: an unconditioned view of human dignity that protects inalienable rights because it is secured by a higher law than civil laws.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
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Title from PDF of title page.
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Advisor: Darrell J. Fasching, Ph.D.
Comparative religious ethics.
x Religious Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Natural Law Ethics: A Comparison of the Therav da and Thomistic Traditions by David Lantigua A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Religious Studies College of Arts & Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Darrell J. Fasching, Ph.D. Wei Zhang, Ph.D. Thomas Williams, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 9, 2007 Keywords: comparative religious ethics, Buddhi st ethics, Aquinas, pluralism, rationality, human dignity Copyright 2007, David Lantigua
in memorium Ioannes Paulus PP. II 18.V.1920 2.IV.2005
Acknowledgments Completion of this project would not ha ve been possible without the assistance and support of several people. I first give thanks to two w onderful professors who were not on my committee: Dr. Michael Gibbons, whose seminar stimulated my interest in this topic, and Dr. Charles Guignon, whose course s and writings have shaped my heart and cultivated my thinking throughout my studies Sincere thanks to my thesis committee members, Dr. Wei Zhang and Dr. Thomas Williams, for responding with support and cheerfulness to the urgency of comple ting this thesis during Holy Week. My utmost gratitude is extended to my parents. Without the inspiring conversations and financial sacrifices of my dad, and the life-giving affection and delicious home-cooked meals of my mom, this thesis would not have seen daylight when it did. The unmatched generosity and charity of my parents are virtue s that I hope to one day, at most, partially emulate. To my soon to be wife, Marisa, I offer my loving thanks and my future. It is our anticipated marriage that has been the single greatest inspiration for getting this thesis done. Despite my many weaknesses, her sweet patience, strength, and encouragement have been my faithful compass and guide. Finally, I thank the Department of Religi ous Studies at the University of South Florida, my wonderful home for the past six y ears that I will surely miss. The professors in this tight-knit community have all cont ributed to my rich academic experience and given me an appreciation for learning I ne ver knew was possible. Most especially, I would like to thank Professor Darrell Fasching. It was his strong commitment to see this project through and his abiding faith and support in my work that gave me trust in many times of doubt. He truly is, as a person as much as a teacher and scholar, one whom all academics should aspire to be.
i Table of Contents Abstract ii List of Abbreviations iv Introduction: Ethics in a World of Neighbors v Chapter One: Situating Comparative Religious Ethics 1 Approaches to Comparison 4 Challenges in Comparative Religious Ethics 9 A Multidimensional Approach to Natural Law 13 Hermeneutical Standpoint 20 Tasks of Comparative Methodology 21 Chapter Two: The Concept of a Natural Law Tradition 25 Rationality, Revelation, a nd Natural Law 26 Natural Law Traditions 36 Dhamma in the Therav da Tradition 37 Natural Law in the Thomistic Tradition 43 Authority in the Natural Law Traditions 49 Buddha, Pariyatti and P li Canon 50 God, Sacra Doctrina and Scripture 56 Chapter Three: Natural Law Discourse 61 General Category 65 Law of Kamma 66 Lex Naturalis 69 Special Category 73 Buddhadhamma 75 Divine Law 77 Chapter Four: Â“NatureÂ” and the Hypergood 80 Conditionality and Enlightenment 84 Reason and Happiness 86 Conclusion: Natural Law Ethi cs and Human Dignity 89 List of References 93
ii Natural Law Ethics: A Comparison of the Therav da and Thomistic Traditions David Lantigua ABSTRACT This thesis investigates the topic of natural law in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions by utilizing the methodology of comp arative religious ethics. Approaches to the method such as ethical formalism, ethical naturalism, and narrative ethics are assessed with the author opting for a multidimensional a pproach that is religious and ethical. This multidimensional approach, as defined by William Schweiker, conducts natural law inquiry from a hermeneutical standpoint of moral diversity and democratic pluralism. The hermeneutical standpoint warrants a hi storicizing of natural law ethics that is compatible with modern secularity instead of a classicist metaphysical worldview. To achieve this task, the thought of moral philosopher Alas dair MacIntyre and Jewish theologian David Novak is used to formulat e a concept of a natura l law tradition. Three normative features define the natural law traditions in question: rationality as traditionconstituted, revelation as a hi storical phenomenon, and natura l law as a cultural construct that is both compara tive and ontological. The central claim of this thesis is that the Therav da and Thomistic traditions provide a similar conceptual apparatus for rational discourse that can locate ethical commonalities and respect differences across traditions. The commonality between
iii traditions is secured in natural law ethics beca use these traditions adhere to a constitutive truth that is the objective gr ound of all truths and of nature which designates a shared humanity. On the other hand, these natural law traditions are able to at least respect difference because they recognize the autonom y of other traditions outside of and preexisting their own. Natural law ethics in thes e religious traditions therefore avoids the ethical challenges of relativism and authoritarianism. Both traditions define a concept of Â“natur eÂ” with a proper teleological orientation for the moral life. Â“NatureÂ” is an open category in these traditions that can never be fully defined. This demonstrates how these natural law traditions avoid ontological violence. The overall claim is that natural law ethics, which are evident in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions, offer something essentia l to a pluralistic secular democracy: an unconditioned view of human digni ty that protects inalienable rights because it is secured by a higher law than civil laws.
iv List of Abbreviations AN Anguttara Nik ya Dh Dhammapada (The Path of Truth) DN Digha Nik ya DQChar Thomas Aquinas, Disputed Questions on the Virtues: On Charity DQTruth Thomas Aquinas, Disputed Questions on Truth DQVirtGen Thomas Aquinas, Disputed Questions on the Vi rtues: On the Virtues in General Mil Milindapaha (The Questions of King Milinda) MN Majjhima Nik ya NE Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics SN Samyutta Nik ya ST Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae VS John Paul II, Veritatis splendor (The Splendor of Truth)
v Introduction: Ethics in a World of Neighbors Philosophers have concerned themselves with morality as a science: they wanted to furnish the rational ground of morality and every philosopher hitherto has believed he has furnished this rational ground; morality itself, however, was taken as given.  they did not so much as catch sight of the real problems of moralityfor these come into view only if we compare many moralities. 1 Friedrich Nietzsche did catch sight of some of the real problems of morality via his genealogical critique a nd sweeping comparison of modernity and the ancients. He uncovered the traps of founda tionalist certainti es and disabused many philosophical students of the Enlightenment who claimed to be past God and r eligion that their science and rationalism were mere masks dis guising a will to power. Their claims to truth based on facts were no more legitimate than Christianitys metaphysical claims derived from faith. Although Nietzsche did compare many mora lities, he still did not escape the modernist tendency and Enlightenment secur ity of reducing all phenomena to a single explanation. Morality was, for him, an assessment and ranking of human drives and actions. 2 Moral diversity, therefore, was an inev itable outcome because the conditions of the survival of one community have been very different from the conditions of another 1 Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 186, in A Nietzsche Reader trans. R. J. Hollingdale (England: Penguin Books, 2003), 104-105. 2 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science 6, in Existentialism: Basic Writings, 2 nd ed., Charles Guignon and Derk Pereboom, eds. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2001), 138.
vi community. 3 In other words, morality is seen as nothing more than the arbitrary convention of wills and drives competing for su rvival and power in a particular historical situation. Nietzsche, in this regard, was no different than his Enlightenment predecessors by locating a single ground of morality. Not a rational ground to morality, but rather, an irrational one. Nietzsches anti-foundationalist legacy and distaste for rational morality has lived on under the gamut of much postmodern thi nking. Without a language of rationality for honest communication, an unbridgeable gap lay between discourse partners according to many thinkers captivated by the postmodern imagination. This outlook has welcomed the arrival of the postmodern stranger who is radica lly other. The alterity of the other is so profound that we are unsure and perhaps even unable to adjudicate whether or not this stranger is hostile or friendly, demonic or divine. 4 For ethics, the issue of alterity and otherness is an important and necessary one, but of equal importance is the issue of commonality and sameness. Meeting the postmodern stranger who is radically different than us is not our aim. Instead, our aim is to meet our global neighbor who is never too far to be a stranger and yet not necessarily cl ose enough to be family. It is within this category of the neighbor who is both different and common that our investigation of ethics shall proceed. I echo Nietzsches position that we can only catch sight of th e real problems of morality by way of comparison. Our moral situat ion demands that we confront the reality that we are living in a pluralistic age with diverse moralities. Ev eryday across the globe people are taking life-threateni ng stands on moral positions. So me do so to the point of 3 Ibid. 4 See Richard Kearney, Strangers, Gods, and Monsters (New York: Routledge, 2003), Chapters 3 and 4.
vii taking the lives of the enemy to protect a cause while others do so by letting themselves die in order to redeem one. Comparing moralit ies or ethics is the underlying issue in this investigation. This task of comparing ethics under the th eme of neighborliness can yield both our commonalities and differences. The me thod of comparing ethics will not be through the lens of moral philos ophy but of religious ethics. For this investigation, I compare th e religious ethics of Buddhism and Christianity. I concentrate specifically on the issue of natural law in these religions as articulated by the Therav da and Thomistic traditions. My thesis is that these natural law traditions contain a similar conceptual apparatus for ethical thinking across traditions. These natural law traditions fit our category of neighborliness in that they are able to locate any Â“overlappingÂ” with other traditions but also locate and respect differences. The commonality between persons is secure d in natural law ethics because these traditions adhere to an ultimate truth that is the objective ground of all truths and of nature thus designating a shared humanity. On the other hand, these natural law traditions are able to at least respect difference b ecause they recognize the autonomy of other traditions outside of and pre-existing their own. The natural law ethics of these religious traditions can therefore avoid the ethical challenges of relativism and authoritarianism. My overall claim is that natural law ethics offer something essential to a pluralistic secular democracy: an unconditioned view of human dignity that can protect inalienable rights because it is secured by a higher law than civil laws. The method of inquiring about natural law in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions will be through comparative religious ethics. Chapter 1 begins by situating the field of comparative religious ethics with in the academic study of religion. This will
viii introduce us to two important a pproaches for the development of this field, the historicalempiricist approach of ethical naturalism by Robin Lovin and Frank Reynolds and the ethical formalist or deep stru cture approach by Ronald Gr een. The approaches used in these thinkers set the parameters that launc hed the debate for the emergent field of comparative religious ethics. Although commend able for their originality and depth, the deep structure approach by Green and the ethical naturalism approach by Lovin and Reynolds were subject to the dangers of easy translatability and incommensurability. In other words, the approaches have a tendenc y to overemphasize sameness or difference. These challenges of easy translatability and incommensurability to the field of comparative religious ethics cannot go unaddres sed. As Nietzsche pointed out, there is a problem in locating a single model of rationality and a single ground, especially within the pluralistic ethos of a secular democracy. This conceit of Enlightenment thinking that has a tendency to inadequately address moral diversity has been associated with Greens approach. There is a totalizing tendency in this approach that locates a single ground and method of rationality that Green refers to as the deep structure. On the other hand, Nietzsches reactionary account of morality as irrational is far less appealing. Contra Nietzsche, I argue that the problem fo r ethics is not in using a language of rationality or locati ng its ground. To reject rationality in toto is an invitation to the extreme relativism of the skeptic. Therefore, we are not attempting to uncover a single rational ground, but rather, multiple grounds of rationality. The work of Lovin and Reynolds does just this by identifying various rationalities within single traditions. Although this approach stresses moral differen ces, it does so at the expense of comparing rationalities and moralities across traditions. In a pluralistic age threatened by moral
ix relativism, the approach of ethical naturalis m seems unable to sufficiently address this problem because its primary aim is to describe the uniqueness of each tradition, not compare traditions. The issue of moral diversity and the challenges of rela tivism and totalism provide the context in which the narrative approach of Darrell Fasching and Dell deChant and the multidimensional approach of William Schweiker are framed. These two approaches have been classified under the hermeneutical -dialogical paradigm of doing comparative religious ethics. These authors never cease to think about religious ethics apart from the hermeneutical standpoint of moral divers ity and pluralism, which I am adopting. Attempting to bridge religious worlds in order to promote common goods and religious humanism belongs to the comparative and c onstructive tasks employe d by these authors. I also take up these tasks and specifically utilize Schweikers multidimensional model for natural law inquiry. A multidimensional approach to natural la w aims for scope, not autonomy. That is to say, we are attempting to retrieve, in some part, the rich ethical complexity of these natural law traditions without claiming to have an all-embracing me thodological solution. The various dimensions that will be used to retrieve these traditions include normative, descriptive, fundamental, practic al, and metaethical. All of th ese dimensions fit into our inquiry in some way, with the normative di mension standing out as the most central given our context of moral diversity and the threat of normlessness. Furthermore, this approach to natural law ethics considers the duty of a scholar to be religious and ethical. This means that the traditional strict b oundaries between theology and philosophy, church and academy, religion and state, and prescripti on and description will not be present.
x Instead, the relationship between disciplines a nd conceptual spaces is a fluid one that will strive to be mutually enrich ing rather than antagonistic. Our inquiry into natural law from a herm eneutical standpoint of moral diversity and pluralism begins with formulating a concep t of a natural law tradition. That is my concern in chapter 2. The purpose of this chapter is to set the parameters of what we are looking for in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions. The concept of a natural law tradition will show us how truth, law, and aut hority in these traditions function in similar ways. For this task, I turn to the work of moral philosopher Al asdair MacIntyre and Jewish theologian David Novak. These thin kers will help us define three normative features of a natural law tradition: rational ity as tradition-constituted; revelation as a historical phenomenon; and natural law as a cultural construct that is both comparative and ontological. These features contribute to the project of historicizing natural law without denying a traditionÂ’s claims to ultimate truth. Chapter 3 will explicitly defend the thesis of this investigation: that the natural law traditions in question show analogous st ructures of rational ethical discourse. The Therav da and Thomistic traditions delineate ca tegories of natural law discourse that recognizes the autonomy and limits of other tr aditions and the need for special insight and revelation for moral development and liberation. I will use the categories of Â“generalÂ” and Â“specialÂ” to distinguish these modes of discourse across traditions and within oneÂ’s tradition. The important point is that neither one of these modes of discourse is purely isolated from the other. In fact, it is becaus e of the Â“generalÂ” knowledge common to all persons that the Â“specialÂ” insight or revelation has any meaningfulness at all.
xi Chapter 4 addresses the fundamental dime nsion of our inquiry, the issues of ontology and ethics. The concept of Â“natureÂ” is necessary to any natural law thinking, and I consider how these traditions define the term. But if nature is fully defined then an account commits ontological violence. These natural law traditions, I claim, avoid ontological violence by locati ng an indefinable or unconditional dimension of human existence that is constituted by an ultima te truth. I claim that the way a religious practitioner of these traditions is ab le to understand this tr uth is by pursuing the hypergood. The term hypergood denotes an ethica l category. It refers to the specific telos or aim that all agents eventually aspire to ward thus shaping the moral orientation of a personÂ’s life. My investigation concludes by suggesti ng how natural law ethics can and do contribute to socio-poli tical matters, especially within a modern democracy such as our own. The natural law ethics of the Therav da and Thomistic traditions contain the resources for critically engaging any unjust institution or law on the grounds of higher truth and human dignity. These traditions posit a form of rationality whose warrants is determined by an ultimate measure or la w superceding all temporal and worldly standards. Lastly, these natural law traditions demons trate an ethic of neighborliness. This ethic illustrates that no matter how wrong or strange a nother individualÂ’s actions might be there is always the possibility of comm unicating with them in some rational manner. That is because they are always within proximity of us in virtue of their humanity. They always have the closeness of a neighbor.
1 Chapter One: Situating Comparative Religious Ethics In 2006, for the first time in the history of the American A cademy of Religion, a session was organized at the annual meeting for the group on Comparative Religious Ethics. The session was convened by Aaron Stalnaker, author of the newly acclaimed Overcoming Our Evil: Human Nature and Spiritual Exercises in Xunzi and Augustine 1 Although Stalnaker is not the first to address the topic of religious ethics from a comparative method, his work represents the latest attempt to refine the method of comparative religious ethics as the field continues to define itself alongside other methods in the academic study of religion. In the spirit of Religionswissenschaft pioneers like Max Mller, comparative methodology is set upon the premise that all higher knowledge is acquired by comparison. 2 However, the disciplinary boundaries th at have been erected in American universities to protect the acad emic study of religion as a so cial science against anything remotely resembling theological reflection was not characteristic of Mllers humanistic science rooted in charitable hermeneutics, reverence, and loyalty to truth when investigating the s ubject of religion. 3 Although quite unconventional for his time, Mller 1 Aaron Stalnaker, Overcoming Our Evil: Human Nature and Spi ritual Exercises in Xunzi and Augustine (Washington, DC:Georgetown University Press, 2006). 2 Max Mller, Plea for a Science of Religion in Classical Approaches to the Study of Religion ed. Jacques Waardenburg (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999), 91. 3 Consider the following excerpt from Mllers lectur e: No one this I can promise who attends these lectures, be he a Christian or Jew, Hindu or Muslim, shall hear his own way of serving God spoken of irreverently. But true reverence does not consist in declaring a subject, because it is dear to us, to be unfit for free and honest inquiry: far from it! True reverence is shown in treating every subject, however sacred,
2 conversed with believers in th eological circles, especially missionaries, because he saw the need for Christians to sympathetically engage other religions by finding a common ground. 4 This nineteenth century European science of religion method does not correspond with the view of contemporary American scholar Donald Wiebe. In the 1988 article entitled, Why the Academic Study of Re ligion? Wiebe claims that the discipline is meant to serve purely intellectual/scientific reasons and not as instrumental in the achievement of religious, cultural, political or other ends. 5 The study of religion is solely construed as the pursuit of objective knowledge derived from religious phenomena, which serves as its data to generalize a nd establish facts. Wiebe, while invoking the message of Max Webers Science as Vocation, is prey to the modern positivist conceit that divorces facts and values. In Wiebes vi ew, the study of religion exists purely for the sake of theoretical reflection in an isolated academy thus betraying the original intent of Religionswissenschaft as public vocation. Although none of the approaches to compara tive religious ethics considered here echo Wiebes insularity and scientism, the approaches of Ronald Green, Robin Lovin, and Frank Reynolds have been influenced by the aims of modern philosophy and social science. Indebted to the mo ral philosophy of Immanuel Kant the approach of Ronald Green understands that all religions, regardless of time and place, demonstrate a universal structure grounded in human reason for res ponding to moral conflicts. On the other hand, however dear to us, with perfect confidence; without fear and without favor, with tenderness and love, by all means, but, before all, with an unflinching and uncompromising loyalty to truth. 4 Mller, 87. 5 Donald Wiebe, Why the Academic Study of Religion? in Theory and Method in the Study of Religion ed. Carl Olson (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003), 39.
3 for Lovin and Reynolds, who take the philosopher David Hume as their cue, comparative religious ethics has an empiri cal-historical task of desc ribing the diverse accounts of morality evident across traditions and within single traditions. In their view, reason is thoroughly contextualized and understood as the product of the in teraction between cosmogonic myths, rituals, and feelings. This contrasts radically from Greens view that religions exhibit an ahistorical fo rmal structure of moral reasoning. The appointment of Christian theologian Margaret Miles as president of the American Academy of Religion in 1999 represented a new and controversial trend in the academic study of religion that hearkens back to the vision of Mller. The initial task of her presidential address was to challenge the boundaries betw een the study of religion and theological studies. 6 Miles considered these di sciplinary boundaries, which are often hostile to each other, as unhelpful. She encouraged members of whatever academic standing to work constructively together fo r the common good. This is only possible by bringing religious studies as an integrated or mutually be neficial discipline into the public sphere. Although many of the older scientific me thodologists in the academic study of religion were unconvinced by Miles plea, the fi eld of comparative religious ethics today has preserved her spirit of sensitivity toward context. By situating religious ethics within a context of the plurality of tr aditions and diverse moralities the field is engaged with the critical resources that allow for the reconstr uction of religious traditions in order to promote the common good. This is the religious humanism at work in the approaches of Darrell Fasching, Dell deChant, and William Schw eiker. These approaches are distinct in 6 Margaret Miles, Becoming Answerable for What We See in Theory and Method in the Study of Religion ed. Carl Olson (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2003), 42.
4 that Fasching and deChant offer a narrative approach and Schweiker offers a multidimensional approach, yet both have been classified under the curricular paradigm of hermeneutical-dialogical. 7 They begin from the fact that we live in a morally and religiously pluralistic world. 8 The project of comparative ethics, in their view, is to engage the stranger in continua l dialogue in an effort to see our world anew through their eyes. What is especially important in this paradigm is the hermeneutic task of seeking understanding by crossing over in to other traditions and brid ging religious worlds. This hermeneutical paradigm is the standpoint of the approach adopted in this thesis. Approaches to Comparison The methodology of comparative religious et hics owes its genesis to the work of two highly original approaches by Frank Reynolds and Robin Lovin, and Ronald Green. 9 My concern here is to give a summary of th ese approaches and isolate potential strengths and weaknesses in their accounts. I also c onsider the narrative approach adopted by Darrell Fasching and Dell deChant that offers an alternative to these approaches. Their approach frames the discipline within the c ontext of relativism and ethnocentrism thereby taking a hermeneutical standpoint that is us ed in my investiga tion of natural law traditions. My summary and analysis in no wa y exhausts the literature on comparative religious ethics that has been published over the last couple of decades. 10 More recently, 7 Sumner B. Twiss, Four Paradigms in T eaching Comparative Religious Ethics in Explorations in Global Ethics: Comparative Religious Ethics and Interreligious Dialogue, ed. Sumner B. Twiss and Bruce Grelle (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000), 16-19. 8 Ibid., 17 9 Also consider David Little and Sumner B. Twiss, Comparative Religious Ethics: A New Method (New York: Harper and Row, 1978). Although I am not addr essing this approach, it too deserves credit for its contribution to the inception of comparative religious ethics. 10 One example includes the comparative virtues approach by Lee Yearley, Mencius and Aquinas: Theories of Virtue and Conceptions of Courage (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1990).
5 with the inclusion of Stalnakers work, comp arative religious ethics has developed some exciting new approaches to inquiry. 11 In Religion and Moral Reason Ronald Green argues that he has uncovered a deep structure to the method of reasoning in religion. He states in his introduction, I wish to show that the most basic proce sses of religious reasoning are the same everywhere and give rise, in understandable ways, to diverse religious expressions. 12 Greens approach is to investigate the reli gions of the world and demonstrate how they meet the demands of the deep structure and al so how they are different from one another. There are essentially three com ponents to this deep structur e of religious reasoning: 1) the moral point of view or impartiality 2) beliefs affirming reality of moral retribution and 3) transmoral beliefs that suspend moral judgment. 13 Although the deep structure is a priori for all people at all times, Green claims that morality across the global re ligious landscape is not identic al in terms of its beliefs, rules, and practices. He states that one must expect this variability of norms. 14 But this is not an invitation to ethical relativism Instead, following the logic of Kant, Green asserts that the application of the universal structure to different situations may yield different conclusions. Another reason for difference among traditions is that some religions have evolved more than others. In his treatment of the indigenous religions of Confucianism and Daoism in China, Green claims that they failed to meet the conceptual needs dictated by reasons deep stru cture and as a result left a vacuum that 11 See, for example, the conceptual metaphors approach formulated in Edward Slingerland, Conceptual Metaphor Theory as Methodology for Comparative Religion, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 72, no. 1 (March 2004), 1-31 and the special issue, The Promise of Scriptural Reasoning in Modern Theology 22, no. 3, (July 2006). 12 Ronald Green, Religion and Moral Reason (New York: Oxford Univer sity Press, 1988), xii. 13 Ibid., 3. 14 Ibid., 9.
6 Buddhism could fill.15 What religions can and do share in common are often basic rules of morality, which include some of the fo llowing: no killing wantonly, no lying or breaking promises, giving to the needy, and making reparation for wrongs committed.16 Of course, certain cultures may promote contra ry rules such as the abandoning of elderly parents in Eskimo communities. But these anomalies occur for various circumstantial reasons, like strenuous environmental conditions. The deep structure never changes; it is the basic method of thinking a bout choices and making decisions.17 Therefore, Green eliminates the possibility of anything lik e ethical relativism by appealing to the universality of the deep structure and s howing how this method can often, though not necessarily, result in ba sic rules of morality. The focus of the empirical approach presented in Cosmogony and Ethical Order by Robin Lovin and Frank Reynolds is to navigate the contours of the relationship between ethics and human-social-cosmic orig ins in various cultures. Lovin and Reynolds recognize the impulse to link moral orientat ions to accounts of cosmic origins in traditional cultures and argue that natural order provides the foundation for much of everyday moral thinking.18 Furthermore, the choice and ju dgment of moral agents is justified by appealing to cosmogonic myths. From the outset, they note that such familiar concepts like natural law and principles of order, like Dao or dependent origination ( paticca-samuppda), can be interpreted as systematic expressions of a far more widespread belief that truly significant actions recapitulate the primordial cosmogenesis 15 Ibid., 74. 16 Ibid., 11 17 Ibid., 9 18 Robin W. Lovin and Frank E. Reynolds, In the Beginning, in Cosmogony and Ethical Order, ed. Robin Lovin and Frank Reynolds (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 2.
7 or participate in a pattern established outside of the flux of ordinary events. 19 Thus, the authors locate a traditions moral resour ces in the myth of the founding event or cosmogony. In their approach, observing mainst ream religious and indigenous cultural systems in light of each traditions cosm ogonic myths provides the empirical data. The approach of Lovin and Reynolds extends an invitation to the res earch data provided by anthropologists, cultural histor ians, and historians of religion. 20 Rather than turning to the modern ph ilosophical language of Kants ethical formalism, Lovin and Reynolds interpret da ta through an empiri cally-grounded ethical naturalism indebted to David Hume. This is an important shift in methodology that allows for the possibility of diversity of human conceptions of the good life. 21 The approach of Lovin and Reynolds begins from the premise that there is a diversity of ethical languages both among and within religious traditions. Instead of appealing to a view of reason that is pure, undefiled, and th e same at all times and places, their account of rationality and moral judgment are complex equilibrations of fa ct, principle, and feeling. 22 Comparative Religious Et hics: A Narrative Approach, by Darrell Fasching and Dell deChant, provides a model for understand ing religious ethics situated in the post/modern period defined by the demonic legacies of Auschwitz and Hiroshima. 23 In a modern, scientific, and industr ial age in which techno-bureaucr atic rationality has often led to a demise of ethical consciousness, Faching and deChant argue that comparative 19 Ibid., 1. 20 Ibid., 4 21 Ibid., 9 22 Ibid., 18 23 Darrell Fasching and Dell deChant, Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001).
8 religious ethics must confront the ch allenges posed by genocide, ethnocentrism, pluralism, and relativism. The authors undert ake the project of forging a cross-cultural global religious ethic of human dignity and hum an liberation rooted in the experience of the holy and ancient stories of wrestling with the stranger evident in all the major world religions. The process of engaging other tradi tions through stories amounts to the way of all the earth, or seeking mutual illuminati on that is reflected in the passing over, coming back experiences that have been prac ticed by twentieth century religious figures like Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luth er King, Jr., and Thich Nhat Hanh. The approach adopted to achieve the goal of insight between traditions is narrative interpretation rooted in the experience of the holy. Thus, the approach is fundamentally dialogical and spiritual in its st yle. For example, Gandhi s interpretation of the Bhagavad-G t was deeply shaped by his experien ce of reading Jesus Sermon on the Mount. Narrative and emotion, rather than th eory and reason, are the sources of ethical action in religion. The crucial human faculty that allows this to happen is empathy. According to the authors, reason must follow, not precede emotion.24 Furthermore, spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, me ditation, and study are also essential to the moral life of religi ous practitioners. The criteria that Fasching and deChan t use to gauge whether or not a story, institution, belief, or social group is ethical are the te ndencies of the holy and the sacred.25 Although both tendencies may exist simulta neously in a social group or person, they represent radically different ways of responding to otherness. The holy, illustrated by the figure of Socrates and his interior compulsion to question, refers to a personal 24 Ibid., 23. 25 Ibid., 18.
9 experience of the infinite and ultimate that promotes dignity and justice for all humans, including the stranger. The sacred tende ncy within societies and humans enforce homogeneity at the expense of what is differe nt. Sacred societies te nd to designate what is different as profane and this can often i ssue forth in acts of hostility and violence toward the stranger. Whereas an ethic of the holy provokes questioning and doubt toward the social-moral order, sacred societies protect it by eliminating that which calls it into question. Challenges in Comparative Religious Ethics The project of comparative re ligious ethics, as the narr ative approach of Fasching and deChant demonstrates, must be able to respond to current moral problems. For these thinkers, comparative religious ethics begins with the seri ous challenge of cultural and ethical relativism. 26 I argue that the both the deep structure and ethical naturalism approaches are unable to sufficiently addr ess the challenge of moral diversity and relativism. The works of Green, Lovin, and Reynolds are subject to the epistemological temptations of modern thinking that tend towards totalism and relativism. Totalism refers to the attempt to hom ogenize all religious a nd moral traditions into a single theory of rationality that can be derived independently of culture and context. This moral outlook is identified with Kants Enlight enment project of justifying morality that appeals to a universal structur e of reason. A moral theory such as Greens that strives to demonstrate that all religious traditions reason from a deep structure does not sufficiently account for the autonomy of different traditions. Ethical relativism, on the other hand, refers to the absence of norma tive criteria for adjudicating across moral 26 Ibid., 4.
10 traditions. Although not equal to cultural re lativism, it is an outlook that has been associated with the modern social sciences. By adhering to the desc riptive aim of modern social science, ethical naturalism is less c oncerned with contemporary context, or what I am referring to as hermeneutical standpoint. Th erefore, the construc tive task of locating norms across traditions that promote the co mmon good is not a facet of their work, and this proves to be a limitation of the approac h. Let us consider these challenges in more detail. Kants version of reason, pure and undef iled, was cast independent of traditional religion and its attendant s uperstitions, supernatural dogmas, and cultic practices. 27 This is the premise of Kants secularization of morality 28 in which the moral law within (the good will) is expressive of the universa l law (categorical imp erative), neither of which is grasped through divine revelation but by pure practi cal reason. As Kant so aptly put it, the good will is determined by reason alone . 29 Religion is useful in so much as it remains within the bounds of reason. Any of religions supe rficial characteristics are only accidental and ultimately of no moral worth to the agents rational will. Although Greens account lacks the kind of Enlightenment hostility toward traditional religion evident in Kant, Green maintains the view that there is a single process of moral and religious reasoning that is the same everywhere. 30 We noted that moral diversity, according to Green, was the result of historical and environmental circumstances because the deep structure is a universal process of human reasoning. 27 John Caputo, On Religion (New York: Routledge, 2001), 48. 28 Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 60. 29 My emphasis, Immanuel Kant, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of the Morals trans. H.J. Paton (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), 396.8. 30 Green, xii.
11 Therefore, his response to the problem of et hical relativism is to deny the existence of real moral differences because everyone shares the same exact method of formal reasoning evident in the deep structure. Green argues that religions must be viewed as evolving rational systems that strain over ti me to move toward greater sensitivity to reasons agenda. 31 The deep structure presented by Gr een stands outside of history and functions like Kants timeless a prioris The deep structure approach totalizes mo ral and religious diversity by subsuming difference into a single account of rational ity. Any of religions features like beliefs, stories, rituals, and doctrines are superficial additions generated by historical and environmental contingency. Although Green consid ers these features to be the source of diverse religious expressions, they are i mperfect or ragged cultural creations. 32 In Greens account, religions are only different on the surface. What is universal and what is unchanging is the formal structure or met hod of moral decision-making. The problem with such a view is that it appears to ne glect any deep moral di fferences originating from different ultimate truths across religions thus forsaking the possibility of achieving a genuine appreciation and respect of otherness. Nor is it able to allow the possibility of different accounts of rationality among a plurality of traditions. The empirical approach of Lovin and Reynolds avoids a universal account of formal reasoning and posits instead particular accounts of rationality that are relative to each tradition. In this sense, it resolves th e weakness of Greens approach. The moral life of communities lies at the inters ection of worldviews and norms. 33 Instead of viewing 31 Ibid., 82. 32 Ibid. 33 Lovin and Reynolds, 30.
12 beliefs, cosmogonic myths, rituals, and feeli ngs, as superficial, Lovin and Reynolds see these complex relationships as the empirical gr ound of rationality that is both natural and observable. As such, these cultural artifacts pr ovide the data or cont ent of rationality for the historian and anthropologi st of religion to study. Although the comparative approach of et hical naturalism aims at empathetic understanding and appreciation of cultura l-moral differences and similarities, 34 it has a shortcoming that should not be overlooked. By aligning itself solely with the descriptive aim of the social sciences, this approach s eeks no constructive aim of religious humanism or critical engagement with the religious traditions. Therefor e, the empirical approach of ethical naturalism is not weak because it makes untenable claims; it is weak because of what it is unable to claim. The authors reject outright any Newtoni an solution to the problem of ethical relativism that is like the in controvertible law of gravitation. They seem to deny the possibility of something like a moral law pr ecept (e.g. prohibition of rape or torture) evident across many traditions that can be us ed to adjudicate moral differences. When moral traditions conflict, th e empiricists can only hope, al ong with the pragmatists, that the parties involved will eventually reach agreement or consensus. 35 At least with Greens account, there is some way of finding common moral ground in the form of precepts across traditions that is worth defendi ng against those who would seek to ignore or eliminate them. The problem of moral re lativism that Lovin a nd Reynolds appear to shirk must be addressed in comparative religi ous ethics in order to overcome relativisms 34 Twiss, 21. 35 Lovin and Reynolds, 28-29.
13 cheap notion of tolerance th at might allow dangerous forms of life to flourish. 36 Moreover, this public concern is in keepi ng with the Max Mllers view of religious studies that Margaret Miles echoes. The weakness of the empirical approach is further illustrated in the sense that the authors set aside the interest ing question of what ways of thinking lead to the rejection of a prevailing moral system on apparently moral grounds. 37 It is precisely this question that cannot be set aside. In avoiding the que stion, their approach overlooks the issue of how traditional myths and worldviews might have perpetuated prejudices and unjust structures within society that oppressed certain groups such as women and slaves. On this issue, the hermeneutical-dialogical paradigm sta nds out in its veracity. Critical inquiry of religious traditions inherently be longs to discipline of religio us studies. It belongs to the constructive task in the method of comparative religious ethics. A Multidimensional Approach to Natural Law In The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics (2006), editor William Schweiker suggests an alternat ive approach to comparative religious ethics that he identifies as a multidimen sional account of inquiry 38 This model of inquiry affirms certain strengths in the two approaches of ethical formalism and ethical naturalism while avoiding some of the shortcomings. As we note d, a weakness of Greens approach is that he attempts to isolate one formal structure of reason the deep structure to explain 36 See Chapter 2, Pluralism and Relativism, in William E. Connolly, Pluralism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005). 37 Lovin and Reynolds, 25. 38 William Schweiker, On Religious Ethics, in The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics ed. William Schweiker (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 1-15.
14 universal morality and not allow the possibi lity of different accounts of rationality. 39 Although Greens formalist approach comes up short in accounting for genuine diversity, it succeeds, according to Schweiker, in construing ethics as an intellectual construct. Moreover, Green does make the issue of fi nding norms and precepts one of his primary concerns. On the other hand, ethical naturalism be gins from the brute fact of moral diversity, of which we are adopting. The pr oblem is that Lovin and Reynolds do not suggest a way out of relativism. 40 The authors are concerned with worldviews and norms within a tradition but not between traditions. Therefore, very little comparison, if any at all, is actually conducte d in their approach. Nonetheles s, this is also one of the great strengths of ethical naturalism. By fo cusing on a single tradition and describing its multiple cosmogonies, beliefs, and practices, the authors do give rich and detailed accounts of moral diversity and rationality within traditions. 41 A multidimensional approach investigates the interacting dimensions of ethics that aim to explicate a religions account of and directions for ordering existence and conduct in the moral space of life. 42 These include the descript ive, normative, practical, fundamental, and metaethical dimensions. I would also add that the multidimensional model should not be limited to these nor shoul d we demarcate the dimensions as if they were wholly separate from each other. In the edited volume, Schweiker uses this multidimensional model to describe the la yout and scope of the book. For Schweiker, 39 Ibid., 4. 40 Ibid., 5. 41 See, for example, Part III, Multiple Cosmogonies and Ethical Order in Lovin and Reynolds. 42 Schweiker (2006), 5.
15 Scope rather than autonomy will be essential in deciding the validity of claims.43 In this thesis, I will adopt this multidimensional model of inquiry to analyze and suggest the scope of natural law ethics within the Therav da and Thomistic traditions. Let us consider briefly how each of these dimensions might fit in our investigation of natural law traditions. The descriptive dimension is evident in the appro ach of ethical naturalism. Lovin and Reynolds give accounts of the wildly complex and different ways religious practitioners construe the mo ral life within a single relig ious tradition lik e Buddhism, for example.44 Pointing to this diversity within tradi tions is the greatest strength of their approach. Within Buddhism, Thai Therav da Buddhists, Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhists, Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhists, and Japa nese Zen Buddhists, are all traditions expressing the variety of Buddhist practice. Mo reover, within any one of these traditions, greater specificity exists, as Frank Reynolds work on Therav da Buddhism has shown. Reynolds recognizes that there are two interdep endent but distinct modes of ethical life shaped by overlapping cosmologies: samsaric and Buddhic.45 Other scholars have also referred to this distinction as the karmic and nirvanic paths that are sometimes used to distinguish the monastic and lay lifestyles.46 Another aspect of the descriptive dimension in religious ethics is that it is linked to other interpretive disciplines.47 My investigation will utilize the interpre tive resources of moral philosophe rs such as Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor and the Jewish political theology of David Novak. 43 Ibid., 4. 44 Ibid., 6. 45 Frank E. Reynolds and Jonathan W. Schofer, Cosmology, in The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics ed. William Schweiker (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 121-2. 46 Harvey Aronson, The Relationship of the Karmic to the Nirvanic in Theravada Buddhism, Journal of Religious Ethics 7, no. 1 (1979), 28-36. 47 Schweiker (2005), 6.
16 The normative dimension is emphasized the most in this thesis. The rationale for this has to do with my decision, alongside Fasching and Schweiker, to frame comparative religious ethics within the c ontext of moral diversity and a pluralistic society. With the ensuing risk of normlessness inaugurated by ethical relativism, the normative dimension in comparative ethics is especially importa nt. This dimension highlights the norms and values that ought to guide human life according to the traditions in question. But there is also sensitivity to the distinct and sometimes conflicting sources of those norms and values within a single tradition. 48 Two common sources often articulated by religious traditions include reason the native intelligence of human beings, and revelation or the ultimate truth claims preserved by the historic al community. In our inquiry into natural law ethics, we will see that reason and revelation are two sources that are inextricably bound, with the special revelation or insight as that which i lluminates natural or mundane reason. I will also be using the term normative in reference to discourse. By using natural law as a mode of normative discourse the trad itions in question di stinguish between two levels of discourse: those within the tradition and those outside the tradition. These two levels translate into the general and speci al categories of discourse. Formulating the modes of natural law discourse will support my thesis that natural law traditions contain the conceptual resources for transcending traditions to find commonality and differences with others in an effort to pursue the ultimate truth. The practical dimension discloses the point that all moral thinking and judgments are situated in practices. That is because, Traditions devel op complex and subtle patterns 48 Ibid.
17 of moral reasoning in order to answer the practical que stions of life.49 Aristotle was among the first great philosophers to show that theoretical kn owledge can only be achieved through praxis. This emphasis on prac tice opens us to the important ethical concept known as virtue. For Aristotle, the virtues are acquired by first having actually practiced them ( NE 1103a32). In other words, habit ( ethos ) produces moral ( ethike ) virtue ( NE 1103a18). This view assures that ethics is always concrete and lived and never too abstract and theoretical. In our investigation, virtues such as prudence, justice, compassion, and charity are crucial to understanding the Therav da and Thomistic natural law traditions. When considering natura l law ethics within religious traditions we must keep this practical dimension at the front of our i nquiry, especially since natural law is often misrepresented as an abstract moral theory about a neutral law stemming from a transcendent lawgiver that has ultimately no effect on actual life and public discourse.50 Since religions present fantastically complex accounts of agency, a fundamental dimension in ethical inquiry is needed.51 As an example, within a Christian framework, moral agency might integrate the complex rela tions between sin, the will, conscience, and Gods grace. These elements are all fundamental to moral agency and reveal how religions offer a rich language for understand ing moral sources. For both of the natural law traditions, the concept of nature is fundamental for unde rstanding how moral sources operate. Therefore, an ontological acc ount is necessary for natural law ethics. 49 Ibid., 7. 50 Jeffrey Stout, Ethics after Babel: The Languages of Morals and Their Discontents (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1988), 253. 51 Schweiker (2005), 8.
18 Moral philosopher Charles Taylor has noted that our sense of admiration and awe for certain capacities that we believe to be in God, the Buddha, or Muhammad is what empowers us to live up to them. 52 The concept of the good that is related to the question, What is the good life? focuses the concern on moral sources. The norms, values, and virtues that define the religious ethics of a tr adition are constituted by moral sources. Applying this fundamental dimension to our inquiry will bring out the various goods that natural law accounts identify as essential to moral agency and offer proper orientation for human nature. I use Charles Taylors categories for distinguishing these goods as life goods (or virtues), hypergoods (the aim of moral agency) and constitutive goods (that which empowers the moral agent) that have a fundame ntal teleological orientation. 53 The metaethical dimension is the last of Schweikers multidimensional model and it is often the most overlooked or neglected. He notes that, Every religion, despite what modern critics hold, purports to be truth seeking. 54 In the case of Greens deep structure approach, the metaethical dimension has s uperiority over all other dimensions. I am careful not to repeat this methodological limitation of assigning a single structure of reason to all traditions. Instead, we will adopt Alasdair MacIntyres view of rationality as tradition-constituted as our metaethical language. Each natural law traditions standard of rationality is defined or constituted by a unique conception of ultimate truth that orders all particular truths. 52 Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 94. 53 Charles Taylor, Leading a Life, in Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason ed. Ruth Chang (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 170-183. 54 Schweiker (2005), 9.
19 As a note, our analysis of these traditi ons cannot strip them of their respective metaphysical and cosmological worldviews. Just as Lovin and Reynolds have argued, worldview and norms, or cosmology and et hics, are inseparable. Therefore, our analysis of natural law traditions cannot ignore metaphysics and cosmology because these living traditions are truth seeking and nature or ontology is always situated within this context. But metaphysics and cosmol ogy are not the fundamental dimensions because ethics and ontology reserve that posit ion. Instead, they are at best secondary, serving as the integral heur istic structure for understanding moral agency and the pursuit of truth through questioning. 55 Religions often posit a constitutive good that is the originating source of the moral life but also identify this as the constitutiv e truth as well. Natural law is a metaethical category since it suggests that all human beings have access to the moral structure that is embedded in a metaphysical or cosmological worldview. But these accounts part from Green in the sense that natural law is unders tood as originating fr om a metaphysical or cosmological context that is situated within a tradition grounded in special revelation or special insight. In other words, the natura l law that can be know n by moral agents is revealed by the constitutive truth, be it the Dh amma or God. Natural law is nothing like the deep structure which offers an ahistori cal account of religious reason. In the next chapter, I consider a tradition-constituted m odel of rationality and a notion of revelation as a historical phenomenon that argues for the explanatory power of historical contingency. Both of these views will be co mpatible with our concept of a natural law tradition from our hermeneutical standpoint. 55 See Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (Great Britain: Herder and Herder, 1972), 343 and Philosophy and the Religious Phenomenon, METHOD: Journal of Lonergan Studies, 12 (1994), 136.
20 Hermeneutical Standpoint Our investigation began by situating the field of comparative religious ethics within the global context of pluralism and mora l diversity. This is characteristic of the hermeneutical-dialogical paradigm that we are aiming to achieve alongside Fasching, deChant, and Schweiker. Fasching and deChant, I noted, claimed that comparative religious ethics must face the challenge of ethical relativism. The way out of this problem, according to them, is to engage in di alogue regarding global ethical issues with those of other religious and mo ral traditions. Some of the major global issues that are addressed by Fasching and deChant include et hnocentrism, genocide, war, racism, and sexism. In my conclusion, I will turn to the qu estion of human dignity within a secular democratic context to see how the natural law traditions in question respond to this issue. It is only from this kind of a hermeneutical and dialogical standpoint that comparative religious ethics can promote religious hum anism or the way of all the earth. Twentieth century saints like Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. realized this paradigm not only in their comparative st udies of each others traditions, but also in their socio-political pursuit of justice. Neither one strayed from keeping religious ethics both religious and ethical. 56 The term global reflexivity used by Schweiker refers to the ways in which communities appear in the gaze of the other. 57 It echoes what Fasching and deChant refer to as the sympathetic process of pa ssing over into another tradition to see the 56 William Schweiker, On the Future of Religious Ethics: Keeping Religious Ethics, Religious and Ethical, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74, no. 1, (March 2006), 137. 57 Ibid. (2005), 12
21 world from their eyes and coming back to ones own tradition enriched. 58 The religious ethicist in this model does not simply exist within or outside actual traditions. She or he is always thinking at the lateral connections among communities, traditions, and intellectual practices. 59 This concern for lateral connections is the aim of normative discourse. Natural law traditions contain a bicameral view of normative discourse in which they can think and communicate with those in their traditi on and with those in other traditions. The important point is that the dialogue partners adjust themselves accordingly and revise their interpretations readily in light of ne w insights from the other. It makes these traditions quite compatible, in theory at least, for working through global reflexivity alongside others in economic, legal, po litical, ethical, and cultural matters. 60 Tasks of Comparative Methodology There are two tasks to our multidimensional hermeneutical approach to comparative religious ethics: the compara tive task and the constructive task. The normative dimension, I pointed out, is the mo st important among the other dimensions in this thesis because it responds directly to the problem of moral diversity. But this dimension could decrease in importance de pending on ones hermeneutical standpoint. As scholars within a secular and pluralistic society inheriting the di senchanted worldview of technological modernity, our concern is with the preservation and articulation of worthwhile norms and values. If not, our cult ure might fully succumb to the forces of 58 Fasching and deChant 7 and 69. 59 Schweiker (2005), 12. 60 Ibid., 10.
22 radical individualism, instrumental reason, atomism, and meaninglessness.61 Therefore, the dimensions of inquiry are relative to th e hermeneutical standpoint of the scholar. Meanwhile, the tasks of our methodology are no t as flexible because they define the process and aim of our investigation. It may seem redundant to declare our ta sk as comparative in the method of comparative religious ethics. This point cannot be overstated because the reality is that many approaches claim to do comparative relig ious ethics but very few actually succeed. The empirical approach has done comparison the least across tr aditions. Lovin and Reynolds and their followers succeed in doing comparison within a single tradition but seem to have no concern comparing other traditions side by side. Greens formalist approach, on the surface, may look like he is doing comparison on a grand systematic level. But I noted the limitations of this ap proach for reasons that include its apparent lack of appreciation for mo ral diversity and autonomy. I count the work of Fasching and deCh ant and the recent project of Aaron Stalnaker among those who have done this su ccessfully. The comparative task for them has the purpose of achieving insight. Gandhi a nd King lived this comparative task in their path toward nonviolence, of which Fasching a nd deChant refer to as the greatest ethical response to injustice. It wa s attained through a meeting and sharing of religious and cultural insight.62 Gandhi read and meditated on Jesu s Sermon on the Mount and then reinterpreted the Bhagavad-G t through the Gospel ethic of nonviolence. King, on the other hand, reinterpreted his Christian social ethic in light of Gandhis operational 61 For a brief and unparalleled account of th ese modern malaises see Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991). 62 Fasching and deChant, 69.
23 technique of nonviolence. In scholarly academic terms, what these saintly lives translate into and demonstrate is that the process of comparative research is one of moving back and forth between religious worlds refining both the categories of analysis and ones initial hunches.63 This is the task set before us in our investigation of natural law ethics in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions The comparative task encourages us to place the natural law traditions side by side in an effort to demons trate how they are functionally similar for establishing a complex account of moral agency within a specific moral universe. Thus our scope in some way is na rrowed to these natural law traditions. But that is because I am not making a universa listic claim like Green that all religious traditions demonstrate a natural law ethic that is a deep structure. Natural law thinking may belong to various religious traditions, but it is only one more way of construing the moral life among others. I claim that natura l law traditions function by using similar categories for discourse or dialogue that distinguishes general knowledge and special knowledge. These parameters of discourse can serve as both a bridge and unity between traditions to promote the common good and a way of designating moral differences. The constructive task, or what Stalnaker refers to as the normative task, assists ethical reflection amidst our own plural istic, conflicted, and possibility-strewn contemporary context.64 In other words, it reflects our hermeneutical standpoint and is concerned with the use of religious sources in meeting current problems.65 But this is not merely enough. With the comparative task in mind, scholars aid in the reconstruction 63 Aaron Stalnaker, Comparative Religious Ethics and the Problem of Human Nature, Journal of Religious Ethics 33, no. 2 (2005), 194. 64 Ibid. (2005), 189. 65 Schweiker (2005), 3.
24 of the religious traditions themselves amid st global reflexivity. This is why Schweiker refers to the scholars involvement as both re ligious and ethical. She or he may have to extend religious enactments of the moral space of life, 66 especially if the religious tradition is in some way betray ing human dignity. There is no need to wear two hats in this model of scholarly inquiry. Situating natural law traditions within a hermeneutical context, most especially moral diversity and democratic pluralism, will be our main attempt to pursue this constructive task. The endpoint of this inqui ry is to formulate a language of normative discourse derived from the similar conceptual apparatus of these natural law traditions that could be used to address global ethi cal issues such as human dignity and human rights, interreligious dialogue, and secula rity. Our purpose for using the method of comparative religious ethics through a multid imensional hermeneutical approach is to recover these natural law traditions in a way that maintains a level of religious integrity that is amendable to our contemporary context and also suggest what these traditions can constructively offer to moral de bates in our global society. 66 Ibid. (2006), 143.
25 Chapter Two: The Concept of a Natural Law Tradition Since the hermeneutical standpoint of this thesis is framed within a global context of pluralism and moral diversity, the normative dimension is of great moral import to our inquiry. In this chapter, we shall consider a few of the primary normative areas in the natural law accounts of the Therav da and Thomistic traditions. Our purpose for doing this is to formulate a mode of normative disc ourse that is authentic to these natural law traditions but is in line with our multidime nsional hermeneutical inquiry. The areas of normativity for natural law of interest to us include the concept of a natural law tradition, its basis of authority and narrative context, and its mode of discourse. These normative areas should provide the fram ework for understanding how th ese natural law traditions avoid the pitfalls of authoritar ianism and ethical relativism. To achieve this from a hermeneutical st andpoint, we must a ddress the challenge of a modern secular worldview such as our ow n. That means the natural law ethics of the Therav da and Thomistic traditions n eed to be sensitive to the historical turn of modern and postmodern thinking that has demythologize d what Bernard Lonergan refers to as the classisict worldview: classicism is no mo re than the mistaken view of conceiving culture normatively and of concluding th at there is just one human culture.1 As a result, there must be a degree of historicizing these natural law accounts. Th is does not require a radical reinterpretation of the natural law trad itions in question because as we shall see, 1 Lonergan (1972), 124.
26 their accounts of natural law are quite am endable to the contemporary worldview and even have something to offer it. It will require us though to grant metaphysics and cosmology a secondary role with ethics and ontology our fundamental dimension. Metaphysics and cosmology serve as integral he uristic moral structures within which one pursues the question of ultimate truth. As part of our descriptive dimension of conversing w ith other disciplines, through the help of Alasdair MacIntyre and David Novak, I will construct a concept of a natural law tradition that is compatible w ith modern secularity and the Therav da and Thomistic traditions. This is not coincidental. In fact, MacIntyres concept of tradition is derived specifically from his thoughtful analysis of the thought of Thomas Aquinas and the emergence of the Thomistic tradition.2 Similar to this account of tradition, but from a theological perspective, is Novaks notion of historical communities, which he constructs from the natural law tradition of Judaism.3 A synthesis of their views affords us a concept of natural law trad ition that is compatible with the historical turn of modern thinking without denying the traditions claims to truth. There will be three essential features to this concept of a natural law tradition: a tradition-constituted model of rationality, revelation as hist orical phenomenon, and natural law as a cultural construct that is both comparative and ontological. Rationality, Revelation, and Natural Law Our starting point of formulating a concep t of a natural law tradition compatible with our hermeneutical standpoi nt is Alasdair MacIntyre s view of rationality and 2 See Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990), Chapters 5 and 6. 3 See David Novak, Natural Law in Judaism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Chapter 1.
27 tradition. MacIntyre historicizes rationality in the following way: rationality itself is a concept with a history. 4 As many as there are traditions embodying their own histories, so too are there rationalities , each providing its own standa rds of rational justification. This account is similar to Lovin and Re ynolds, except that as a moral philosopher MacIntyre is willing to say a lot more about the issue of relativism. In MacIntyres account, there is the possibility of a trad ition being superior to rival traditions. 5 This happens when an alien tradition offers a cogent and illuminating explanation to a tradition in epistemological crisis. This tr adition in cris is adopts this explanation for itself to establish internal coherence. 6 Although the tradition in crisis is still using its own standards of rational justification to measure the coherence and cogency of the alien traditions explanati on, it must acknowledge one fact: the new explanation does not stand in any substantiv e unity with the preceding history of the tradition in crisis. 7 When considering religious traditions, I find MacIntyres language of rival and superior traditions too antagonistic for our model. There has been enough sectarian religious violence over the course of history and even today to necessitate an alternative kind of discourse. Furthermore, recognizing th e superiority of anot her philosophical or political tradition is not nearly as difficult as claiming the superiority of another religious tradition. 8 But this does not take away from MacIntyres underlying point of value: commensurability and translatability is possible in a rational way across traditions. What 4 Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 9. 5 I should point out the obvious fact that his notion of superiority is made solely on intellectual grounds. 6 Ibid., 364-5. 7 Ibid., 365. 8 I am not against the possibility of someone acknowledging a privileged access to truth by virtue of their religious tradition. But certainly, self-superiority sh ould not be a feature of interreligious dialogue.
28 we are interested then is the possibility of other traditions illuminating ones own tradition. A person in one reli gious tradition might receiv e illumination from another religious tradition but this need not conclude that the home tr adition is inferior. If this were the case, then MacIntyres account s eems to imply the possibility of everyone moving toward a single tradition based on th e logical outcome and awareness of that traditions rational superiority. This woul d only revert to a universalization or homogenization of discourse, which we tryi ng to avoid in our model. Instead, it makes more sense for religious tradi tions to consider the possibi lity that another tradition, religious or not, might illuminate their own understanding of truth. This grants thereby a level of autonomy to the ot her tradition. In this way, two traditions can have shared insight. It is especially evident in the life of Gandhi when he claimed that the Sermon on the Mount was the interpreti ve key for understanding the G t message of nonviolence.9 Let us now consider MacIntyres view of rationality and what he means by standards. Rationality, which is purely con tingent upon history, is a tradition-constituted enterprise.10 But if traditions provide the content for rational justif ication, what then is the content of traditions? Accordi ng to MacIntyre, a tradition i s an historically extended, socially embodied argument, and an argument precisely in part about the goods which constitute that tradition.11 Those goods might refer to cer tain virtues like justice and integrity, what MacIntyre refers to as particular or limited goods.12 The exercise of virtues, in part, determines the health of a tradition. But, more importantly, these goods are shaped by an overriding good or telos that constitutes the tradition. The overriding 9 Fasching and deChant, 126. 10 MacIntyre (1988), 354. 11 Ibid. (1984), 222. 12 Ibid., 203
29 good warrants putting other goods in a subordinate place.13 I shall have more to say about this later because our natural law acc ounts require conceptions of the good that are set within a teleological framework. Achievi ng this good is determined by whether or not one is in harmony with the directedness of the higher law. A telos or overriding good for a tradition is a primary constituent in shaping the rationality of that tradition. That is because the pursuit of an overriding good that orders the limited goods gives a tradition its particular point and purpose.14 Since traditions are socially embodied arguments that ex tend through many genera tions, the pursuit of goods is not without debate and discourse. Every tradition is made up of a community, institutional forms, and practices. The function of these social expres sions is to preserve and pass along the goods of a tr adition to an individual. Along with the overriding good, a tradition also delivers a conception of a truth beyond and ordering all particular truths.15 This observation is essential to our conception of a natural law tradition. MacIntyres conception of a hi gher truth or constitutive truth ordering all particular truths and an overriding good is the framework for understanding the rationality of a natural law tradition. In this model, an overriding good may be e quivalent with the c onstitutive truth of a tradition. That is the case with the Therav da and Thomistic tr aditions, where the overriding good that is also the constitutive truth, is designated as Dhamma and God. The Dhammapada (Path of Truth), for example, de scribes the Buddhas true Teaching (Dhamma) as a flavor that excels all other flavors and a delight that surpasses all 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid., 222. 15 Ibid. (1990), 200.
30 delights ( Dh v. 354). This metaphorical language here equates the truth with a supreme good beyond the qualities of taste and pleasur e. Similarly, St. Thomass Christian metaphysics claims that the true and good are appropriated to God ( DQTruth 1). Truth, according to MacIntyres concept of tradition, is the measure of our warrantsthe reasonable grounds for some act.16 In our traditions in question, Dhamma and God, as both the constitutive truth and the overriding good, establish the standards of rationality. When it comes to a single human agent, each tradition also identifies a hypergood as the aim of religious practice.17 Perfect happiness ( beatitudo perfecta) attained in heaven for Aquinas and the blowing out ( nibb na) of desire that is enli ghtenment for the Buddha both qualify as hypergoods. This theme will re ceive further exploration in chapter 4. Natural law thinking and reasoning in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions is thereby constituted by a higher truth that is also construed as a higher law ordering all particular moral judgments of the human ag ent. The truth providing the standard is synonymous with the law providing the measure fo r all human acts. Our work in the next section should demonstrate this congruence between the constitutive truth and the higher law in the natural law traditions. Let us now consider the work of David Novak who uses a similar notion of tradition known as historical community that attempts to preserve the value of religious truths and revelations within a democratic political context. It should assist us in refining our concept of a natural law tradition that is sensitive to the modern secular outlook. 16 Ibid., 202. 17 I am using an ethical concept described by Charles Ta ylor that specifically pertains to what is good for the moral agent thereby distinguishing it from a good that constitutes this. In other words, it is in light of the constitutive good that one achieves the hypergood. In Therav da Buddhism, for example, it is only by seeing the world through the Dhamma (constitutive good) that one can achieve the hypergood of enlightenment.
31 The hermeneutical standpoint of David Novaks thinking is secular democratic societies. His argument is that these modern societies shoul d be viewed by citizens as secondary to historical communities, which s hould be primary. A historical community is a singular and traditional community that pre cedes the existing temporal order and is rooted in revelation or religiously constitute d. He observes, I know of no historically transmitted culture that when probed deeply enough does not invoke some transcendent reality as its source. 18 Therefore, he interprets a religi ous concept such as revelation as a historical phenomenon. 19 Novaks concern is that w ithout a concept of histor ical communities to ground secular democratic society, the ideas of soci al contracts and human rights are artificial and without substance. That is because thes e ideas were founded on a fictional view of society as an agreement made up by self-cons tituted individuals coming together from a state of nature. 20 The social contract presupposes that its parties come to it with rights that are their already, with those prior rights originating in historical communities. 21 In the Jewish tradition, the idea of covenant pre cedes and grounds all othe r social, legal, and political contracts. Covenants thus serve as the foundation for contracts from a Jewish perspective. 22 Historical communities, in his view, are se en as external authorities because they not only historically precede th e current order but also becaus e they derive their authority from a transcendent source. Although I have some reservation about what kinds of 18 Novak (1998), 22. 19 Ibid., 12. 20 Ibid., 22. 21 David Novak, The Jewish Social Contract (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Un iversity Press, 2005), 2. 22 Ibid., 63.
32 traditions might actually be considered historical communities according to Novak, 23 his reflection can nonetheless guide us in formula ting a concept of a natural law tradition. We can see a similarity between what I am calling higher law and a constitutive truth in MacIntyres concept of tradition and Novaks idea of covenant as a religious foundation rooted in a transcendent source that orders all partic ular or temporal contracts. The common theme in their accounts is that tradition and historical communities are constituted by an order and truth that is high er than this particular existence. Whereas MacIntyre stops short as a social and moral philosopher in discussing what the higher truth might be, Novak as a theologian identifies it as Gods Law. Indebted to the Hebrew Scriptures, rabbi nic theology, and Jewi sh legal tradition, Novak develops an account of natural law with public relevance. He defines natural law in Judaism as a border concept between theology and philosophy and between other traditions in the following way: On the surface, it functions like the idea of na tural rights, that is, it proposes rules, procedures, and even principles for the governance of civil so ciety. But unlike the idea of human rights it does not claim to be self-constituting. By its real assertion of nature, it indicates that it is rooted in an order that transcends any imminent society. 24 In the preceding passage, we can isolate th e two dimensions required for a natural law theory according to Novak: the comparative and the ontological. 25 The former dimension illustrates that an account of natural law must seek commonalities across traditions, hence engaging in the comparative task. This is why Novak says, natural law functions as a bridge between cultures, preven ting any of them from cornering the market 23 For example, would a new religious movement such as Mormonism rooted in revelation be considered a historical community? 24 Novak (1998), 25. 25 Ibid., 156.
33 on humankind and humanity. 26 For Judaism, Novak argues that the Noahide law given as a universal law for mankind represents a Scriptural account of the natural law. Therefore, Scripture serves as the foundati on for natural law thinking. This interpretation overcomes the possibility of Enlightenment universalism or totalism that attempts to explain the morality of all diverse cultures in terms of a transcendental viewpoint that has been achieved by a single ethical theory. 27 A natural law tradition does not claim to offer a detailed explanation of other moralities. Instead, it offers a universal horizon from which it includes other moral traditions and claims at least to have a minimum in common with other traditions. 28 Natural law thinking doesnt attempt to establish a universal morality but instead recognizes the dignity of difference as a precondition for the gift of revelation or insight Its purpose, in our investigation, is to open up a mode of discourse with other traditions to illuminate overlapping moralities and identify moral divergences. Thus the comparative dimension of natural law thinking transcends cultures by locating both its similarities and differences with other traditions. The ontological dimension demonstrates that natural law accounts must be conversant with both theology and philosophy, in order to formulate a cogent account of human nature. Philosophical thinking m oves from ethics up to ontology, whereas theology is the reverse from ontology up to ethics. 29 Regardless, the two shall meet somewhere thereby making the reflection on nature a normative endeavor necessary for natural law. Thinking about law without nature would amount to law without discernible 26 Ibid.,178 27 Ibid., 191. 28 Ibid., 189 29 Ibid.
34 reason,30 perhaps conjuring up an image of an irra tional God or a totalitarian state that deprives basic dignity to others. These ont ological and comparative dimensions of Novaks natural law account shall guide our investigation of the Therav da and Thomistic traditions. They coincide with the metaethical and fundamental dimensions, and the overall comparative task of our multidimensional approach. If revelation is a histori cal phenomenon for Novak, then it should be no surprise that he interprets natural law as a cultura l construct. We have already seen how his conception of historical communities allows fo r a cultural construct like natural law to still carry weight in public discourse. A cultura l construct, in his vi ew, does not have the same meaning as human constructs such as human rights or the social contract. Interpreting natural law as a cultural construct is consistent with our attempt to formulate a concept of a natural law tradition that can designate its importance in public discourse and limits as well. He notes that, the greates t vulnerability to natural law theory is its seeming oblivion to and disrespect of cu ltural diversity, especially in normative matters.31 Aristotle and Plato, for example, were guilty of the classicist worldview we noted earlier in their presupposition that Greek thought and culture spoke for humanity as a whole. The Hellenistic military campaigns of Alexander the Great, a student of Aristotle, attest to this. Novaks response to this vulnerability is to historicize natu ral law by identifying the revelation upon which it is le gitimated (i.e., the Torah) as a historical phenomenon. In this way, he overcomes the vulnerability of a classicist worldview that premoderns and moderns alike have been prey. A historical community with a natural law vocabulary is 30 Ibid., 122 31 Ibid., 188.
35 but one community among a plurality of others participating in a democratic ethos. With this vulnerability in mind, we can agree with Novak to an extent th at metaphysics is not the way to constitute natural law.32 What Novak wants to avoid, and rightfully so, is an account of natural theology or metaphysical biology that design ates a specific communitys revelation or philosophical anthropology as a self-evident truth binding on everyone. Novak claims that his ontological account of human be ings is derived not from metaphysics, but from the doctrine of creation. Since creation of the worl d precedes the historical revelation to the Jewish community at Sinai, it does not al low any member of the covenanted community to ignore the world beyond the community facing her.33 This might be a faithful move in Judaism but not for the Therav da and Thomistic traditions. To wholly ignore the metaphysical and cosmological underpinnings of the Therav da and Thomistic traditions or simply dismiss it as premodern w ould not be keeping to our ethical and religious aim. The accounts of natural law in these tr aditions cannot be detached from metaphysics and cosmology because it is central to the metaethical theories of these traditions. Therefore, as we noted, meta physics and cosmology better serve us as heuristic devices secondary to the fundamental dimension of ethics and ontology. As heuristic devices they are quite helpful in locating the place and significance of people outside the tradition. In other words, cons idering the natural law from within the cosmological and metaphysical worldviews of thes e traditions will assist us in analyzing the comparative and ontological dimensions of the natural law. It will also illustrate how these traditions pursue ultimate truth. 32 Ibid., 26. 33 Ibid, 190.
36 Like Rabbinic Judaism, the Thomistic me taphysics of participation also rests upon the doctrine of creation ex nihilo while the Therav din cosmology of interdependence is understood in terms of the doctrine of dependent origination ( patticasamupp da ). It is from these cosmological a nd metaphysical worldviews that these natural law traditions pursue the question of constitutive truth. The standards of rationality are determined by the truth that structures the metaphysical or cosmological order in the natural law tradition. To heed NovakÂ’s warning of metaphysics and natural theology, these doctrines or truths should be viewed as a special revelation or special insight and interpreted as hist orical phenomena. Therefore, in the traditions in question, the special revelation of God achieving normative expression in Scripture and the special insight of the Buddha having normative expression in the P li Canon, are the ways of constituting natural law. But, of equal im portance, is the comparative dimension of illuminating natural law by seeking commonalities with other traditions. Natural Law Traditions The concept of a natural law tradition we have been formulating according to the works of MacIntyre and Novak should now be evident. Their accounts contain three primary characteristics for a natural law tradi tion that I am conceptualizing: rationality as tradition-constituted; revelation as a historical phenomenon; and natural law as a cultural construct that is both comp arative and ontological. These characteristics reflect the historical turn in contemporary ethical thought, but do so without abandoning the concepts of higher law and constitutive truth. Their notions of trad ition and historical community offer us a working model that is amendable to the natural law traditions in
37 question and compatible to our hermeneutical standpoint. This model is conducive to our natural law traditions in that it allows for illumination or shared insight between traditions and recognizes the limits and possibil ities of democratic participation for these natural law traditions. Since our hermeneutical standpoint is fram ed within the global context of moral diversity and pluralism, an account must be given of how the natu ral law traditions can respond. My claim is that these natural law tr aditions thrive on discourse about moral truths with other traditions while continuing to pursue ultimate truth claims within their own metaphysical or cosmological worldviews. These traditions aim to discover shared insights and mutual illumination with discourse partners. But they do so without positing moral authoritarianism. The intent is never to proselytize because natural law traditions recognize the autonomy of other traditions. Natura l law traditions respect the brute fact of moral differences and begin from this premise. Dhamma in the Therav da Tradition The Therav da, or Â“Way of the Elde rsÂ” tradition, refers to the most ancient school of Buddhism in existence today whose te xtual authority is derived from the P li Canon. This tradition is geographically situated in the Southeast As ian countries of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos and Cambodia. The origin of what we call Buddhism as a religious tradition is attributed to Tath gata Buddha, born as Prince Siddhartha Gotama (563-483 BCE). Having spent his life in the confines of a palace environment amidst worldly pleasures and wholly ignorant of the outside world, GotamaÂ’s experience of the Â“passing sightsÂ” outside the palace sent him into a wh irlwind of confusion and sadness. The three
38 encounters of an old man, a sick man, and a corpse exposed the prince to the existence of suffering ( dukkha ) and the impermanence ( anicca ) of life. But it was his encounter with an ascetic monk in pursuit of the truth that attracted him to an alte rnative lifestyle that hinted at a solution to the problems to agi ng, sickness, and death. To ward the end of his life, the Buddha himself recount ed to a student what followed: When I was twenty-nine, Subhadda, I left home to seek the greatest good. Now more than fifty years have passed, Subhadda, since I renounced the world.34 Gotama renounced his royal lifestyle l eaving behind his wife and child, which was accepted in the context of classical Indian society. For six years, Gotama studied various dharma through meditative concentration ( sam dhi ) and other spiritual practices with different teachers, but none of these teach ings left him satisfied. He then discovered his own path toward an enlightened state. It occurred one day sitting under the Bodhi tree while he was recovering from his ascet ic and emaciated condition. During this experience, the Buddha had dire ct insight into the true na ture of things and achieved enlightenment (nibbna ). He decided to return to the world out of compassion to preach the Dhamma, or Teaching.35 In the first discourse of his enlightened state, the Deer Park Sermon, Gotama Buddha, the Awakened One, taught the Dhamma as the middle way between austerity and worldly pleasure. The solution lay in the Noble Eightfold Path that leads to the cessation (nirodha) of suffering.36 34 From Digha Nik ya referenced by Hajime Nakamura, Gotama Buddha (Japan: Kosei, 2000), 107. 35 I use the Pli spelling of Dhamma to maintain the language of Therav da Buddhism. It is the same word as the Sanskrit, Dharma. 36 The Noble Eightfold Path includes Right View, Right Resolve, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation.
39 The Dhamma preached by the Buddha has a variety of translations in the Therav da tradition including holy wisdom, salvific truth, teaching, and doctrine.37 According to the scholastic Abhidhamma litera ture that developed a couple of centuries after the Buddhas final death ( parinibb na), dhamm 38 or existents, refer to separately existing objects of consciousne ss that can be accessed or penetrated by the trained mind.39 In the Therav da tradition both Dhamma/dhamm refer to a singular reality of interdependence that the practiti oner can experience through insight.40 To designate Therav da Buddhism as a natural law tr adition we must focus on the ethical, ontological, and co smological implications of Dhamma. I am not attempting to articulate a new area of inquiry here but drawing upon the wo rk of Western scholars in Buddhist ethics. My account of Dhamma as n atural law is indebt ed primarily to the works of Sallie King, Damien Keown, and Joanna Macy. The obvious challenge in designating Therav da Buddhism as a natural law traditi on is that the term natural law already contains the Western bias of monotheis tic natural law traditions such as Novaks Judaism and Thomism. The proliferation of this term in other traditions that function in a similar yet unique way other than the monotheistic accounts belongs to my task. As a starting point, let us consider Keowns definition of the term: Dharma may be translated as natural law, a term which captures both its important meanings, namely as the princi ple of order and regularity seen in the behavior of natural phenomena, and also the idea of a universal moral law whose requirements have been discovered (not i nvented) by enlightened beings such as the Buddha.41 37 Carl Olson, The Different Paths of Buddhism (New Jersey: Rutgers Univ ersity Press, 2005), 35. 38 Plural form of dhamma. 39 Steven Collins, Nirvana and Other Buddhist Felicities (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 88. 40 Noa Ronkin, Early Buddhist Metaphysics (New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005), 36. 41 Damien Keown, Origins of Buddhist Ethics, in The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics ed. William Schweiker (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 288.
40 From this definition, the inextricabilit y of natural phenomena and moral law is presented thus demonstrating the importance of having an account of nature available to address the question of Buddhist ethics. Keown also notes a nother significant point, that the Buddha discovered the Dhamma. Therefore, the truth of this teaching preexists the life and death of the thus come, thus gon e Buddha. The Dhamma as natural law and truth is objective and independent of anyones awareness. Thus it meets our criterion of a constitutive truth: Whether there is an arising of Tath gatas or no arising of Tath gatas, that element still persists [dependent orig ination], the stableness of Dhamma, the fixed course of Dhamma, specific conditionality ( SN 12:20; II 25-27).42 Although some Western scholar s of Buddhist ethics have identified Dhamma as natural law, two Thai Therav da monk-scholars have used this terminology extensively in their teaching, Phra Prayudh Payu tto and the late Bhikkhu Buddhadasa.43 Their work is concerned primarily with the ethical, spirit ual, and social implications of Dhamma. The moral discipline of proper conduct ( s la ), the virtue of compassion (karuna ), the spiritual practice of meditation (sam dhi ), and the achievement of a just society are all the direct result of humans acting in accord with the la ws of nature. In the model of natural law shared by both Payutto and Buddhadasa, the ought of moral behavior is derived from what is the case in nature.44 Let us consider some of the basic tenets of Buddhist ethics from a natural law perspective. 42 All translations of the P li Nik yas, unless otherwise noted, are taken from In the Buddhas Words ed. Bhikkhu Bodhi (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2005). 43 Sallie B. King, Being Benevolence: The Social Ethics of Engaged Buddhism (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005), 43. 44 Sallie B. King, From Is to Ought: Natural Law in Buddhadasa Bhikkhu and Phra Prayudh Payutto, Journal of Religious Ethics 30, no. 2 (2002), 281.
41 The Eightfold Path that leads to enlightenment follows a tripartite structure of moral discipline, meditation, and insight. Althoug h these general divisions of the path are not hierarchically set, of these, s la has been considered the basis of all good qualities ( Mil II.1.9). Often cited as the fundamental teaching for moral discipline in Buddhism is this verse from the Dhammapada : To avoid all evil, to cultivate good deeds, and to purify ones mindthis is the teaching of the Buddhas ( Dh 183). The teaching, which has been called the heart of Buddhism,45 is strikingly similar to the primary precept of the natural law according to Aquinas. What is unclear from this teaching is the content of evil and good deeds. The Therav da tradition contains a rich language of perspicuous contrast for evil and good acts with terminology like unwholesome and wholesome, unskillful and skillful. The Five Precepts ( paca-sila ), identified as the minimum lay obligations, are unwholesome acts that require abstention from ev eryone. They include the aban donment of killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxication. The precepts are not commands of the natural light of reason that originates in a divine lawgiver which compels action as Aquinas will describe it. They are purely rational responses to the natural order. According to Payutto, they are the first st ep toward avoiding evil or unskillful actions that are derived solely from reason and natural laws.46 This would confirm the Buddhas perspective that these are ancient, traditional, and unadulterated precepts that people of other traditions deem beneficial as well ( AN 8:39; IV 245-47). Therefore, the precepts are reasonable in the sense that the common moral ag ent is capable of 45 Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, Me and Mine: Selected Essays of Bhikkhu Buddhadasa ed. Donald K. Swearer (New York: SUNY Press, 1989), 91. 46 Phra Prayudh Payutto, Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life, trans. Grant A. Olson (New York: SUNY Press, 1995), 245.
42 understanding its worth through a partial understanding of the natural law. These moral precepts are a universal set of objective principles established in accordance with natural truths that are obser vable to all persons.47 With regard to s la observing the natural law or truth of kammathe process determining the cause and effect between all relationshipsis the key to moral development. That is because kamma dete rmines the proper consequences, whether retributive or rewarding, ba sed on the agents actions. The Buddha defines kamma simply as those actions issuing from cetan translated as intention or volition (AN III 415). Persons marked by extraordinary insight or wisdom ( paa) are capable of perceiving those laws of nature that are more difficult. The Therav da tradition distinguishes between those who are only observing the law of kamma ( kiriyavda) and those who are able to penetrate the higher Dhamma that is more difficult to perceive. The Buddha himself used the terms worldly or mundane ( lokiya ) and world-transcending or supramundane ( lokuttara ) to designate this difference.48 This distinction between levels of awareness of the Dhamma will assist us in formulating the general and special categories of natural law discourse in Therav da Buddhism. Having defined the law of kamma as part of the natural law, let us now consider the truths of existence and the law that require deeper insight. There are two dhammic principles that were taught by the Buddha acco rding to Payutto. The first principle is the three characteristics of existence ( tilakkhana ) that include suffering, impermanence, and not-self ( anatt ). With regard to these characte ristics, suffering and impermanence are truths able to be penetr ated by worldly or mundane rea lization. The other principle is 47 Payutto, 249. 48 Damien Keown, The Nature of Buddhist Ethics (New York: Palgrave, 2001), 108-110.
43 dependent origination or dependent co-arising ( pattica-samupp da).49 This law, is the most difficult to perceive but when realized opens the door to unders tanding the truth of not-self. Even though distinctions are made be tween these principles they all belong to the same reality. As Payutto puts it, they ar e presented in different ways in order to reveal the same truth.50 The natural law in Therav da Buddhism is therefore observable to everyone according to his or her moral and spiritual at tunement with nature that is perfected through the Eightfold Path. From this starti ng point, we have a working model for a Therav da natural law tradition with Dhamma as the constitutive truth. Let us now turn to the concept of natural law in the Thomistic tradition wh ich is understood in a theistic framework instead of a naturalistic one. Natural Law in the Thomistic Tradition Friar Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274 CE) of the Order of Preachers lived during a vibrant era of western Christian Europe. The son of a count, Thomas was sent off to a monastery at Monte Cassino to receive highe r learning from clergy to meet the demands of the boys exceptional aptitude. Thomas then went to study in the liberal setting at the University of Naples, reading works from Oxford thinkers, Arab Muslims, and that dangerous pagan philosopher, Aristotle.51 At the disapproval of hi s parents who had great political and ecclesiastical aspirations for their son, Thomas grew deeply fond of the simple mendicant lifestyle of the Dominicans a nd decided to embark for Paris to join the order. Hearing word of this and angere d by their sons decision to live this way, 49 Payutto, 61. 50 Ibid. 51 Richard E. Rubenstein, Aristotles Children (Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2003), 195.
44 Thomass own family kidnapped him and held him captive at a castle estate. The only company he had was a couple of works by Ar istotle and the Bible. Although a strange pair of reading materials in Aquinass medi eval Christendom, the confluence of both in his thinking would transform his theological re flection into the writ ings of an Angelic Doctor. After two years, he was finally able to leave the fortress whereupon he joined the academic community at the University of Paris and studied under the tutelage of Albertus Magnus. Paris was precisely the kind of environment Thomas could engage in public debates with theological masters like St Bonaventure. In these discourses, Thomas argued from a more liberal-minded Aristo telian viewpoint while the conservative Franciscan Bonaventure attempted to guard the traditional faith from unwelcome pagan philosophy. In mapping the emergence of the Thomis tic tradition, MacIntyre convincingly shows what Aquinas reckoned with in his theolo gical reflection: two rival, incompatible and apparently incommensurable traditions. 52 These were of course the Aristotelian and the Augustinian traditions. But Thomas su cceeded in synthesizing these two seemingly incompatible traditions. In simple terms, th e unified system of thought between Aristotle and Augustine is captured in Aquinass famous dictum, grace does not abolish nature, but completes it ( ST 1a 1.8). 53 Here lies the formula for understanding the role that grace has for nature, theology for philosophy, faith fo r reason, and divine law for natural law. Aquinas claimed that Aristotle provid ed a philosophy proper to mans natural capacities but he believed that humans have a supernatural vocation that only theology can disclose. God is the ultimate end of man and it is only in the attainment of this 52 MacIntyre, (1990), 116. 53 Cited in Rubenstein, 198.
45 ultimate end that perfect happiness ( beatitudo perfecta ) consists (ST 1a2ae 1.6). But perfect happiness cannot be had by man in th e present state of life, therefore, it must consist in the afterlife because that is the promise of sacred Scripture ( ST 1a2ae 3.2). Unlike Aristotle, who said that true happiness ( eudaimonia) consisted in the intellectual activity of contemplation ( theoria ) afforded by natural reas on, Aquinas believed that happiness especially lies in contemplation of the divine, afforded by the infused grace of the supernatural virtues of faith and charity ( ST 1a2ae 3.5). Again, returning to the Thomistic formula of grace perfecting na ture, so too does faith perfect reason, and theology perfect philosophy. The same goes for his model of divine law perfecting natural law. In his own words, just as grac e presupposes nature, so it is right that the divine law should presu ppose the natural law ( ST 1a2ae 99.2). He uses the term superaddens here to illustrate the notion of grac e building on nature and the divine law building on the natural law. According to Thomistic anth ropology, humans are made imago dei bearing the analogous imprints of God s intellect and reason ( ST 1a2ae, prologue). 54 Because these natural capacities have been created by a supe rnatural agent, namely God, humans are endowed with the light of na tural reason. Aquinas defines th is natural capacity in the following way: the light of natural reason ( lumen rationis naturalis ), by which we discern what is good and what is evilwhich pertains to the na tural lawis nothing other than an impression in us of the divine light ( ST 1a2ae 91.2). Reason ( ratio ), therefore, impressed by the divine light, is that which contains the capacity to discern what is good and what is evil. This is, in the simplest manner, 54 I would like to point out that Thomas also identifie s intellect, free will, and power of self-direction, as imago Dei characteristics. See ST 1a2ae, prologue.
46 Aquinass definition of the natural law ( lex naturalis ). The fundamental habit that secures us accessibility to notions of good and evil is synderesis. 55 This natural habit of synderesis, according to Aquinas, is said to be the law of our intellect because it contains the precepts of the natural law which are the first principles ( prima principia) of human acts ( ST 1a2ae 94.1 ad3). The primary precept that is grasped by synderesis from which reasoning proceeds is this: That good should be done and pursued and evil avoided (bonum est faciendum et pr osquendum, et malum vitandum ) (ST 1a2ae 94.2). The first principles of rational human agency include generally known principles such as do no harm and give every man his due. Aquinas understands humans to have a natural desire ( inclinatione ) toward the good. Practical reason, which also naturally ap prehends the good, works in tandem with desire toward certain ends that define the common good ( bonum commune ): preservation of life, sexual interc ourse and education, religious trut h and social living (Ibid.). The primary precept or principium and the first principles that provide the reasonable starting points for pursuing the common good listed a bove are universally known or understood as self-evident truths ( per se nota ). As Aquinas puts it, these belong to the law of nature absolutely ( ST 1a2ae 100, my emphasis). Knowi ng the wrongness of these acts can never be abolished from the human heart since it has been written in the human heart independent of special revelation ( ST 1a2ae 94.6 r3). There are secondary precepts as well, wh ich are like detailed conclusions drawn from first principles ( ST 1a2ae 94.5 r3). These precepts illu strate the movement from the general knowable principl es that guide practical reasoning to the particular conclusions. 55 Pamela M. Hall, Narrative and the Natural Law: An Interpretation of Thomistic Ethics (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), 30.
47 The secondary precepts allow for the con tingency of communitie s, experience, and human weakness to shape them. This is wh ere the activity of virtues like prudence ( prudentia ) is essential. Synderesis may secure the starting point, but the virtue of prudence aims at the particular conclusions that can guide action.56 In Aquinass account, practical reason is a rule and measure containing the law of the intellect ( ST 1a2ae 90.1). The moral precepts are considered external principles of human action.57 They originate in Gods act of creation, unlike the Five Precepts of Therav da Buddhism that are natural responses derived purely from a cosmological account of nature independent of a deity. On the other hand, the virtues, as internal dispositions toward action, complete practical reason and enable it to make correct judgments about the human good in particular contexts ( DQVirtGen a6). The role of virtues, therefore, in any natural law account is essential. The possibility of em bodying certain virtues is contingent upon what law the moral agent is able to understand and follow. The divine law refers to Gods twofold ( duplicem ) revelation in the Old Law and the New Law (ST 1a2ae 91.5 r3). The Old Law refers to the revelation of God given to the Jews in the Old Testament to instruct th em about the natural law. The New Law is the Gospel of Christ that fulfills the Old Law through the work of charity and grace. In the Thomistic account, the natural law and its precepts provide the necessary anchor for practical reasoning that must rest on ends58 the content of which only the divine law 56 Thomas Williams, introduction to Disputed Questions on the Virtues by Thomas Aquinas (eds. E.M. Atkins and Thomas Williams, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), xix. 57 Jean Porter, Nature as Reason: A Thomistic Theory of the Natural Law (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), 176. 58 Williams, xxix.
48 can truly reveal. Synderesis grasps the first principles of rational moral agency, but it does not provide content for our moral deliberations. 59 We noted that because humans have a supernatural vocation, they need the gi ft of faith to understand their true end of eternal happiness, attained in God. The natural law alone does not suffice to order us to God. 60 Therefore, the revelation of divine law is necessary for the direction of human life because only God can satisfy human longing (ST 1a2ae 91.4). Still, both of these kinds of law, the natural and the divine, de rive from a single sourcethe eternal law. For Aquinas, the natural law is said to be nothing other than a participation in the eternal law by the rational creature ( ST 1a2ae 91.2). In fact, both the natural law and divine law participate in the eternal law. The eter nal law is Gods Providence, understood by Aquinas as the idea in Divine wisdom ( divinae sapientiae ) that directs all acts and movements (ST 1a2ae 93.1). A rational creature ( rationalis creatura ) thus participates in the eternal law by providing for itself and others ( ST 1a2ae 91.2). This relationship between the natural law and divine law sharing in the eternal law illustrates the model of Aquinass metaphysics of participation. To illustrate this relationship and to support my argument about truth construed as law in natural law traditions, let us consider the following statement by St. Thomas: For all knowledge of the truth is an irradiation or participation ( irradiatio et participatio ) of the eternal law which is the unchanging truth ( veritas incommutabilis ) ( ST 1a2ae 93.2). Evident in this passage, Aquinas equates the eternal law with th e unchanging truth. The eternal law refers therefore to the very essence ( essentia ) of God. As such, I want to 59 Eugene F. Rogers, Jr., Aquinas on the Natural La w and Virtues in Biblical Context: Homosexuality as a Test Case, Journal of Religious Ethics 27, vol. 1 (1999): 40. 60 Hall, 44.
49 designate it as the constitutive truth of the Thomistic natural law tradition. It is a truth that no one can fully comprehend because it precedes the creation of natural law and extends beyond its limitations infinitely (Ibid.). Authority in the Natural Law Traditions The question of authority or sources, a facet of the normative dimension in our approach, is central to our concept of a natural law tradition. Our hermeneutical standpoint discourages deriving authority from a metaphysical or cosmological worldview that is characteristic of premodern cultures. In other words, no account of natural law should be taken merely on self-evide nt truths. What is se lf-evident in these natural law traditions is always situated w ithin the rationality of the tradition and its attendant sources. That, of c ourse, in no way implies that the natural law accounts should be kept out of public discourse. This irrup tion of the natural law in public discourse, because it is derived from a constitutive truth that is beyond measure, has no set limits on human dignity and what it can challenge. In the next chapter I will illustrate how reasonable claims to natural law can be made across traditions by way of normative discourse. In this section, I would like to consider the origin and proper locus of authority for natural law in both traditions. Authority with in traditions, according to MacIntyre, is conferred upon certain texts and certain voices. 61 Let us consider what these voices and texts might be in the Theravada and Thomis tic traditions. Locating natural law ethics within the narrative context of sacred text s legitimated by an authoritative voice is a characteristic of these traditions. This section will further illustrate the tradition61 MacIntyre (1988), 354.
50 dependent rationality of thes e traditions, revelation or insi ght as a historical phenomenon, and the claim that natural law is a cultural construct in Novak s sense of the term. Buddha, Pariyatti and P li Canon As noted, natural law in the Therav da tradition is identified specifically with the Dhamma, or the Teaching, of the Buddha. Unlike natural law in the Thomistic tradition, which is an intrin sic quality of rational creatures, Dhamma in the Therav da tradition is the law of nature that constitu tes all living things. It functions as the constitutive truth and cosmic law in the Therav da tradition whereas the eternal law (i.e., Divine wisdom) is the constitutive truth for Aquinas. Dhamma, as Payutto has noted, is both natural truth and natural law. Therefore, it is not a supernat ural reality like the eternal law for Aquinas that no one, save G od Himself, and the blessed in heaven, can fully comprehend. In the Therav da tradition, the figure of the Buddha and the arahant refer to those awakened ones who have fully penetrated the Dhamma in this life by achieving nibbna (enlightenment). As the constitutive truth and natural la w, Dhamma provides the measure against which acts are judged, though each case is viewed as a response to the infinite variety of circumstances that confront th e free choices made by persons.62 Dhamma, in the sense we are using it, is the all-encompassing truth or the cosmic principle of truth63 about the laws of reality that is to be penetrated th rough insight ( pa ) and the spiritual practice of vipassana-meditation. It is not a principle in the sense of mere propositions or 62 Douglas Renfrew Brooks, Indian, Tibetan, and Southeast Asian Buddhist Ethics, in A Bibliographic Guide to the Comparative Study of Ethics ed. John Carman and Mark Juergensmeyer (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 70. 63 Bodhi, Glossary, 469.
51 abstractions. It is an experiential and empirical truth that is corporeal inasmuch as it is cognitive. The following excerpt from the P li Suttas (or Discourses) of the Buddha illustrates the embodied nature of Dhamma: He who sees the Dhamma sees me, and he who sees me sees the Dhamma ( SN III.120).64 The singularity of the Buddha and the Dhamma serve as the authoritative nexus of the Therav da tradition. Therav da practitioners pay homage to the Buddha fo r his breakthrough and vision of the Dhamma and his compassion to return to society to teach the Noble Path ( SN 13:1; II 133-34). Thus, it is his voice that preaches the Dhamma, and therefore his voice that is granted authority because he ha s attained special insight. Within the Therav da tradition, the term pariyatti is used to designate the authoritative teaching or the words of the Buddha pertaining to his insight into the true Dhamma.65 According to commentarial tradition in Therav da Buddhism, pariyatti originally was in reference to the discourses heard from the mouth of the Buddha and passed down orally.66 Therefore, its purpose was to designate the official spoken Dhamma of the Buddha. Due to the Indian cult ural context of Gotama Buddha, this task of preserving the truth was necessary. We not ed earlier that before his enlightenment, Gotama tread various dharma for six years in order to discover the answer to the problem of suffering and impermanence. During his quest, Gotama studied the different dharma under teachers like l ra K l ma and Uddaka R maputta and on both occasions said, Not being satisfied with that dharm a, disappointed with it, I left ( MN 26: I 160-67). 64 Cited in Olson (2005), 35. 65 John Ross Carter, Dhamma: A Study of a Religious Concept (Tokyo: The Hokuseido Press, 1978), Chapter 2 and Olson (2005), 35 and 131. 66 Carter, 58.
52 Other religious paths were also available in this period that included the Brahmanical tradition of Hinduism and th e Jain followers of Mah v ra. This demonstrates that there were ma ny meanings of dharma in the Buddhas context occasioned by the Hindu usage of that term. The word dharma is derived from the Sanskrit root, dhr meaning to support, or to maintain.67 In the Hindu worldview, dharma refers to the structur e regulating the cosmic, social and moral orders that all operate on different levels having different ro les and expectations. In contrast to the singularity of the Dhamma taught by the B uddha, Hindu dharma is a plurality. According to one scholar, it resists the applic ation of categorical and universal laws.68 That is not to say that no attempts have been made in Hinduism to establish universal rules of conduct. Consider, for example, the universal significance of ahims (non-harmfulness) defined in the Mah brata .69 But in the Indian imagin ation of the Buddhas time, conduct appropriate to ones social position, gender, and age was the normative practice, and it was expressed through the caste structure. This transl ates into various kinds of dharma corresponding to caste or vocation ( varnadharma ), womanhood ( str dharma) and stage in life ( hramadharma ).70 Therefore, identifying th e authoritative teaching of the Buddhas insight in terms of pariyatti was central to the early followers to distinguish it from other dharma. Although there are a variety of meanings fo r Dhamma in Buddhism, we noted that they all point to the singular reality of the truths and laws of nature: suffering, 67 Damien Keown, A Dictionary of Buddhism (New York: Oxford Un iversity Press, 2004). 68 Maria Heim, Differentiations in Hindu Ethics, in The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics ed. William Schweiker (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), 343. 69 Cited in Arti Dhand, The Dharma of Ethics, the Ethics of Dharma: Quizzing the Ideals of Hinduism, Journal of Religious Ethics 30, vol. 3 (Fall 2002), 354. 70 Ibid., 357.
53 impermanence, no-self, kamma, and depe ndent origination. The law of kamma which regulates natural justice,71 produces pleasant or negative consequences based on an agents intentional actions ( cetan ) through mind, body, and speech ( AN III.415). Yet its effect is contingent upon whether or not the agent remains in the wheel of rebirth known as sams ra Earlier, I discussed the Buddhas distin ction between two le vels of insight: worldly ( lokiya ) and world-transcending ( lokuttara ). The enlightened Buddha, having uprooted the fundamental twof old problem of craving (tanh ) and ignorance ( avijj ), no longer lived according to worldly sams ra and its characteristics of suffering and kamma. This is the level of awareness that de fines the world-transcending Buddhadhamma. Pariyatti, as the authoritative teaching for the Buddhadhamma, required a medium of expression. Originally, this might have referred to oral tradition. Evidence for this claim is presented in the Dhammau Sutta, where the Buddha responds to a disciples question about how a monk is one with a sense of Dhamma: There is the case where a monk knows th e Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of mixed prose and verse, explanations, s pontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, amazing events, questions and an swer sessions its because he knows the Dhamma that he is said to be one with the Dhamma ( AN 7.64 & IV.113).72 Knowing the Dhamma, according to this passage, is made possible through the penetration of narrative and speech acts. This illustrates its location in oral authoritative teaching and experiential learning. The term pariyatti eventually became synonymous with religious texts73 and when rendered as pariyattidhamma it means dhamma that is 71 Payutto, 248. 72 Access to Insight: Readings in Therav da Buddhism, Dhammau Sutta (One with a Sense of Dhamma), trans. Than isarro Bhikkhu, revised 18 June 2006, accessed 5 March 2007; available from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an07/an07.064.than.html. 73 Carter, 132.
54 be thoroughly learned, memorized, and remembered.74 Its function was so crucial that, according to Sinhalese commentary, the disappearance of the Buddhadhamma will not occur so long as pariyatti remains.75 Two mediums of expressi on were therefore central in extending pariyatti : the P li Canon and the Sangha. The Buddha challenged the classical caste structure by establishing a social institution according to the Dhamma known as the Sangha. This religious order was a composite of monks ( bhikkhus) and nuns (bhikkhunis).76 For many outcastes, women, and members of the lower varnas the Sangha offered a religious refuge and community of liberation hitherto unavailable. Its purpose wa s so crucial in Buddhist life that taking refuge in the Sangha was identified as part of the Triple Gem ( tiratna), along with the Buddha and the Dhamma. The Sangha was always situated within the larger Buddhist community of lay followers. Monks and nuns required different observances than one another, and both had more codes than the la ity. This dual structure of monastic and lay lifestyles embedded itself in the Buddhist social imaginary and translated, to some degree, into two ways of comporting to ex istence: the way of pleasurable rebirth (kamma) and the way of nibbna. Both lifestyles were de pendent on each other: the monks and nuns offered training and educati on in the Dhamma, and the laity exercised the public virtue of generosity ( dna ) to sustain the Sangha and acquire merit. The P li Canon, or Tipitika descended from a collection of ancient Therav da texts that were composed as early as 350 BCE.77 There are Three Bask ets or divisions to the canonical literature. The first two incl ude the Suttas (Discour ses of the Buddha) and 74 Ibid., 66. 75 Ibid., 131. 76 Frank E. Reynolds, Four Modes of Therav da Action, Journal of Religious Ethics 7, no. 1 (1979), 15. 77 Keown (2005), 287.
55 the Vinaya monastic codes. Among th e Discourses, the various Nik yas contain over five thousand individual sutras al l pertaining to the Buddhas pariyatti .78 The Vinaya texts define the religious observances and moral precepts for monks and nuns, which include the 227 rules of conduct known as the P timokkha The last division, the Abhidhammic scholastic treatises, was gathered approximate ly a century after the other two baskets. These writings are an extrapolation of the Dhamma taught by the Buddha by emphasizing the emptiness of all psychologica l and physical events with an alytical rigor and technical precision. The reification of th e notion of Dhamma as a result of the teachings expanding textually and institutionally is sa id to be one of the concerns that inspired this literature.79 Thus the Abhidhammic philosophy renders the Buddhist cosmology as a continuous process of psycho-physical occurrences to refu te the tendency of construing reality in terms of ontological substances. All of the canonical literatu re, especially the Suttas, represents the narrative context of Dhamma in a way similar to N ovaks Scriptural founda tion of natural law ethics in Judaism. The true Dhamma, secured by pariyatti, and expounded in the P li Canon and taught by the Sangha, is the experiential matrix of special insight into natural law. This is important because it demonstrat es the contextual sett ing of natural law and the limits of its claims on others who have not received the gift of Dhamma ( dhammad nam ) (Dh 354). In the next chapter, we will consider how the life story of the Buddha in conjunction with his t eachings illustrates the different levels of insight that can serve as model for natural law discourse across traditions and within the Ther vada tradition. 78 Keown (2004). 79 Ronkin, 86.
56 God, Sacra Doctrina, and Scripture We have already identified the eternal law in the Thomistic account as the constitutive truth ordering a ll particular truths of which the natural law would consist. The eternal law, as Divine wisdom, is the sour ce of providential orde r for all creation that aims to return creation to itself ( ST 1a2ae 91.1). It is God who im prints the natural law in creation through the light of natural reason and it is G od who reveals the higher aim ( altiori modo ) of mans supernatural vocation within the fabric of cr eation by means of the divine law ( ST 1a2ae 91.4). In the Thomistic tradition, th e natural law is the artifice of God and thereby finds its resources within the context of theological reflection. This has not been the position of propone nts of the new natural law theory who claim to uncover self-evident truths from pur e practical reasons gr asp of basic goods without turning to metaphysics. 80 To their credit, these thinkers admit a departure from the Thomistic tradition and it is evident in th eir disagreement with Aquinas on this point: Human reason by itself is not the rule of th ings, but principles naturally instilled in man are certain rules and measures of all things to be done by man, and of these things natural reason is the rule and measures al though it is no t the measure of things that come from nature ( ST 1a2ae 91.3). In other words, a concept of pure natural reas on as the source of rule and measure is not Aquinass claim. Rather, human reason, not by itself, but within the matrix of the eternal law has its proper locus of authority. The eternal law therefore is the infinite measure of the natural law. Such a claim secu res the idea of an infinite measure of law originating in the eternal law that can check the measure of any law. 80 See Hall for a brief review of the Grisez -Finnis theory of natural law, 16-19.
57 This brings us to Aquina ss notion of human law ( lex humana ). As one scholar puts it, human law is the law of specific communities. 81 Human law works in tandem with the natural law to extend its precep ts, mainly through jurisprudence or legal reasoning. But the issue now arises, what if a human law is unjust? I turn to Aquinass point: the law of the Holy Spirit is superior to ever y law humanly established ( ST 1a2ae 96.5 r2). As such, there is no better instruc tion of moral law than the teaching of God, which is the basis of authority for natural law thinking in th e Thomistic tradition. This is why it can be said that Aquinas locates natural law in sacra doctrina, or Divine Teaching. 82 In the opening question of the Summa theologiae, Aquinas describes his major work, which was never completed, as a science of sacra doctrina. He understands sacra doctrina as a higher science established on princi ples revealed by God to complement philosophical science for the sake of human salvation: It was therefore necessary that besides the philosophical science built up by reason, there should be a sacred science learned through revelation (ST 1.1-2) The aim of sacra doctrina is to demonstrate the complementarity between faith and reason while maintaining the authority of revelation. In the case of natural law, even thoug h it belongs to all ra tional creatures and contains precepts that are self-evident ( per se nota ), it requires the authority of sacra doctrina from within the tradition to maintain its coherence and legitimacy. This goes for all the precepts of the natural law. In othe r words, the natural la w tradition of Aquinas safeguards an account of an immutable natura l moral law inherent in all human beings. 81 Ibid., 41. 82 See Romanus Cessario, Why Aquinas Locates Natural Law within the Sacra Doctrina , in St. Thomas Aquinas and the Natural Law Tradition: Contemporary Perspectives ed. John Goyette, Mark S. Latkovic, Richard S. Myers (Washington, D. C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2004), 79-93.
58 Yet although the natural law part icipates in the eternal law, it is not necessary for the natural law to participate in the divine law. That is because Aquinas grants Aristotles account of the moral life a legitimate place wi thin Divine Providence. The autonomy of the natural law is evident in the Summa because it has a kind of permanent status in nature that precedes the gift of grace: grace ( gratia ) is more effective than nature, yet nature is more essential to man, therefore, more permanent (1a2ae 94.6 r2). As such, those people exercising the na tural law outside of the religious tradition are protected from any possible religious aut horitarianism masquerading as divine law because they are still viewed as participants in the eternal law. A Thomistic natural law tradition, in theory, appr oves and protects other communities of rational persons that may be outside of the divine law. The sacra doctrina is therefore the locus of authority fo r Gods voice in a living Thomistic natural law tradition. Church leaders, theologians, and everyday saints, al l contribute to this living tradition by protecting the sanctity of the eternal law on earth as the following excerpt from the Roman Catholic ency clical by Pope John Paul II shows: Within Tradition, the authentic interpretation of the Lords law develops, with the help of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who is at the origin of the Revelation of Jesus commandments and teachings, guarantees that they will be reverently preserved, faithfully expounded and correc tly applied in different times and places (VS 27). If sacra doctrina represents the authoritative teaching given by Godthe voice in a living Thomistic natural law tradition, then Scripture would be the textual authority of natural law. Some Christ ian ethicists like Stanley Ha uerwas and Richard McCormick claim that Scripture and natural law represent two distinct sources for ethical reflection. 83 83 Porter, 332.
59 For Aquinas, natural law and Scripture are in separable. Thomas locates natural law in sacra doctrina, of which Scripture is a most fa ithful guide, thereby illustrating the narrative and divinely re vealed context of natural law. Scripture, but also human scholars, represent the auctoritates of Thomass concept of natural law. The purpose of locating natural law in na rrative for Aquinas is for argumentation and evidence. I noted earlier that the divi ne law is expressed through the Biblical narrative of the Old and New Laws or Test aments. This authority, originating in revelation, is decisive over the authority granted to human authors such as the Philosopher Aristotle and church fathers like Augustine and Jerome. 84 So the particular truth of the human auctoritas of whom Aquinas may not always agree with, must be measured against the constitutive truth of Gods word revealed in Scripture. The Biblical narrative, and specifically th e Pauline narrative in the Letter to the Romans is the storied context in which Aquinas pl aces assertions of natural law. 85 It is in this epistle of St. Paul that the most authoritative claims for the natural law are made. Here are a couple of examples: Ever since the creation of the world his et ernal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things that he has made. [1:20] When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do by nature ( phusei ) what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on th eir hearts, to which their own conscience ( syndeiseos) also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them. [2:14-15] In the second passage, I have italiciz ed two words from the ancient Greek, nature and conscience, to highlight the si gnificance of Scripture for the authoritative 84 Robert J. Henle, Part A, Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas, The Treatise on Law (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1993), 94. 85 Rogers, 40.
60 basis of Aquinass view of natural law. The Greek term, synedeisos functions as a cognate of the Latin synderesis referring to a natural capa city for moral discernment. These excerpts given in the cont ext of Pauls account of the hi storical fall of the Gentiles into idolatry fits into Aquinass narrative acc ount of the natural law that begins with the Old Law and is completed with the New Law. 86 The Law of Moses, according to Aquinas, although given as a divine law, was an imperfect law in the sense that it only pred isposed Jews to the arrival of Christ ( ST 1a2ae 98.2). Its work was to teach humanity about the natural law and prefigure the Messiah. 87 The supernatural vocation of humanity is then revealed in the work of Christ, the New Law according to grace and charity, of which Paul is the main expositor. This is the basic narrative of Aquinass Biblical account of natural law. Locating the natural law within the sacra doctrina and its expression through the narrative of Scripture, a move faithful to A quinas, corresponds to our aim of identifying natural law as a cultural construct. Novak s model also gives credence to natural law traditions by offering them a vital role with in the functioning of a healthy democracy, a theme that will conclude our investigation. It simultaneously places necessary limits on the claims of natural law traditions since th ey exist as one among an entire network of historical communities thus avoiding any possible authoritarianism. In the next section, I consider how it is that these natural law trad itions can engage in normative discourse with other traditions in the hermeneu tic project of mutual illumination or shared insight and consider how it is that one can pursue the cons titutive truth within ones own tradition. 86 See Rogers for a thorough discussion of this as it relates to homosexuality. 87 Hall, 48.
61 Chapter Three: Natural Law Discourse My argument at this point is that the natural law ethics of the Therav da and Thomistic traditions fit our concept of a natural law trad ition formulated through the work of Macintyre and Novak from our herm eneutical standpoint. I have attempted to demonstrate this by focusing primarily on the normative dimension of our multidimensional model. This led us to consider the authoritative basis and narrative context in both traditions of natural law ethics to show they function as a cultural construct. In this chapter, I focus on th e comparative and ontological dimensions of natural law ethics. My claim is that thes e natural law traditio ns contain analogous structures for normative discourse that have the ability to br idge with other cultures and traditions. Natural law must be located within the rationality of one tradition among many so that it can avoid making totalistic claims. And this, I argue, is compatible with these traditions anyway since they possess the c onceptual resources for recognizing moral diversity and the autonomy of other traditions. These natural law traditions are also able to identify common moral claims and adjudicate moral differences across traditions to avoid incommensurability. In the Journal of Religious Ethics article, Â“Is Natural Law a Border Concept between Judaism and Christian ity?Â” David Novak compares the natural law ethics of
62 Christianity and Judaism in order to find common ground between the traditions. 1 He claims that Christianity and Judaism must locate an ethical border around themselves and then between each other and some third tradition. 2 He appeals to the other Abrahamic tradition, Islam, as a potential dialogue partner. To delineate the para meters of dialogue, Novak designates two categories of normative natural law discourse that I will employ: special and general 3 In Novaks Jewish account, the form er category refers to the special revelation of Judaism, i.e., the Mosaic Law th at establishes the Jewish people in history as a community chosen by God. Speaking as a Jewish theologian, Novak says, that special revelation enables us to accept G od as the immediate source of our communal life. 4 The latter category refers to general re velation. I noted earlier that for Novak, this designates the Noahide law that God establis hed with all human beings. Discourse on the level of general revelation is a minimalist acco unt concerning the basic norms or ethical commonality between traditions. It is a regulatory principle that only offers rights, not the good . 5 In other words, its aim is to shape the overlapping consensus among the plurality of voices in the public sphere. General revelation thereby maintains the important status of historical communities within the democratic ethos as a precondition for justice to prevent religious traditions fr om being kept at the doorstep by doctrinaire secularists. 6 1 David Novak, Is Natural Law a Border Concept between Judaism and Christianity?, Journal of Religious Ethics 32, no.2 (2004), 237-254. 2 Novak (2004), 250. 3 I should also note that Robert Merrihew Adams essay, Religious Ethics in a Pluralistic Society, also uses these categories in Prospects for a Common Morality ed. Gene Outka and John P. Reeder, Jr. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993). 4 Novak (2004), 245 5 Ibid., 246. 6 Ibid.
63 I believe that Novak has se t the parameters for two m odes of discourse in an intriguing way among the monotheistic natural law traditions. But a shortcoming in his work is that he limits this dialogue to monothe istic faiths. I have inte nded to address this limitation in Novak by considering how a Buddhist natural law traditi on might fit in these categories of discourse and participate in the dialogue. Let us consider these categories in more detail. The special category is specifically aimed at discourse within the tradition and the general category aimed at discourse across traditions. Broadly speaking, the special category pertains specifically to theological claims whereas the general category is concerned with ethical claims.7 Each mode of discourse th erefore has a specific function in the development of that tradition. Bu t that does not exclude the possibility of overlapping in these categories. For example, that God is the benevolent creator of the world is a special revelation claim that all monotheistic traditions share and are able to discuss. This is not properly the task of comparative religious ethics. As we explore this normative dimension of discourse in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions, I am using the special category to refe r specifically to the Buddhadhamma and the divine law. The general category (or ge neral knowledge), which isolates a language for comparison with other traditions, refers to the kammic law in the Therav da tradition and the lex naturalis (natural law) in Aquinas. To be consistent with our traditions in question, general knowledge and special revelation categories are assigned to the Thomistic tradition whereas general knowledge and special insight categories are used 7 The field of Comparative Theology seems more adep t and appropriate to engage the question of ultimate truth claims across religious traditions. This is not be fitting of the task of Comparative Religious Ethics, which primarily engages other traditions on the level of ethics.
64 for the Therav da tradition. Within each tradition, the special and gene ral categories of natural law discourse are not separate. Both categories are dependent on the other. There is no divine law without lex naturalis just as there is no realization of the Buddhadhamma without having first realized the law of kamma and the suffering characterizing sams ra This truism secures the autonom y of other trad itions. Conversely, lex naturalis requires divine law for its supernat ural fulfillment whereas kamma and suffering can only be extinguished by penetrating the Buddhadhamma. Thus enlightenment takes place within existence, or sams ra Grace transforms nature in this world. Lastly, I claim that these modes of natural law discourse can answer the two challenges of relativism and perspectivism posed by the post-Enlightenment skepticism of a genealogist such as Nietzsche. The re lativist position denies that rational debate between and rational choice among rival traditions is possible.8 Meanwhile, the perspectivist outlook puts in question the possibility of making any truth claims from within any one tradition.9 The normative discourse of natural law traditions are structured in such a way that can meet these two challenges. I argue that general discour se opens up a path of mutual illumination between traditions thus demonstrating the reasonabl eness of moral claims across traditions. General discourse locates what these traditions purport to have in common with other religions and cultures thereby inviting the possibility of shared insight. It also allows the possibility for moral divergence to surface that can lead to adjudication across traditions, if need be. These factors can respond to the relativist challenge On the other hand, through special discourse with other practiti oners of ones home tradition or any other 8 MacIntyre (1988), 352. 9 Ibid.
65 tradition sharing special claims one can pursue the truth from within their particular horizon. The special category designates the uni que revelation or insight available to religious practitioners regard ing truth claims that is internally debated within the tradition. It concerns more theological and sp eculative matters. As such, this mode of discourse can respond to the perspectivist challenge. General Category Having a language of normative discourse between traditions on the level of ethics is a crucial feature of natural law traditions and it is central to our method of comparative ethical inquiry. I am claiming that this structural similarity in both the Thomistic and Therav da traditions can serve as a bri dge with other cultures and as a means for different religious traditions to join together on matters of shared insight, especially in regard to et hical commonalities. This feat ure responds to the challenge posed by the relativist claiming that no intelligible assessment or rational moral claims can be made across cultures. These natural law traditions recognize that a certain level of knowledge regarding the ultimate truth and highe r law is available to all human beings by virtue of their natural facu lties. That kind of natural knowledge or natural wisdom is possible because the constitutive truth is the ba sis of reality. Using the thought of Robert Merrihew Adams, general knowledge denotes, facts about life and the world that are generally accessible to human beings, and th rough tendencies of belief and feeling that are natural to human beings are at least widely and commonly pr esent in people of different places, times, and cultures.10 10 Adams, 100.
66 This is the parameter of general disc ourse for natural law traditions. I have already suggested that each tr adition uses a category for discriminating the special and the general. For the Thomis tic tradition, natural law ( lex naturalis ) in tandem with human law illustrates the potential for common mora lity accessible to all ra tional persons. In the Therav da tradition, we have noted that obser ving the law of kamma, an aspect of mundane ( lokiya ) awareness, is general knowledge avai lable to all pers ons regardless of dharma. In keeping with the claim that natural law is situated in a narrative context, we will consider the narrative of Gotama Buddhas life as recounted by the P li Canon and also consider the interpretation of contempor ary scholars. This can afford us a working model for the categories of general knowledge and special insight within the Therav da tradition. Law of Kamma I noted earlier the observation ma de by Frank Reynolds that Therav da Buddhism has two cosmologies with distinct proximal aims: the samsaric cosmology aimed at pleasurable rebirth and the Buddhic cosmology aimed at enlightenment.11 For the Therav da scholar Harvey Aronson, these distinc tions translate into the kammic and nibbanic paths. The two cosmologies and path s formulated by these scholars, which is derived from the P li Canon and ethnography, provide th e framework for delineating the general and special modes of discourse in the Therav da tradition. It is important to note that for both scholars, the distinguishable cosm ologies or paths are not fully separated so as to define two different religions. This was an inaccuracy recorded by a number of 11 Reynolds and Schofer, 121-22.
67 anthropologists of Therav da Buddhism who concluded that these separate paths are expressed through the social institutions of the mona stic and lay lifestyles.12 Instead, the mundane (lokiya ) and supramundane ( lokuttara ) levels of reality interpenetrate one another so that the tw o levels are overlapping cosmologies. As Aronson puts it, The mundane serves as the matrix for the transcendent.13 Aronson echoes, in a sense, Aquinass model of grace presupposing and transforming nature, by pointing out that the nibbanic path of liberation from rebi rth presupposes and transforms the kammic path of ethical activity.14 The samsaric cosmology that is governed by the law of kamma is by no means unique to the Therav da tradition but is an appropriation of ancient Hindu cosmology and ethics. Accord ing to Reynolds, the general knowledge of this cosmology is echoed by the First Noble Tr uth of the Buddha: that all existence is suffering.15 Sams ra is characterized by suffering or uns atisfactoriness, with the law of kamma regulating the favorable or unfavorable outcomes and rebirths according to ones intentional actions. Having noted the distinguishable but inseparable paths, it is the case that the Buddha often associated the kammic path with the laity as is ev ident in the following verse to a householder from the Anguttara Nik ya : Four things lead to a family mans welfare and happiness in the fu ture life. What four? Acco mplishment in faith [in the Buddhas enlightenment], mora l discipline, generosity ( dna ), and wisdom (8:54; IV 281-85). The first three of th ese qualities are virtues a nd precepts that characterize 12 See Aronson. 13 Aronson, 34. 14 Ibid., 35. 15 Reynolds and Schofer, 121.
68 wholesome moral action. But th e last quality, wisdom, should not be confused with the wisdom or insight into the true nature of things achieved by the enlightened Buddha. In this discourse Gotama Buddha is specifically referring to the wisdom attained when a householder sees the ar ising and passing away of pheno mena (Ibid.). It is this level of knowledge, along with faith, morality, and generosity th at can eventually lead to the cessation of suffering, but proximally only leads to a pleasurable rebirth. The level of reality for the householder is governed by ka mmic law, which belongs to the law of nature, but does not encompass the fullne ss of Dhamma. The householder has attained the right view ( samm ditthi) on the mundane ( lokiya ) level that is the source of wholesome actions leadi ng to fortunate rebirth.16 This level of kammic insight delineates the mode of general di scourse in the Therav da tradition. We can also locate this dis tinction between two levels of insight in the Buddhas retelling of his knowledge before and after enlightenment. In the following excerpt, he states that he was aware of two out of the three characterist ics of existence ( tilakkhana) before nibb na: Before my enlightenment it occurred to me: Whatever pleasure and joy there is in this world, this is the gratification in the world; that the world is impermanent ( anicca ), bound up with suffering ( dukkha ), and subject to change, this is the danger in the world; the remova l and abandoning of desire ( tanh ) and lust (r ga) for the world, this is the escape from the world (AN 3:101 -2; I 258-59). The Buddha identified two characteris ticssuffering and impermanencethat led to his renunciation and search for the truth.17 This pursuit was triggered by his experience of the passing sights of aging, disease, and death. His partial insight into the 16 Bodhi, 147. 17 Joanna Macy, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), 40.
69 true Dhamma at this stage in his life demonstrates that this general knowledge can be achieved as a householder, the stage he inhabi ted when he encountered the passing sights. The Therav da tradition makes no theoretical distinction between householders who are Buddhists and non-Buddhist householde rs. Everyone belonging to this lifestyle is capable of understanding this level of general insight into the Dhamma. That is not to say that Therav da Buddhist lay persons are restrict ed to this general insight. On the contrary, the proliferation of insight-meditation among laity and the reinterpretation of Sangha as a fourfold institution comprised of mo nks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen attest to this.18 Understanding the kammic law and the truths of impermanence and suffering define the criteria of general knowledge av ailable to all persons open to perception, regardless of background. In support of this vi ew, Buddhadasa suggested that all religions should be able to avoid conflict and disagree ment because they agree on the problem of dukkha the central truth to humanity, and are ab le to at least point to its solution in Dhamma.19 In the next section, I sh all consider how the Buddhas special insight leading to his enlightenment functions as the mode of special discourse. Lex Naturalis Locating the general and special modes of discourse in Aquinass thought poses no challenge because of his synthesis of tw o seemingly incommensurable traditions. His Aristotelian viewpoint, as well as Scriptural authority, shapes his sense of the natural law ( lex naturalis ) residing in the faculty of reason. Th e natural law that is grasped by the habit of synderesis and compelled by natural inclinati on is the starting point of general 18 Keown (2004). 19 Buddhadasa, 168.
70 discourse from a Thomistic perspective. Aquinas recognized the autonomy of other traditions early in his life. His exposure to Muslim thinkers in Naples and enjoyment of Aristotle during his castigation showed him that natural reason transcended the boundaries of traditions, reli gious or pagan. Although special discourse in terms of trinitarian revelation was not possible with the tawh d doctrine of Islam20 and the philosophers impersonal god of metaphysics, general discourse on account of natural reason was not only possible but imperative.21 For Aquinas, these other traditions might lack the specific revelation that tran sforms nature, but there is no denying these traditions their inherent dignity because the na tural law participates in the eternal law. Earlier, we considered the various dimens ions of natural law. The primary precept of doing good, avoiding evil and the first principles of human acts like do no harm and respect property of othe rs were known by nature ab solutely and universally. Natural law, at this level, cannot be abolished from human hearts. These fundamental precepts of the natural law serve as a star ting point for the moral life because they provide direction toward the goods of human nature.22 I noted that Aquinas describes the natural goods as the common good ( bonum commune ) that includes preservation of life, sexual intercourse and education, religious truth and social liv ing. The common good is not merely pursued because natural reason commands it so. A moral agent pursues the common good because she also has a natural incl ination or desire that is an internal 20 The term tawh d means oneness of God and illustrates the strict monotheism of Islam that considers the doctrine of the trinity as associating partners with God. I would also note that Aquinas makes this distinction between oneness of God as a mode of gene ral discourse pertaining to natural reason and the trinity as a subject of special discourse or revelation. See ST 1a2ae 99.2. 21 Kate McCarthy, Reckoning with Religious Difference: Models of Interreligi ous Moral Dialogue, in Explorations in Global Ethics: Comparative Religious Ethics and Interreligious Dialogue, ed. Sumner B. Twiss and Bruce Grelle (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000), 86. 22 Hall, 42.
71 principle of action. Therefore, natural law is a twofold constitution of synderesis and inclinationes 23 But this is not enough to attain what the natural law intends. Therefore, natural law requires application to particular situations for the sake of obtaining natural goods. It is in this application that natural law finds its deeper expression and diversity among communities. Application of the natural law in a general mode is the work of human law and virtues. Human law, I referen ced, is the law of specific communities, and it provides the rules or general conclusions for natural law that can be applied to specific circumstances. Do no harm may be a first principle of moral agency, but human law determines the particular rule that it is ill egal to harm ones own child. In Aquinass thought, a human law is a secondary precept: detailed conclusions ( quasi conclusiones) following closely from the first principles ( ST 1a2ae 94.6). As such, this type of precept allows for historical contingency and social customs to shape its expression. Aquinas identifies three possible fa ctors that can prevent secondary precepts from extending the common good of the natural law: evil passions, depraved customs, or corrupt habits (Ibid., r3). He uses the Roman example of legi timating theft and robbery as described in Caesars Gallic Wars to explain this. The de praved customs prevented Caesars army from clearly apprehending knowle dge of the first principle of respecting anothers property. Lacking a clear apprehension of the general princi ples of natural law because of flawed customs and passions makes unjust actions possible. These unjust actions can then find disordered expression in unjust human law. 23 Ibid., 99.
72 The true purpose of human law is to bring about the aim of natural law, which is the common good of a society and regulate relations among society ( ST 1a2ae 96.1). Moreover, human law intends to bring men to virtue, but it can only do so in a limited way because too many precepts might discourage imperfect people from civil stability altogether ( ST 1a2ae 96.2 r2). The social virtues that the human law can bring about in society include justice and peace ( ST 1a2ae 96.3). Essential to the application of secondary precepts or human law to particular situations is the virtue of prudentia It is a virtue that learns from the past and present about the future ( ST 2a2ae 47.1). Therefore, it is a virtue that demonstrates that knowle dge of the natural law is dynamic because it is inextricably time-bound and historical. 24 Prudence, located in reason, secures the right means in a particular circumst ance to draw one closer to the proper good. It is a virtue that is necessary for the operati on of all virtues, both natural ones and those supernatural virtues infused by the grace of the Spirit. Prudence qualifies as one of Aquinass natural or moral virtues available to all moral agents possessing general knowledge of the natural law. And this is important especially when one considers that it is mo ral activity that is the door through which we enter to reach the contemplati on in which wisdom engages ( DQVirtGen 1 r4). Similar to the Buddhist example of the mundane as the matrix for the supramundane, Aquinas views moral agency guided by prudence as the door to contemplation and wisdom. Aquinas never says that prudence or reason alone is sufficient because nature and reason need the perfection of grace and revelation. But the natu ral law as a participated theonomy in the eternal law shows that it is a prec ondition for the divine law, and therefore 24 Hall, 38-40.
73 autonomous in this regard ( VS ). Were it not so, the Thom istic natural law tradition embodied in the Roman Catholic Church t oday would not make the claim that other religious traditions, which do not embrace revela tion, often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. 25 Special Category In any tradition, discourse over truth cl aims or the goods which constitute it belong to the very health of that tradition. For MacIntyre, traditions, when vital, embody continuities in conflict. 26 The debates in medieval Paris between Augustinians and the rising Aristotelian thinkers is one such example. St. B onaventures condemnation of Aristotelianism and Siger de Brabants re luctant submission to orthodoxy over any kind of philosophical challenge to theology attest to this in Aquinass period. 27 This debate and dialectic of seemingly inco mmensurable traditions is emb odied in the writings of St. Thomas. The argumentative technique of the Summa of resolving conflicts between competing auctoritas, belongs to the oeuvres bril liance and demonstrates the rationality of the tradition. This highlights one of the crucial feat ures of the Thomistic tradition and tradition in general accordi ng to MacIntyre: certain radical disagreements may be both recognized and rati onally overcome within the context of any kind of tradition. 28 The dialectical enterprise is the basi s for the rationality of any tradition. Moreover, implicit in any rationality of such enquiry [e.g. Aquinas] there is indeed a 25 Nostra aetate 26 MacIntyre (1984), 222. 27 Ibid. (1990), 112. 28 Ibid., 118.
74 conception of final truth.29 A similar enterprise is re flected throughout the entire P li Suttas, where the Buddha is constantly debating and discoursing with householders, Brahmins, and monk disciples about the Dhamma Within three centuries of the Buddhas death ( parinibb na), eighteen schools of sectarian Buddhism had already formed based on doctrinal disputes.30 It is this vitality in the pursuit of truth and the good that counters the perspectivist challenge and defines the purpose of special discourse. It often o ccurs through specific theological disputes between believers having explicit commitment in foundations.31 In other words, special discourse partners have some level of shared commitment to the truth claims of a single religi ous tradition or sometimes across traditions as evident in monotheistic traditions. The speci al insight or special revelati on that occupies this mode of discourse will be known to most people onl y through a link of tradition or culture that connects them with the original source.32 Dhamma and God could therefore be defined as the final or constitu tive truths that link these natural law traditions to a transcendent ground or unconditioned state. Special discourse in our natural law traditions is expressed in the context of Buddhadhamma and divine law. Again, I turn to the P li narrative and Therav da scholars for delineating the Buddhadhamma In the matter of Aquinass divine law, we will consider more in depth his distinction between the Old Law and the New Law. Not only does special discourse respond to the perspectivist ch allenge of pursuing the truth, but it is also the context from which discussion about natural law in these 29 Ibid. (1988), 360. 30 Bodhi, 8. 31 Lonergan (1972), 292. 32 Adams, 100.
75 traditions is framed. It also allows the po ssibility of extending the measure of human dignity. Buddhadhamma The previous section on general disc ourse considered the law of kamma regulating the wheel of rebirt h as the general knowledge available to all perceptive persons. This level of knowledge is often re presented by the figure of the householder. I turn attention now to the hi ghest level of insight, the Buddhadhamma, which is associated with Gotama Buddha and the arahant figure in the P li Canon. It receives this title because it was the level of insight that was penetrated by the Buddha during his enlightenment and later preached by him. The Buddhadhamma is the highest level of insight because it leads to the cessation ( nirodha) of suffering, the fundamental problem of existence. It entails the co mplete vision of the Dhamma that is directly perceived when one realizes the truth of dependent origination ( pattica-samupp da).33 Consider how the P li Canon equates this doctrine with the fulln ess of Dhamma: One who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma, and one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination ( MN 28; I 190-91). Dependent origination refers to the law that is the most difficult to perceive of all conditioned phenomena: the arising and passing away of suffering by way of twelve interdependent factors that characterize sams ra ( SN 12:1; II 1-2). The first six factors are associated with the arising of suffering a nd the last six are associ ated with the passing away of suffering. The doctrine of pattica-samupp da as taught by the Buddha identifies ignorance ( avijj ) as the primary factor through which all other factors arise in the wheel 33 Payutto, 160.
76 of rebirth. Yet ignorance is not a singular caus e or source in the sens e of linear causality. Dependent origination illustrate s the simultaneous arising of all phenomena, what Joanna Macy has referred to as a mutual causality.34 This doctrine structures the Therav din cosmology of interdependence. The eventual uprooting of ignoran ce and all the other factors through direct insight ( pa ) into the true nature of things is the only way to attain nibb na. It is through th is awareness of pattica-samupp da that the third characteristic of existence, not-self ( anatt ), is fully understood. All phenomena, therefore, in light of this doctrine of interdependent co-arising lack eternal substance or being ( svabhva ).35 The human person, from this special insight, is comprised of five aggregates (khandhas) that make up an individual during a given life. Upon death, the compone nts of the single person are disentangled and rein tegrated with other components to comprise an entirely new person without any essentia l properties. In this view of interdependent empty persons, the Upanishadic doctrine of the permanent self ( atman ) is undermined. Moreover, in light of this special insight, the natural law of kamma and the truths of suffering and impermanence are revealed wi th the greatest of clarity and depth. We noted that the Buddhas distinction between levels of insight or awareness into the Dhamma by referring to the mundane (lokiya ) and the supramundane ( lokuttara ). The mundane or worldly level refers to actions virtues, and meditati ons that can produce only pleasurable results and merit ( pua) The supramundane level, or worldtranscending path, refers to nine dimensions that lead to enlightenment: four paths ( magga), four fruits of those paths ( phala ), and nibbna. In the context of the 34 See Macy, Chapters 1 and 2. 35 Fasching and deChant, 141.
77 Buddhadhamma, these levels of awareness disapp ear because ones dire ct realization of the fullness of Dhamma illuminates all other truths about reality. The ethical implications of special insight of Buddha dhamma are transformative. When the practitioner is in the proximity of nibb na, she can truly behave in accord with the Dhamma and have a deeper engagement w ith the cessation of suffering for all living things.36 This higher insight, according to Reynolds, is framed within a Buddhic cosmology: Ignorance is overcome by wisdom craving is replaced by compassion, and the ongoing experience of suffering and impermanence gives way to liberation.37 Seeking refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, those on the way to enlightenment in this life devote themselves to the Eightfo ld Path to extinguish kamma and achieve the liberation that is enlightenment. Divine Law As a result of the effects of sin on th e natural law and its expression in bad customs, vices, and unjust human law, St. Thom as believed that God revealed the divine law ( lex divina ) in order to repair and transform the human heart. Therefore, the natural law is fully contained in the divine law. No discrepancy or incongruence exists between the two. Aquinas gives four reasons w hy this divine law was necessary ( ST 1a2ae 91.4). The first reason is that humans have a supern atural vocation or ulti mate end of eternal happiness ( finem beatudinis aeternae ) that only God can direct. Second, because of moral diversity, God offers a way of knowing what is good and what to avoid without any doubt at all. The third reas on is that although human law intends to cultivate some 36 Prayutto, 86. 37 Reynolds and Schofer, 121.
78 virtues, it is insufficient for cultivating all virtues, especially private ones. Finally, the divine law prevents any sin or evil deeds from going unnoticed and unpunished. Since the natural law only establishes general principles evident to everyone, the divine law was given to direct in certain detailed matters ( ST 1a2ae 91.5 r3). Therefore, it is like human law, in the sense that it applie s the general principles of the natural law to particular circumstances. The fundamental di fference between human law and divine law has to do with teleological or ientation. Whereas the end of human law is that the State shall have tranquility in its te mporal affairs, the end of di vine law is eternal happiness ( ST 1a2ae 98.1). The divine law and its precepts that orient one toward this supernatural end are, as we mentioned, twofold. The twofold revelati on of the divine law, for Aquinas, is analogous to the development from childhood to adulthood. The Old Law ( lex vetus ) given to the Jewish people, f unctions pedagogically to instruct the natural law. In this regard, it is like human law because it functi ons as an external principle of action. The moral precepts of the Old Law written in the Decalogue are in accord with reason and assist in the cultivation of virtues like justice. But its purpose was to prepare the Jewish people for the arrival of Jesus and the New Law. For this reason, Aquinas says the Old Law is good, but incomplete ( ST 1a2ae 98.1). According to Aquinas, the fulfillment of humanitys supernatural vocation is only possible through the New Law ( lex nova ), or the law of the Gospel ( ST 1a2ae 106.1). 38 The work of Christs righteousness comple tes or perfects what the Old Law intends, which is the eternal happiness of union with God. Freedom or salvation from sinfulness is 38 Cited in Hall, 68.
79 made possible through the New Law of Christ an d the faith born from it. The New Law is delivered by the grace of the Holy Spirit th at instructs humans about the twofold Gospel ethic to love God and love neighbor. Unlike th e moral precepts of the Old Law that are external written commandments for ordering people toward justic e and friendship with one another, the New Law of love is an inte rior prompting of grace that allows friendship with God. Therefore the New Law is like the natural la w in the sense that it is an internal prompting. 39 But instead of reason and desire as the prompting mechanism, the grace of the Spirit is what moves one to act. Grace is superadded to nature so that humans are able to attain friendship and union with God thus establishing a higher mode ( altiori modo ) of participating in the eternal law. A new order of virtues is accessible through the gift of grace. Aquinas refers to these as infused or theological virtues whic h are listed in St. Pauls famous words to the church at Corinth: And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 40 The supernatural virtues make it possible for those humans who possess them to be good (DQChar 2 r). The graced virtue of love or charity is the mother and moving cause of all the virtues ( DQChar 3 riii). It unites us to God through the actions of our in telligence and feelings ( DQChar 2.7) thereby establishing a connatural relationship with God that is the basis of divine friendship. 39 Ibid. 40 1 Cor 13.12
80 Chapter Four: Nature and the Hypergood The term nature as a normative expression might appear trivial with the historicizing of natural law a nd designating it as a cultural construct. But this is not the case for the natural law traditions in questi on because nature is a necessary concept for ethical reflection. According to Novak, the ont ological constitution of natural law is the work of theology whereas the ethical cons titution of natural la w is the work of philosophy. Since our approach is bo th religious and ethical, ontology and ethics designate this fundamental dimension of natural law to whic h we now turn, which is also inescapably metaethical. For the Therav da and Thomistic traditions, natur e is rooted in a constitutive truth or higher law that tran scends all particularity. Natu re itself is posited by the objective realitythe Dhamma and Godtha t precedes and extends beyond the human person. Buddhadasa cited this similarity betw een both traditions in the following manner: Natural law governs creation and has pow er over it. In this sense dhamma functions as the Buddhist God (my emphasis).1 Perhaps familiar with Aquinas, Buddhadasa acknowledged that Dhamma is like the eternal law of God in the sense that both govern the natural order of human beings. Therefore, harmony with Dhamma or participation in the eternal law is the proper orientation of nature. 1 Buddhadasa, 133.
81 It is in the context of nature from the level of special insight or revelation that the Dhamma and the eternal law provide an infinite or empty measure of all human acts. From the perspective of general knowledge, these natural law traditions claim that justice is the measure of human acts. In bot h traditions, justice refers to a kind of rendering of what is due. Concepts like fair ness, equality, restitution, and retribution define the measure of justice. It is only from within the natural law traditions and the perspective of revelation a nd insight that an ultimate standard can be defended. When a natural law account removes this ultimate or transcendent measure of the human then it runs the risk of absolutizing nature. This is where natural law becomes dangerous and is susceptible to the homogenization of natural law discourse. Such a move is a form of ontological violence, which refers to a final or complete account of nature having been fully di sclosed or defined. Ontologica l violence wedded with politics was evident, perhaps in the most extreme fo rm, in Nazi Germanys Aryan eugenics, but also in the constitutional history of the United States. The Dred Scott v. Sanford Supreme Court ruling of 1857, which Abraham Lincol n publicly opposed, declared that blacks were non-citizens or non-persons thereby depriving them of th eir inalienable rights and any legal protection from slavery. 2 These two examples would have included both religious and secular proponents of ontological violence and terror. Hitlers irreligious anti-Semitism coalesced with German Christian anti-Jewish nationalists. The fact is that terror can surface with little or no opposition in any society unable to measure itself against a higher law or transcendent order. 2 Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2001), 149.
82 I claimed that the natural law traditions in question overcome the temptation of ontological violence by identifying an ultimat e measure as the constitutive truth that transcends or grounds reality. As a result, in light of the cons titutive truth and the authoritative traditions that preserve it, natur e is a revisable normative concept. It does not have the fixity or absolu teness that leads to ontological violence. To assure this, I restate that Dhamma is the empty measure of all things and the eternal law is the infinite measure of all persons.3 Because of these higher laws, nature also has, in a certain sense, directionality. Th e law of nature measured by emptiness and infinity has a teleological orientation that for both traditions ends in liberation or salvation. I refer to this teleological orientation as a hyp ergood, a concept borrowed from moral and political philosopher, Charles Taylor. It refe rs to those higher goods, which not only are incomparably more important than others but provide the standpoint from which these must be weighed, judged, decided about.4 In our traditions, the hypergoods refer to the unconditioned awareness of enlightenment (nibbna ) and the perfected state of happiness ( beatitudo ). All other goods, or limited goods like virtuous actions, are seen as secondary, though perhaps necessary to achieving the hypergood in this life or the next. The truth or law that constitutes the hypergood is the constitutive good. Taylor defines the constitutive good as the order of being or principle of that order.5 We said earlier th at the overriding good 3 I am echoing Faschings account of human dignity as an unseen measure of the infinite and Buddhisms emptiness or not-self doctrine, but from a natural law perspective instead of the experience of the holy. See Darrell J. Fasching, The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima: Apocalypse or Utopia? (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993), 145-146. 4 Taylor, 63. 5 Ibid., 92.
83 or constitutive good is equal to the constitutive truth and high er law. Therefore, Dhamma and God constitute this teleological orienta tion of the moral life and religious quest. This model afforded by the natural law tr aditions can address one of the major ethical problems for natural law thinking si nce the Enlightenment: the separation of isought. I concur with scholar Pamela Hall when she says that this separation seems precisely inimical to any authen tic doctrine of natural law.6 Although she was referring to the Thomistic tradition, this can also apply to the Therav da natural law tradition. Both traditions require congruence between the way things are and the way they ought to be. The protean term nature that is posited by the constitutive truth establishes normativity within these traditions. I noted that this ontol ogical outlook is also inherently comparative in these traditions since moral truth is shared across traditions. I shall designate it as the is dimension of natural law thinking b ecause it provides the ontological starting point of moral agency. On the other hand, without the appropriate instruction from the source of truth, nature is incapable of achi eving the aim. Nature point s to the hypergood. As such, I designate the hypergood as the ought or et hical dimension of natural law thinking. The hypergoods are a step to higher moral consciousness and this undoubtedly means a deeper engagement with the world as a moral agent.7 Because these refer to the perfected state of happiness or unconditioned awareness of enlightenment in these traditions, they provide the content for an image of the good that orients nature toward its end. The hypergood represents what ought to be for the religious practitioner. In this model of natural law ethics, nature seeks the hypergood, or is ought. The higher law or 6 Hall, 18. 7 Taylor, 64.
84 constitutive truth of Dhamma and the eternal law are the inspirational sources of the moral life that posit Â“nature,Â” but also gi ve its proper orientation to the hypergood. Conditionality and Enlightenment The Therav da tradition identifies Â“three characteristics of existenceÂ” ( tilakkhana ) that include suffering, impermanence, and not-sel f. They are, in other words, the truths that define the conditionalit y of all living things. Theref ore, I identify Â“natureÂ” as conditionality. Every person starts fro m this situation. Person, in Therav da terms, refers to the five aggregates that comprise this pa rticular existence. Th e task of the Buddhist practitioner is to penetrate these truths and recognize the law of na ture governing this conditionality. The regulative justice of the law of kamma, as noted, is generally observable. With this mundane awareness, one is able to at most r ecognize the truths of suffering and impermanence. As a measure of justice, the law of kamma is purely retributive. It renders good and bad c onsequences determined by wholesome ( kusala ) and unwholesome ( akusala ) actions. The special insight of the Buddhadhamma on the other hand, discloses another law the knowledge of which extinguishes the effects of kamma. This is the law of interdependence or dependent origination. It is a non-linear causal law that illuminates the conditions of the arising and passing aw ay of suffering and impermanent phenomena. Moreover, the special experien tial insight into dependent origination leads to a direct realization of the truth of not-self. Gota ma Buddha taught, Â“What is nonself should be seen as it really is with corre ct wisdom thus: Â‘This is not mi ne, this I am not, this is not
85 my self. When one sees this thus as it r eally is with correct wisdom, the mind becomes dispassionate and is liberated from the taints by nonclinging ( SN 22:45; III 44-45). As Buddhadasa put it, all sufferi ng arises from me and mine.8 And what he meant by me and mine are the five aggregates ( khandhas ) deluded by wrong view, attachments, and clinging. Buddhadasa also stat ed that the perception of not-self is the transcending of all kamma thereby illustrat ing awareness of it as a higher level of insight.9 Penetrating this Buddhadhamma level of in sight into the truth of not-self and the law of interdependent arising is syno nymous with attaining enlightenment. That enlightenment can be designate d as the hypergood is confirmed by the teaching: The Buddhas declare that nibb na is the supreme state (paramam ) ( Dh 184). Damien Keown has also made great efforts to compare enlightenment in Buddhism with flourishing ( eudaimonia ) in Aristotle, both serv ing as the highest good ( summum bonum ).10 Although I would argue that this Buddhist-Aristotelian comparison is problematic,11 its point is well taken. According to Gotama Buddha, enlightenment is the destruction of the three cardinal vices: lust ( r ga ), hatred ( dosa ), and delusion ( moha ) ( SN 38:1; IV 251-52). In the same Nik ya the Buddha identifies thirty-three synonyms for what he refers to as the unconditioned, including terms like the far shore, the sublime, and the deathless (SN 43:1-44, combined; IV 359-373). The unconditioned is none other than enlightenment. It is the d estination of those on the Eightfold Path (Ibid.). 8 See Buddhadasa, Chapter 5. 9 Ibid., 135. 10 See Keown (2001), Chapter 8. 11 For example, Aristotles account eudaimonia is purely mundane, whereas the pursuit of enlightenment unfolds over countless lifetimes. This is why I prefer to use Taylors notion of hypergood, since it is more Platonic than Aristotelian in the sense that purs uit of the hypergood can transcend this world.
86 Although there might be a dist inction between the kammic and nibbanic paths, the ultimate aim for both is enlightenment. Achieving this unconditioned awareness by experiential insight of the true Dhamma discloses the true measure of all things, emptiness ( suat ). Buddhadasa equates emptiness with the truth of not-self, saying it represents the highest dhamma and that it makes a man immortal because it makes him free of the self idea.12 The unconditioned or empty measure of all things is understood by those having penetrated the true Dhamma. In other words, there is no condition and there is no limit to the dignity of all livi ng things. The empty measure provided by the true Dhamma thus surpasses th e measure of retributive justice regulated by kamma. Reason and Happiness According to Jean Porter, a Thomistic sc holar, Aquinass account of nature fits appropriately within his medieval scholasti c context that underst ood nature as reason.13 Reason, in most of the Western philosophi cal tradition, was seen as the defining characteristic of nature distinguishing humans from the lower animals. In the Summa Thomas is in accord with this view when he claims that all operations or actions are the works of reason ( ratio ) and will ( voluntas) and that the will is moved by appetite and commanded by reason ( ST 1a2ae 91.2 r2). This is distinct ively human agency that is ordered by reason. We noted earlier that reason is the analogous imprint of the imago dei and being such, it contains the light of mo ral discernment. And this light that originates in God is 12 Buddhadasa, 135. 13 Porter, 231-4.
87 none other than the natural law. Therefore, the natural la w is constituted through reason ( per rationem constitutum ) ( ST 1a2ae 94.1). Nature as reason, which contains the precepts of the natural law, provides the prope r teleological orientation of human agency. Since all actions are for the sake of some end and that end is simultaneously a good one, the good that everyone seeks is felicity or happiness ( felicitas vel beatitudo ) (ST 1a2ae 90.2 c1). The last end of the natural law that i ssues in happiness is, as we have noted, the common good. Achieving these goods is expres sive of a flourishing, healthy society. It was also mentioned that huma n law, at its best, serves the purpose of securing these goods of society and individuals by properly gu iding the orientation of natural law. The virtue that best promotes the common good, according to St. Thomas, is justice ( justitia ), which means none other than to render to each his own ( ST 2a2ae 58.11). This is not merely retributive justice, as is the case with punishing a criminal, but also includes restitution and fair distribution of social good s. Justice is perhaps the most important social virtue because it is the ba sis of a peaceful society by properly ordering all relationships. Moreover, jus tice is a virtue that is cer tainly attainable among those with general knowledge because it is the onl y virtue of the will that can be acquired without grace. 14 Human law and the moral virtues of justice and prudence demonstrate the capacities of the natural la w among those with general knowledge. For Aquinas, happiness can be achieved on this le vel, albeit an imperfect form ( beatitudo imperfecta ). The reality for Thomas is that no form of happiness achieved in this life is perfect. Not even that given by the divine law. But what the divine law offers, especially the New 14 Porter, 204.
88 Law, is a higher mode (altiori modo ) of participating in the et ernal law, and therefore a more profound happiness, in this life. We not ed that the Spirit of grace and charity transforms humans in such a way so that th ey can attain a deeper friendship with God. The perfect fulfillment of friendship or union wi th God is only available in the beatific vision of heaven. It is in this heavenly state that perfect happiness consists. Since God is love, 15 the eternal law can be not hing other than the perfect expression of the law of love. This is why th e New Law of Christs love is the highest expression of the eternal law. It offers a mo re fulfilling happiness than natural happiness. Participation in the eternal law by way of divine law initiates the sta ndard of love as the new measure of human dignity and human acts as illustrate d in the following statement by Aquinas: For the uncreated law [the law of love] is the first standard and measure of our love ( DQChar 1.23). Aquinas is clear to point out th at the infused virtue of charity that serves as our new standard has no limit ( DQChar 2.13). Thus, reason is no longer bound to the limits of nature and natural justice becau se it is now opened to the infinite measure of love. This is the supernatural vocation of humanity offered by Christ that serves as the infinite measure of human dignity. 15 1 John 4.8
89 Conclusion: Natural Law Ethics and Human Dignity Our investigation of natural law in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions concludes with a shared horizon of a global ne ighborly ethic in view. This shared horizon locates commonalities with the ne ighbor as well as differences. In this ethic, the close proximity and distance of the neig hbor hangs in balance. It is from this standpoint that the dignity of the neighbor can be protected. The distance or otherness of the neighbor is secured by the autonomy granted to her tradition. Any moral author itarian attempt to swallow the neighborÂ’s tradition into its own is bad faith and not characteristic of th ese natural law traditions. That is because the neighborÂ’s tradition is guaranteed in theory to be, at minimum, open to the general knowledge upon which any revelation or speci al insight depends. Because of this autonomy of the neighborÂ’s tradition based on the view that they are Â“outsideÂ” of the tradition that receives the sp ecial insight or revelation, th ey may draw different moral conclusions regarding certain matters. Moral di versity is therefore a brute fact supported by the natural law traditions. On the other hand, the close proximity of the neighbor is always assumed because she shares a common humanity or Â“natur e.Â” By having this common Â“nature,Â” her tradition is guaranteed the possi bility of attaini ng at least general knowledge. We noted that this general knowledge, in the Therav da and Thomistic traditions, is rooted in the law of kamma or the lex naturalis General knowledge of these laws provides the basis
90 for rational assessments and discourse across traditions thus overcoming the relativist challenge. This is not to say that the neighbor Â’s tradition is incapab le of knowing more than what is generally accessible. The aims of interreligious dialogue and even comparative theology enters here as an exci ting prospect of locating deeper truths among traditions than basic moral truths. Therefore, recognizing ethical commonalities, sharing insights, and receiving mutual illumination are the fruits of maintaining the close proximity and otherness of the neighbor. By putting our two traditions in dialogue w ith each other, we can see the level of general discourse in operation. For example, we noted that Gotama Buddha recognized the importance and value of the Five Precepts ( paca-s la ). He declared that these teachings about what unwholesome actions shou ld be avoided were ancient, traditional, and unadulterated precepts that preexisted his teaching. In other words, they were naturally accessible and valuable indepe ndent of the special insight of the Buddhadhamma. These precepts are meant to be the basis for purifying the three doors of kamma: body, speech, and mind. In the Thomistic tradition, AquinasÂ’ s discussion of the Decalogue and the propaedeutic role of the divine law for natura l law functions in a similar way to the Five Precepts. St. Thomas claims that although th e Decalogue is divine law, its purpose in educating the natural law demonstrates that its precepts are accessible to all by virtue of natural reason. That is so because the natura l law obliges all Â“to refrain from doing harm, whether by deed, word, or thoughtÂ” to oneÂ’s neighbor ( ST 1a2ae, 100). From this comparison of both traditio ns, we can locate ethical commonality on the precepts against lying, st ealing, killing, and sexual misconduct. These shared precepts
91 constitute a minimum neighborly ethic. At its very least, na tural law thinking can set the limits to fundamental norms of human dignit y. At most, natural law thinking can stretch the limits of the human imagination for comp assion, love, and interdependence. That is possible, after all, since truth is the measure of all warrants and if truth is empty or infinite, the possibilities for natural law ethi cs within a secular democratic context are more than promising. I conclude by stating that natural law tr aditions embodied in institutions like the sangha and the church have something essentia l to offer for the health of democratic societies. What is that? The answer comes from no greater example in than the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote the followi ng in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:  there are two types of laws: there are just and there are unjust laws Now what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares away with the moral law or law of God. An unjust law is a c ode that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. 1 Notice that Reverend King did not say that an unjust law is a human law not rooted in divine law. He me ntioned only the eternal law and the natural law. That is because he recognized the autonomy and dignity of natural law, but also the sovereignty of God. From a natural law perspective, we ought to be in harmony with eternal law, and respectively, with Dhamma. As evident, the na tural law traditions claim that some form of harmony through participation in the et ernal law or understanding of Dhamma is possible in other traditions. But through the divine law and the Buddhadhamma, one is able to participate in the eternal law in a higher mode or understand the fullness of 1 Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches that Changed the World ed. James Melvin Washington (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 89.
92 Dhamma leading to liberation in this life. From the revelation or special insight of a natural law perspective, the natural law within us should be the infinite measure or empty measure of our human laws. In the Th omistic tradition, we have seen that the infinite measure refers to the eternal law that cannot be fully comprehended, which is the uncreated law of love. For Therav da Buddhism, the empty measure refers to the law of interdependence and the la w of emptiness or not-self. These natural law traditions therefore respect the autonomy of other traditions, promote discourse, and contain the resources for defending human dignity. These natural law traditions place no limit on human dignity and no limit on taking care of creation or the existence of all living things because all human laws are measured by infinity or emptiness. As such, there is no limit to how good one can be. Simultaneously, natural law thinking recognizes that there is a limit on how bad one should be. Those shared moral precepts stated earlier serve as an illustration of this limit. Natural law thinking, therefore, does ha ve something essential to offer a democratic society: it can evoke the aud acity to challenge any unjust human law, no matter who institutes it. As Novak puts it, N atural law, then, is the necessary and perpetual critique needed by all culture and all positive law, even by that culture whose adherents are still conscious of its origin in revelation.2 This is the perennial promise of natural law ethics in a world of neighbors. 2 Novak (1998), 193.
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