Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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p. vii

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Acknowledgments

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p. ix

I wish to thank Nancy Ellegate of SUNY Press for encouraging me to write this book. June Thomson gave me valuable assistance in library research and Vicki Simmons in preparation of the manuscript. Thanks are due to several colleagues who kindly read draft chapters...

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Chapter 1 Introduction

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pp. 1-6

How perfectible is human nature as understood in Eastern* and Western philosophy, psychology, and religion? For me this question goes back to early childhood experiences. I remember one day as a young child of perhaps five or six years being sent to my room by my mother...

Part I The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Western Thought

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p. 7

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Chapter 2 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Western Philosophy and Psychology

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pp. 9-28

John Passmore begins his classic book on the topic of the perfectibility by distinguishing between “technical perfection” and the perfectibility of a human being.1 Technical perfection occurs when a person is deemed to be excellent or perfect at performing a particular task or role. In this sense we may talk about a perfect secretary, lawyer, or accountant, suggesting that such persons achieve...

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Chapter 3 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Jewish Thought

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pp. 29-54

Jews see humans as having been created in the image of God. Unlike classical Greek philosophy and its dualistic view of human nature as composed of body and soul, in the biblical view persons are seen as a psychosomatic unity composed of many parts. Overall, the biblical Hebrews “conceived of man as an animated body, not as an incarnated...

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Chapter 4 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Christian Thought

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pp. 55-80

Like Jews, Christians understand perfectibility in terms of obedience to God—of being wholly turned toward God with all of one’s being. That is the meaning of the key teaching of Jesus in this regard: “Be perfect, therefore, even as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Response to this call has been understood by Christians as requiring no...

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Chapter 5 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Islamic Thought

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pp. 81-100

Like Jews and Christians, Muslims view human nature as a unity of body, mind, and spirit. They also believe in the resurrection of the body after death. Although the Qur’an presents humans as inclined to err, they can also recognize the good by reflection, reason, or instinct. Innate human responses to good and evil reveal a human nature that...

Part II The Perfectibility of Human Naturein Eastern Thought (arising in India)

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p. 101

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Chapter 6 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Indian Philosophy and Yoga Psychology

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pp. 103-124

In part 1 we have seen that Western philosophy, psychology, and religion generally see human nature to be limited in various ways and not perfectible in this life. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, to the degree that they see perfectibility as realizable, tend to see it as something...

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Chapter 7 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Hindu Thought

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pp. 125-156

Hindu thought adopts the presuppositions of the Indian worldview outlined in the previous chapter—namely, the ideas that creation is beginningless, that our personalities are structured by the karma or memory traces of previous actions and thoughts, that we are reborn from past lives, and that this process of birth-death-rebirth will continue until..

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Chapter 8 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Buddhist Thought

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pp. 157-184

Ancient India, where the Buddha (ca. 563–483 BCE) lived, was a land of large rivers. Sometimes these could be crossed by boats, but at other times, when the flow slackened, they had to be forded on foot. Crossing over such rivers was a major challenge for travelers and became a common metaphor for salvation in Buddhism. One of the titles given to the...

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Chapter 9 Conclusion

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pp. 185-194

The chapters of this book offer an introduction to the ideas and practices regarding the perfectibility of human nature found within philosophy, psychology, and the major world religions. By way of conclusion, let us briefly review the findings of the preceding chapters. We began by surveying some of the views of human nature and...

Notes

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pp. 195-214

Index

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pp. 215-218