We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR

Perfectibility of Human Nature in Eastern and Western Thought, The

Harold Coward

Publication Year: 2008

Explores the issue of the perfectibility of nature in philosophy, psychology, and a variety of world religions. How perfectible is human nature as understood in Eastern and Western philosophy, psychology, and religion? Harold Coward examines some of the very different answers to this question. He poses that in Western thought, including philosophy, psychology, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, human nature is often understood as finite, flawed, and not perfectible—in religion requiring God’s grace and the afterlife to reach the goal. By contrast, Eastern thought arising in India frequently sees human nature to be perfectible and presumes that we will be reborn until we realize the goal—the various yoga psychologies, philosophies, and religions of Hinduism and Buddhism being the paths by which one may perfect oneself and realize release from rebirth. Coward uses the striking differences in the assessment of how perfectible human nature is as the comparative focus for this book.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (31.4 KB)
 

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (20.5 KB)
pp. vii-

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF (17.3 KB)
pp. 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...

read more

Chapter 1 Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (34.2 KB)
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

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 KB)
pp. 7-

read more

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

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.2 KB)
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...

read more

Chapter 3 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Jewish Thought

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.0 KB)
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...

read more

Chapter 4 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Christian Thought

pdf iconDownload PDF (84.5 KB)
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...

read more

Chapter 5 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Islamic Thought

pdf iconDownload PDF (70.6 KB)
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)

pdf iconDownload PDF (16.8 KB)
pp. 101-

read more

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

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.2 KB)
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...

read more

Chapter 7 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Hindu Thought

pdf iconDownload PDF (101.9 KB)
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..

read more

Chapter 8 The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Buddhist Thought

pdf iconDownload PDF (88.2 KB)
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...

read more

Chapter 9 Conclusion

pdf iconDownload PDF (45.3 KB)
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

pdf iconDownload PDF (66.9 KB)
pp. 195-214

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (440.5 KB)
pp. 215-218


E-ISBN-13: 9780791478851
E-ISBN-10: 0791478858
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791473351
Print-ISBN-10: 079147335X

Page Count: 229
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Series Editor Byline: Harold Coward

Recommend

UPCC logo
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access