Religious Belief and Emotional Transformation: A Light in the Heart

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9780838752173: Religious Belief and Emotional Transformation: A Light in the Heart
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Even a cursory reading of contemporary moral philosophy and theological ethics reveals that discussions in these disciplines are often far removed from the actual experiences of individuals struggling to live morally. One reason for this is the general silence in most modern ethical theory about the place of emotions in the moral life. In this study of the possibility of emotional/moral transformation through religious belief and practice, Paul Lauritzen breaks this silence and attempts to explain both why emotions have been ignored and why they must be reclaimed.
Drawing on work in philosophical psychology, cultural anthropology, and religious studies, Lauritzen develops an account of emotions and of the self that allows us to see how a system of religious belief and practice may dramatically transform the emotional life of the believer. He argues that emotions are not biologically basic experiences, invariant from culture to culture, but rather are culturally mediated artifacts that are inescapably tied to communities of belief and practice that sustain particular understandings of the self and its world.
To this end, Lauritzen sketches a "social-constructivist" account of human emotions and analyzes the emotion of anger in detail. By comparing anger as it is found in our culture with accounts of "anger" in certain non-Western societies, the author demonstrates that emotions are crucially shaped in communities of belief and practice and are thus open to transformation with a change in belief and practice.
This possibility is explored at length by examining the way in which a framework of retributive justice structures the experience of anger in our culture. According to Lauritzen, this framework presupposes that the human condition is characterized by limited resources, on the one hand, and by limited generosity, on the other. Against this background, anger will appear to be a natural retributive response to violations of individuals' rights.
The author concludes the study by showing how, given particular religious views about human life and history, the framework of retributive justice may be transformed or transcended in ways that dramatically affect the emotional life of the believer.

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Paul Lauritzen
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Lauritzen, Paul
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