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John Cort is Associate Professor of Religion at Denison University, where he teaches courses on religion in Asia and also on comparative themes (including a course entitled "Religion and Nature"). His research has focused primarily on the Jains. He is author of several dozen articles and of the forthcoming book Liberation and Wellbeing in Jainism: Ritual, Ideology, and Religious Values.

 

Abstract of paper given at Jainism and Ecology conference:
Toward a Possible Jain Environmental Ethic

This essay starts with the recognition that Jainism as an ideology focused upon the path to liberation (moksha-marg) is distinctly not ecological or even proto-ecological. At the heart of this ideology is the goal of permanent separation of the soul from all matter; in such a dualist ideology any positive environmental impact is largely incidental. But the moksha-marg ideology is not the whole of Jainism, for Jainism also is a religious culture that provides people with a definition of a good life in this lifetime, what I have elsewhere termed the value of well-being. The realm of well-being involves a much less negative (albeit still not unreservedly positive) attitude toward the non-human world, toward the physical world, and toward our own physical embodiedness. This essay will be a reading of key aspects of Jain practice from an environmental/well-being perspective, to try to provide some potential bases for a Jain environmental ethic.

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Jainism and Ecology conference participants