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Comparison and the Ubiquity of Resemblance

David Decosimo
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
Vol. 78, No. 1 (MARCH 2010), pp. 226-258
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40666467
Page Count: 33
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Comparison and the Ubiquity of Resemblance
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Abstract

Since at least the nineteenth century and arguably centuries earlier, comparison has figured prominently in the study of religion. It continues to do so today, especially in the subfield of comparative religious ethics (" CRE"). This article considers the implications for comparative work more broadly and CRE in particular if we take seriously Nelson Goodman's insight that "similarity is relative, variable and contextdependent . . . [and that] every two things have some property in common." Specifically, the article first contends that embracing Goodman's insight helps identify a variety of problems that are relatively common in comparative work and are rooted in the challenges posed by the ubiquity and relativity of resemblance. Secondly, the article shows how Goodman can help make our work better by underlining the necessity of a clear purpose for our comparisons, and it illustrates the point by considering an exemplary recent work of CRE. Thirdly, it shows that Goodman's point demands that we welcome a wide diversity of approaches and goals in comparative work. The article concludes with a suggestion about what might hold the subfield of CRE together.

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