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The Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics

Volume 19, 1999

Ernest Wallwork
Pages 167-189
DOI: 10.5840/asce19991910

Psychodynamic Contributions to Religious Ethics: Toward Reconfiguring "Askesis"

Contemporary ethicists largely ignore the recent, revolutionary findings of psychodynamic psychology. The author argues that ethicists have been dissuaded from taking psychodynamic psychology seriously by (1) hostile attacks on the credibility of the psychodynamic paradigm, and (2) confusion about the contribution that clinical findings can make to ethics. With respect to these obstacles, the credibility of the psychodynamic paradigm is vouchsafed by a growing body of empirical studies that support the main psychodynamic hypotheses, particularly those of interest to ethicists. This new research points toward the need to expand the range of issues covered by contemporary ethics by retrieving and updating the ancient tradition of askesis, involving thought-exercises oriented towards cultivation of habits of mind conducive to acting morally in one's daily activities. The paper concludes by sketching several ways in which self-reflection may improve moral decision-making.