Academic Year 2012-2013
Eric Gregory is Professor of Religion at Princeton University. He is author of Politics & The Order of Love: An Augustinian Ethic of Democratic Citizenship (University of Chicago Press 2008), and various articles related to his interests in ethics, theology, political theory, law and religion, and the role of religion in public life. In 2007 he was awarded Princeton’s Presidents Award for Distinguished Teaching. A graduate of Harvard College, he earned an M.Phil. and Diploma in Theology from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and his doctorate in Religious Studies from Yale University.
What Do We Owe Strangers? Global Justice and the Good Samaritan
The parable of the Good Samaritan, conventionally read, teaches the importance of universal concern for any human being as a potential “neighbor.” In fact, principles like equal respect and impartiality are often taken as imitations of divine love. But not everyone shares the same convictions about what human beings owe one another—even when moral equality of persons is justified on various grounds. The parable admits multiple interpretations that have been employed for contradictory proposals in both public and private life, including recent debates about global justice and cosmopolitanism. Discussions of duties to rescue and duties to institutions, moreover, cast up competing versions of radical altruism and liberal justice that parallel these interpretations and applications.
During my time at the center, I plan to examine secular and religious readings of the parable as a route into contemporary debates about the limits of morality and the nature and scope of moral obligation in a global age. In particular, I will focus on Jewish and Christian perspectives on poverty, immigration, and humanitarian intervention. At the same time, given the fraught history of interpretation of this parable for Jewish-Christian relations, attention to its diverse reception provides an opportunity to reframe supposed divisions between Christian and Jewish accounts of charity and justice.