Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Faculty of Philosophy Organization News & Events Events

The Social Features of Self-Shaping: On the Relation between Ascetics and Non-Ascetics

When:We 21-02-2024 17:00 - 18:30

This meeting is part of the interfaculty seminar series: The Making and Unmaking of Selfhood. Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Ascetic Practices, between Philosophy and Religion

Full programme and link to registration

Speakers and abstracts

1.1 Ascetics, Non-Ascetics, and the Dilemma of Prestige

Oliver Freiberger (Texas University Austin)

In many cultures, ascetics are respected and revered, and they enjoy social prestige. Non-ascetics support them with material goods, ask them for religious instruction, and hope to get a share of their perceived spiritual power. But sometimes ascetics find themselves in a dilemma. The more attention and donations they receive, the more they struggle to maintain the way of life for which they are revered. Examining ascetic ways of dealing with this dilemma in Hindu, Buddhist and Christian sources, I will distinguish four options: radical withdrawal; the creation of antiprestige; adaptation; and the institutionalization of prestige. A critical analysis of normative ascetic texts can also provide information about prestige concepts of non-ascetics and shed light on the debate about the abuse of ascetic prestige. While the notion that prestige is not desirable is common in ascetic sources, some ascetics use it to their advantage – and are also criticized for it.


Jessica Frazier (Trinity College Oxford)