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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Universalism is the philosophical and theological concept that some ideas have universal application or applicability.

A belief in one fundamental truth is another important tenet in universalism. The living truth is seen as more far-reaching than the national, cultural, or religious boundaries or interpretations of that one truth. As the Rig Veda states, "Truth is one; sages call it by various names."[1] A community that calls itself universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions, and accept others in an inclusive manner.

In the modern context, Universalism can also mean the pursuit of unification of all human beings across geographic and other boundaries, or the application of universal or universalist constructs, such as human rights or international law.[2][3]

Universalism has had an influence on modern day Hinduism, in turn influencing modern Western spirituality.[4]

Christian universalism refers to the idea that every human will eventually receive salvation in a religious or spiritual sense, a concept also referred to as universal reconciliation.[5]



In philosophy, universality is the notion that universal facts can be discovered and is therefore understood as being in opposition to relativism.[6]

Moral universalism

Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism or universal morality) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics applies universally. That system is inclusive of all individuals,[7] regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature.[8] Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism. However, not all forms of moral universalism are absolutist, nor do they necessarily value monism. Many forms of universalism, such as utilitarianism, are non-absolutist. Other forms such as those theorized by Isaiah Berlin, may value pluralist ideals.


Baháʼí Faith

A white column with ornate designs carved into it, including a Star of David
Symbols of many religions on a pillar of the Baháʼí House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois

In the teachings of the Baháʼí Faith, a single God has sent all the historic founders of the world religions in a process of progressive revelation. As a result, the major world religions are seen as divine in origin and are continuous in their purpose. In this view, there is unity among the founders of world religions, but each revelation brings a more advanced set of teachings in human history and none are syncretic.[9]

Within this universal view, the unity of humanity is one of the central teachings of the Baháʼí Faith.[10] The Baháʼí teachings state that since all humans have been created in the image of God, God does not make any distinction between people with regard to race, colour or religion.[11]: 138 Thus, because all humans have been created equal, they all require equal opportunities and treatment.[10] Hence the Baháʼí view promotes the unity of humanity, and that people's vision should be world-embracing and that people should love the whole world rather than just their nation.[11]: 138

The teaching, however, does not equate unity with uniformity; instead the Baháʼí writings advocate the principle of unity in diversity where the variety in the human race is valued.[11]: 139 Operating on a worldwide basis this cooperative view of the peoples and nations of the planet culminates in a vision of the practicality of the progression in world affairs towards, and the inevitability of, world peace.[12]


The idea of universal salvation is key to the Mahayana school of Buddhism.[13] All practitioners of this school of Buddhism aspire to become fully enlightened, so as to save other beings. There are many such vows or sentiments that people on this path focus on, the most famous being "Beings are numberless. I vow to save them all."

Adherents to Pure Land Buddhism point to Amitabha Buddha as a Universal Savior. Before becoming a Buddha Amitabha vowed that he would save all beings.


The fundamental idea of Christian universalism is universal reconciliation – that all humans will eventually receive salvation. They will eventually enter God's kingdom in Heaven, through the grace and works of the Lord Jesus Christ.[14] Christian universalism teaches that an eternal Hell does not exist, and that it was not what Jesus had taught. They point to historical evidence showing that some early fathers of the church were universalists, and attribute the origin of the idea of hell as eternal to mistranslation, as well as many Bible verses.[15]

Universalists cite numerous biblical passages which reference the salvation of all beings.[16] In addition, they argue that an eternal hell is both unjust, and against the nature and attributes of a loving God.[17][18][19]

The remaining beliefs of Christian universalism are generally compatible with the fundamentals of Christianity[citation needed]

  • God is the loving Parent of all peoples, see Love of God.
  • Jesus Christ reveals the nature and character of God, and is the spiritual leader of humankind.
  • Humankind is created with an immortal soul, which death can not end—or a mortal soul that shall be resurrected and preserved by God. A soul which God will not wholly destroy.[20]
  • Sin has negative consequences for the sinner either in this life or the afterlife. All of God's punishments for sin are corrective and remedial. None of such punishments will last forever, or result in the permanent destruction of a soul. Some Christian Universalists believe in the idea of a Purgatorial Hell, or a temporary place of purification that some must undergo before their entrance into Heaven.[21]

In 1899 the Universalist General Convention, later called the Universalist Church of America, adopted the Five Principles: the belief in God, Jesus Christ, the immortality of the human soul, the reality of sin and universal reconciliation.[22]


Origen, traditionally considered a 3rd-century proponent of Universal Reconciliation
Origen, traditionally considered a 3rd-century proponent of Universal Reconciliation

Universalist writers such as George T. Knight have claimed that Universalism was a widely held view among theologians in Early Christianity.[23] These included such important figures such as Alexandrian scholar Origen as well as Clement of Alexandria, a Christian theologian.[23] Origen and Clement both included the existence of a non-eternal Hell in their teachings. Hell was remedial, in that it was a place one went to purge one's sins before entering into Heaven.[24]

The first undisputed documentations of Christian Universalist ideas occurred in 17th-century England and 18th-century Europe as well as in colonial America. Between 1648-1697 English activist Gerrard Winstanley, writer Richard Coppin, and dissenter Jane Leade, each taught that God would grant all human beings salvation. The same teachings were later spread throughout 18th-century France and America by George de Benneville. People who taught this doctrine in America would later become known as the Universalist Church of America.[25]

The Greek term apocatastasis came to be related by some to the beliefs of Christian universalism, but central to the doctrine was the restitution, or restoration of all sinful beings to God, and to His state of blessedness. In early Patristics, usage of the term is distinct.

Universalist theology

Universalist theology is grounded in history, scripture and assumptions about the nature of God. Thomas Whittemore wrote the book "100 Scriptural Proofs that Jesus Christ Will Save All Mankind"[26] quoting both Old and New Testament verses which support the Universalist viewpoint.

Some Bible verses he cites and are cited by other Christian Universalists are:

  1. Luke 3:6
    • "And all people will see God's salvation." (NIV)
  2. John 17:2
    • "since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him." (RSV)
  3. 1 Corinthians 15:22[27]
    • "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." (ESV)
  4. 2 Peter 3:9
    • "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (ESV)
  5. 1 Timothy 2:3–6[27]
    • "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for ALL men—the testimony given in its proper time." (NIV)
  6. 1 John 2:2
    • "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (NIV)
  7. 1 Timothy 4:10[27]
    • "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe." (ESV)
  8. Romans 5:18
    • "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." (RSV)
  9. Romans 11:32[27]
    • "For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." (NIV)


Christian universalists point towards the mistranslations of the Greek word αιών (Lit. aion), as giving rise to the idea of Eternal Hell, and the idea that some people will not be saved.[15][28][29]

This Greek word is the origin of the modern English word eon, which refers to a period of time or an epoch.

The 19th century theologian Marvin Vincent wrote about the word aion, and the supposed connotations of "eternal" or "temporal":

Aion, transliterated aeon, is a period of longer or shorter duration, having a beginning and an end, and complete in itself. [...] Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting."[30]

Dr. Ken Vincent writes that "When it (aion) was translated into Latin Vulgate, "aion" became "aeternam" which means "eternal".[15]


The first use of the term "Catholic Church" (literally meaning "universal church") was by the church father Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans (circa 100 AD).[31]
The first use of the term "Catholic Church" (literally meaning "universal church") was by the church father Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans (circa 100 AD).[31]

The Catholic church believes that God judges everyone based only on their moral acts,[32] that no one should be subject to human misery,[33] that everyone is equal in dignity yet distinct in individuality before God,[34] that no one should be discriminated against because of their sin or concupiscence,[35] and that apart from coercion[36] God exhausts every means to save mankind from evil: original holiness being intended for everyone,[37] the irrevocable Old Testament covenants,[38][39] each religion being a share in the truth,[40] elements of sanctification in non-Catholic Christian communities,[40] the good people of every religion and nation,[41] everyone being called to baptism and confession,[42][43] and Purgatory, suffrages, and indulgences for the dead.[44][43] The church believes that everyone is predestined to Heaven,[45] that no one is predestined to Hell,[44] that everyone is redeemed by Christ's Passion,[46] that no one is excluded from the church except by sin,[43] and that everyone can either love God by loving others unto going to Heaven or reject God by sin unto going to Hell.[47][48] The church believes that God's predestination takes everything into account,[46] and that his providence brings out of evil a greater good,[36] as evidenced, the church believes, by the Passion of Christ being all at once predestined by God,[46] foretold in Scripture,[46] necessitated by original sin,[49] authored by everyone who sins,[46] caused by Christ's executioners,[46] and freely planned and undergone by Christ.[46] The church believes that everyone who goes to Heaven joins the church,[44][50] and that from the beginning God intended Israel to be the beginning of the church,[41] wherein God would unite all persons to each other and to God.[51] The church believes that Heaven and Hell are eternal.[44]

The Latin book Cur Deus Homo explains that God donate the soul and a guardian angel to any human being but he can't donate the forgiveness of sins and the eternal salavation in Paradise to anyone, even baptized. In this sense, St Anselm of Canterbury defended the existence of the Purgatory, a place to which all the souls having one or more sins to be expiated are destinated for a limited period of time. Their forgiveness can be shortened by alternative forms of expiation like rituals (Suffrage Mass) and works of mercy which the living believers dedicate to them. The pain's debt is payd by different creatures but it can't freely remitted. St Anselm demonstrated that if God could forgive the human sins without any form of sacrifice, then the crucifixion of Jesus Christ God wouldn't have been necessary for the eternal salvation of the human kind and God won't be perfect.


Author David Frawley says that Hinduism has a "background universalism" and its teachings contain a "universal relevance."[52] Hinduism is also naturally religiously pluralistic.[53] A well-known Rig Vedic hymn says: "Truth is One, though the sages know it variously."[54] Similarly, in the Bhagavad Gītā (4:11), God, manifesting as an incarnation, states: "As people approach me, so I receive them. All paths lead to me."[55] The Hindu religion has no theological difficulties in accepting degrees of truth in other religions. Hinduism emphasizes that everyone actually worships the same God, whether one knows it or not.[56]

While Hinduism has an openness and tolerance towards other religions, it also has a wide range of diversity within it.[57] There are considered to be six orthodox Hindu schools of philosophy/theology,[58] as well as multiple unorthodox or "heterodox" traditions called darshanas.[59]

Hindu universalism

Hindu universalism, also called Neo-Vedanta[60] and neo-Hinduism,[61] is a modern interpretation of Hinduism which developed in response to western colonialism and orientalism. It denotes the ideology that all religions are true and therefore worthy of toleration and respect.[62]

It is a modern interpretation that aims to present Hinduism as a "homogenized ideal of Hinduism"[63] with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine.[64] For example, it presents that:

... an imagined "integral unity" that was probably little more than an "imagined" view of the religious life that pertained only to a cultural elite and that empirically speaking had very little reality "on the ground," as it were, throughout the centuries of cultural development in the South Asian region.[65]

Hinduism embraces universalism by conceiving the whole world as a single family that deifies the one truth, and therefore it accepts all forms of beliefs and dismisses labels of distinct religions which would imply a division of identity.[66][67][68][self-published source]

This modernised re-interpretation has become a broad current in Indian culture,[64][69] extending far beyond the Dashanami Sampradaya, the Advaita Vedanta Sampradaya founded by Adi Shankara. An early exponent of Hindu Universalism was Ram Mohan Roy, who established the Brahmo Samaj.[70] Hindu Universalism was popularised in the 20th century in both India and the west by Vivekananda[71][64] and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.[64] Veneration for all other religions was articulated by Gandhi:

After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that [1] all religions are true; [2] all religions have some error in them; [3] all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, in as much as all human beings should be as dear to one as one's own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible.[72]

Western orientalists played an important role in this popularisation, regarding Vedanta to be the "central theology of Hinduism".[64] Oriental scholarship portrayed Hinduism as a "single world religion",[64] and denigrated the heterogeneousity of Hindu beliefs and practices as 'distortions' of the basic teachings of Vedanta.[73]


Islam recognizes to a certain extent the validity of the Abrahamic religions, the Quran identifying Jews, Christians, and "Sabi'un" (usually taken as a reference to the Mandaeans) as "people of the Book" (ahl al-kitab). Later Islamic theologians expanded this definition to include Zoroastrians, and later even Hindus, as the early Islamic empire brought many people professing these religions under its dominion, but the Qur'an explicitly identifies only Jews, Christians, and Sabians as People of the Book.[74][need quotation to verify], [75][failed verification], [76][failed verification] The relation between Islam and universalism has assumed crucial importance in the context of political Islam or Islamism, particularly in reference to Sayyid Qutb, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, and one of the key contemporary philosophers of Islam.[77]

There are several views within Islam with respect to Universalism. According to the most inclusive teachings, common among the liberal Muslim movements, all monotheistic religions or people of the book have a chance of salvation. For example, Surah 2:62 states:

The [Muslim] believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians — all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good — will have their rewards with their Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve. Quran 2:62 (Translated by Muhammad Abdel-Haleem)

However, the most exclusive teachings disagree. For example, the Salafi refer to Surah 9:5:

When the [four] forbidden months are over, wherever you encounter the idolaters, kill them, seize them, besiege them, wait for them at every lookout post; but if they turn [to God], maintain the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms, let them go on their way, for God is most forgiving and merciful. Quran 9:5 (Translated by Muhammad Abdel-Haleem)

The interpretation of all of these passages are hotly contested amongst various schools of thought, traditionalist and reform-minded, and branches of Islam, from the reforming Quranism and Ahmadiyya to the ultra-traditionalist Salafi, as is the doctrine of abrogation (naskh) which is used to determine which verses take precedence, based on reconstructed chronology, with later verses superseding earlier ones. The traditional chronology places Surah 9 as the last or second-to-last surah revealed, thus, in traditional exegesis, it gains a large power of abrogation, and verses 9:5, 29, 73 are held to have abrogated 2:256[78] The ahadith also play a major role in this, and different schools of thought assign different weightings and rulings of authenticity to different hadith, with the four schools of Sunni thought accepting the Six Authentic Collections, generally along with the Muwatta Imam Malik. Depending on the level of acceptance of rejection of certain traditions, the interpretation of the Koran can be changed immensely, from the Qur'anists who reject the ahadith, to the Salafi, or ahl al-hadith, who hold the entirety of the traditional collections in great reverence.

Traditional Islam[78][79] views the world as bipartite, consisting of the House of Islam, that is, where people live under the Sharia;[79] and the House of War, that is, where the people do not live under Sharia, which must be proselytized[79][80][81] using whatever resources available, including, in some traditionalist and conservative interpretations,[82] the use of violence, as holy struggle in the path of God,[76][82][83] to either convert its inhabitants to Islam, or to rule them under the Shariah (cf. dhimmi).[84][85]


Judaism teaches that God chose the Jewish people to be in a unique covenant with God, and one of their beliefs is that Jewish people were charged by the Torah with a specific mission—to be a light unto the nations, and to exemplify the covenant with God as described in the Torah to other nations. This view does not preclude a belief that God also has a relationship with other peoples—rather, Judaism holds that God had entered into a covenant with all humanity as Noachides, and that Jews and non-Jews alike have a relationship with God, as well as being universal in the sense that it is open to all mankind.[86]

Modern Jews such as Emmanuel Levinas advocate a universalist mindset that is performed through particularist behavior.[87] An on-line organization, the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute founded and led by Steven Blane, who calls himself an "American Jewish Universalist Rabbi", believes in a more inclusive version of Jewish Universalism, stating that "God equally chose all nations to be lights unto the world, and we have much to learn and share with each other. We can only accomplish Tikkun Olam by our unconditional acceptance of each other's peaceful doctrines."[88]


Manichaeism, like Christian Gnosticism and Zurvanism, was inherently universalist.[89][page needed]


In Sikhism, all the religions of the world are compared to rivers flowing into a single ocean. Although the Sikh gurus did not agree with the practices of fasting, idolatry and pilgrimage during their times, they stressed that all religions should be tolerated and considered on equal footing. The Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, contains the writings of not just the Sikh guru themselves, but the writings of several Hindu and Muslim saints, known as the Bhagats.

The very first word of the Sikh scripture is "Ik", followed by "Oh-ang-kar". This literally means that there is only one god, and that one is wholesome, inclusive of the whole universe. It further goes on to state that all of creation, and all energy is part of this primordial being. As such, it is described in scripture over and over again, that all that occurs is part of the divine will, and as such, has to be accepted. It occurs for a reason, even if its beyond the grasp of one person to understand.

Although Sikhism does not teach that men are created as an image of God, it states that the essence of the One is to be found throughout all of its creation.[citation needed] As was said by Yogi Bhajan, the man who is credited with having brought Sikhism to the West:

"If you can't see God in all, you can't see God at all". (Sri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan)[90]

The First Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak said himself:

"There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim".[91][92]

By this, Guru Nanak meant that there is no distinction between religion in God's eyes, whether polytheist, monotheist, pantheist, or even atheist, all that one needs to gain salvation is purity of heart, tolerance of all beings, compassion and kindness. Unlike many of the major world religions, Sikhism does not have missionaries, instead it believes men have the freedom to find their own path to salvation.

Unitarian Universalism

Sign on a UU church in Rochester, Minnesota, United States.
Sign on a UU church in Rochester, Minnesota, United States.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) is a theologically liberal religion characterized by a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning".[93] Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed; rather, they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth and by the understanding that an individual's theology is a result of that search and not a result of obedience to an authoritarian requirement. Unitarian Universalists draw from all major world religions[94] and many different theological sources and have a wide range of beliefs and practices.

While having its origins in Christianity, UU is no longer a Christian church. As of 2006, fewer than about 20% of Unitarian Universalists identified themselves as Christian.[95] Contemporary Unitarian Universalism espouses a pluralist approach to religious belief, whereby members may describe themselves as humanist, agnostic, deist, atheist, pagan, Christian, monotheist, pantheist, polytheist, or assume no label at all.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) was formed in 1961, a consolidation of the American Unitarian Association, established in 1825, and the Universalist Church of America,[96] established in 1866. It is headquartered in Boston, and mainly serves churches in the United States. The Canadian Unitarian Council became an independent body in 2002.[97]


Faravahar (or Ferohar), one of the primary symbols of Zoroastrianism, believed to be the depiction of a Fravashi (guardian spirit)
Faravahar (or Ferohar), one of the primary symbols of Zoroastrianism, believed to be the depiction of a Fravashi (guardian spirit)

Some varieties of Zoroastrian (such as Zurvanism) are universalistic in application to all races, but not necessarily universalist in the sense of universal salvation.[98][failed verification]

See also


  1. ^ "Harmony of Religions | Vedanta Society of Southern California".
  2. ^ Nations, United. "Are Human Rights Universal?". United Nations. Retrieved 2021-04-17.
  3. ^ Benhabib, Seyla (2007). "Another Universalism: On the Unity and Diversity of Human Rights". Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. 81 (2): 7–32. ISSN 0065-972X. JSTOR 27653991.
  4. ^ King 2002.
  5. ^ Otis Ainsworth Skinner (1807-1861), A Series of Sermons in Defense of the Doctrine of Universal Salvation, Page 209, It is not part of mainline Christian doctrine either Catholic or Protestant. "Repentance is a means by which all men are brought into the enjoyment of religion, and we do expect any man will be saved while he continues in sin. However, Unitarian Universalism holds a universal salvation, because is, "we expect all men will repent."
  6. ^ Bonnett, A. (2005). Anti-Racism. Routledge.
  7. ^ Kemerling, Garth (November 12, 2011). "A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names". Philosophy Pages. According to Immanuel Kant and Richard Mervyn Hare...moral imperatives must be regarded as equally binding on everyone.
  8. ^ Gowans, Chris (Dec 9, 2008). "Moral Relativism". In Edward N. Zalta (ed.). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 ed.). Let us say that moral objectivism maintains that moral judgments are ordinarily true or false in an absolute or universal sense, that some of them are true, and that people sometimes are justified in accepting true moral judgments (and rejecting false ones) on the basis of evidence available to any reasonable and well-informed person.
  9. ^ Buck, Christopher (1999). Paradise and Paradigm: Key Symbols in Persian Christianity and the Baháʼí Faith. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 292.
  10. ^ a b Stockman, Robert (2000). "The Baha'i Faith". In Beversluis, Joel (ed.). Sourcebook of the World's Religions. New World Library. p. 7. ISBN 1-57731-121-3.
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  12. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "peace". A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baháʼí Faith (illustrated, reprint ed.). Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 266–267. ISBN 1-85168-184-1 – via Internet Archive.
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  19. ^ "Hell Fire and Brimstone, The Lake of Fire, Second Death". Archived from the original on 2021-02-25. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  20. ^ "The Bible Hell". Archived from the original on 2021-05-28. Retrieved 2021-08-24.
  21. ^ Miriam Van Scott (10 February 2015). "Purgatorial Hell". The Encyclopedia of Hell: A Comprehensive Survey of the Underworld. St. Martin's Press. p. 240. ISBN 978-1-4668-9119-7.
  22. ^ "See section entitled "Five Principles of Faith"". Retrieved 2011-11-09.
  23. ^ a b Knight, George T. (1950) [1912]. "Universalists". The New Schaff–Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. 12. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. p. 96. OCLC 1002955. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge at the Internet Archive (Vol. 12).
  24. ^ "Purgatorial Hell FAQ". Retrieved 2016-01-19.
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  33. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church 2448
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Further reading

  • Ankerl, Guy (2000). Global communication without universal civilization. Vol. 1: Coexisting contemporary civilizations: Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. Geneva, Switzerland: INU Press. ISBN 9782881550041. |volume= has extra text (help)
  • Palmquist, Stephen (2000), "Chapter eight: Christianity as the Universal religion", in Palmquist, Stephen (ed.), Kant's critical religion, Aldershot, Hants, England Burlington, Vermont: Ashgate, ISBN 9780754613336. Online.
  • Scott, Joan W. (2005), "French Universalism in the nineties", in Friedman, Marilyn (ed.), Women and citizenship, Studies in Feminist Philosophy, Oxford New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 35–51, ISBN 9780195175356.

External links

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