Buddhist Ethics

Edited by Jake H. Davis (New York University)
Assistant editor: Carissa Véliz (Oxford University)
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  1. added 2020-02-04
    Buddhist Error Theory.Javier Hidalgo - forthcoming - Journal of Value Inquiry:1-20.
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  2. added 2019-10-27
    Karma, Rebirth, and Mental Causation.Christian Coseru - 2007 - In Charles Prebish, Damien Kewon & Dale Wright (eds.), Revisioning Karma. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books. pp. 133-154.
    Attempts to provide a thoroughly naturalized reading of the doctrine of karma have raised important issues regarding its role in the overall economy of the Buddhist soteriological project. This paper identifies some of the most problematic aspects of a naturalized interpretation of karma: (1) the strained relationship between retributive action and personal identity, and (2) the debate concerning mental causation in modern reductionist accounts of persons. The paper explores the benefits of a phenomenological approach in which reductionist accounts of karma (...)
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  3. added 2019-09-15
    Breaking Good: Moral Agency, Neuroethics, and the Spontaneity of Compassion.Christian Coseru - 2017 - In Jake H. Davis (ed.), A Mirror is for Reflection: Understanding Buddhist Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 109-128.
    This paper addresses two specific and related questions the Buddhist neuroethics program raises for our traditional understanding of Buddhist ethics: Does affective neuroscience supply enough evidence that contempla- tive practices such as compassion meditation can enhance normal cognitive functioning? Can such an account advance the philosophical debate concerning freedom and determinism in a profitable direction? In response to the first question, I argue that dispositions such as empathy and altruism can in effect be understood in terms of the mechanisms that (...)
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  4. added 2019-09-15
    Freedom From Responsibility: Agent-Neutral Consequentialism and the Bodhisattva Ideal.Christian Coseru - 2016 - In Rick Repetti (ed.), Buddhist Perspectives on Free Will. New York: Routledge. pp. 92-105.
    This paper argues that influential Mahāyāna ethicists, such as Śāntideva, who allow for moral rules to be proscribed under the expediency of a compassionate aim, seriously compromise the very notion of moral responsibility. The central thesis is that moral responsibility is intelligible only in relation to conceptions of freedom and human dignity that reflect a participation in, and sharing of, interpersonal relationships. The central thesis of the paper is that revisionary strategies, which seek to explain agency in event-causal terms, set (...)
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  5. added 2019-07-02
    Review of Paving the Great Way: Vasubandhu’s Unifying Buddhist Philosophy. [REVIEW]Subhasis Chattopadhyay - 2019 - Prabuddha Bharata or Awakened India 124 (7):574-6.
    This book distorts Buddhism and is one of a series of books which are not worth reading. This is one of those First World books which get published because someone somewhere wants to appear learned. For example, this review shows why it is both a moral and scholarly failure to compare Vasubandhu or any other serious Buddhist to Berlin's 'fox'. The author of the book, like countless others, through his iterative scholarship, has reduced Buddhism to a farce. Anyone, including this (...)
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  6. added 2019-04-30
    Karma, Moral Responsibility and Buddhist Ethics.Bronwyn Finnigan - forthcoming - In Manuel Vargas & John Doris (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology.
    The Buddha taught that there is no self. He also accepted a version of the doctrine of karmic rebirth, according to which good and bad actions accrue merit and demerit respectively and where this determines the nature of the agent’s next life and explains some of the beneficial or harmful occurrences in that life. But how is karmic rebirth possible if there are no selves? If there are no selves, it would seem there are no agents that could be held (...)
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  7. added 2018-10-17
    Kant, Buddhism, and Self-Centered Vice.Bradford Cokelet - 2018 - In Philip J. Ivanhoe, Owen Flanagan, Victoria S. Harrison, Hagop Sarkissian & Eric Schwitzgebel (eds.), The Oneness Hypothesis: Beyond the Boundary of Self. New York, USA: Columbia University Press. pp. 169-191.
    This article discusses the vice of self-centeredness, argues that it inhibits our ability to treat humanity as an end in itself, and that Kantian moral theory cannot account for this fact. After in this way arguing that Kantian theory fails to provide a fully adequate account of agents who live up to the formula of humanity, I discuss Buddhist resources for developing a better account.
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  8. added 2017-05-20
    Buddhism and Animal Ethics.Bronwyn Finnigan - 2017 - Philosophy Compass 12 (7):1-12.
    This article provides a philosophical overview of some of the central Buddhist positions and argument regarding animal welfare. It introduces the Buddha's teaching of ahiṃsā or non-violence and rationally reconstructs five arguments from the context of early Indian Buddhism that aim to justify its extension to animals. These arguments appeal to the capacity and desire not to suffer, the virtue of compassion, as well as Buddhist views on the nature of self, karma, and reincarnation. This article also considers how versions (...)
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  9. added 2017-01-14
    Buddhist Ethics and Globalization on the Basis of Bodhicaryavatara.Ramanath Pandey - 2012 - The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion and Philosophy 2012.
    The topical theme of this paper explores the ethical principles of Mahayana Buddhism, based on Bodhicaryavatara(BC) of Santideva(7thcentury A.D.). According to him, only generation of enlightened mind (bodhicitta-intellect) and virtuous actions are not sufficient to attain the main objective i.e. Buddha-hood, the state of perfect enlightenment. But, for the fulfillment of this goal one must have to gain perfection to engage in the performance of six actions, termed as –Sadparmitas. It is necessary to stop present and future sufferings, and to (...)
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  10. added 2017-01-12
    Madhyamaka Buddhist Meta-Ethics: The Justificatory Grounds of Moral Judgments.Bronwyn Finnigan - 2015 - Philosophy East and West 65 (3):765-785.
    In recent decades, several attempts have been made to characterize Buddhism as a systematically unified and consistent normative ethical theory. This has given rise to a growing interest in meta-ethical questions. Meta-ethics can be broadly or narrowly defined. Defined broadly, it is a domain of inquiry concerned with the nature and status of the fundamental or framing presuppositions of normative ethical theories, where this includes the cognitive and epistemic requirements of presupposed conceptions of ethical agency.1 Defined narrowly, it concerns the (...)
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  11. added 2017-01-03
    Nāgārjuna and Madhyāmaka Ethics (Ethics-1, M32).Shyam Ranganathan - 2016 - In A. Raghuramaraju (ed.), Philosophy, E-PG Pathshala. Delhi: India, Department of Higher Education (NMEICT).
    Nāgārjuna’s “middle path” charts a course between two extremes: Nihilism, and Absolutism, not unlike earlier Buddhism. However, as early Buddhists countinanced constituents of reality as characterizable by essences while macroscopic objects lack such essences, Nāgārjuna argues that all things lack what he calls svabhāva – “own being” – the Sanskrit term for essence. Since everything lacks an essence, it is Empty (śūnya). To lack an essence is to lack autonomy. The corollary of this is that all things are interrelated. The (...)
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  12. added 2016-12-08
    The Role of Puñña and Kusala in the Dialectic of the Twofold Right Vision and the Temporary Integration of Eternalism in the Path Towards Spiritual Emancipation According to the Pāli Nikāyas.Krishna Del Toso - 2008 - Esercizi Filosofici 3 (3):32-58.
    Abstract: This article shows how in the Pāli Nikāyas, after having defined Eternalism and Nihilism as two opposed positions, Gotama makes a dialectical use of Eternalism as means to eliminate Nihilism, upheld to be the worst point of view because of its denial of kammic maturation in terms of puñña and pāpa. Assuming, from an Eternalist perspective, that actions have effects also beyond the present life, Gotama underlines the necessity of betting on the validity of moral kammic retribution. Having thus (...)
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  13. added 2016-09-28
    Imaginative Moral Development.Nicolas Bommarito - 2017 - Journal of Value Inquiry 51 (2):251-262.
    The picture of moral development defended by followers of Aristotle takes moral cultivation to be like playing a harp; one gets to be good by actually spending time playing a real instrument. On this view, we cultivate a virtue by doing the actions associated with that virtue. I argue that this picture is inadequate and must be supplemented by imaginative techniques. One can, and sometimes must, cultivate virtue without actually performing the associated actions. Drawing on strands in Buddhist philosophy, I (...)
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  14. added 2016-05-10
    Facing Death From a Safe Distance: Saṃvega and Moral Psychology.Lajos L. Brons - 2016 - Journal of Buddhist Ethics 23:83-128.
    Saṃvega is a morally motivating state of shock that -- according to Buddhaghosa -- should be evoked by meditating on death. What kind of mental state it is exactly, and how it is morally motivating is unclear, however. This article presents a theory of saṃvega -- what it is and how it works -- based on recent insights in psychology. According to dual process theories there are two kinds of mental processes organized in two" systems" : the experiential, automatic system (...)
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  15. added 2016-04-27
    The Nature of a Buddhist Path.Bronwyn Finnigan - 2017 - In Jake H. Davis (ed.), A Mirror is for Reflection: Understanding Buddhist Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 33-52.
    Is there a ‘common element’ in Buddhist ethical thought from which one might rationally reconstruct a Buddhist normative ethical theory? While many agree that there is such an element, there is disagreement about whether it is best reconstructed in terms that approximate consequentialism or virtue ethics. This paper will argue that two distinct evaluative relations underlie these distinct positions; an instrumental and constitutive analysis. It will raise some difficulties for linking these distinct analyses to particular normative ethical theories but will (...)
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  16. added 2016-03-17
    Madhyamaka Ethics.Bronwyn Finnigan - 2018 - In Daniel Cozort & James Mark Shields (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics. Oxford University Press.
    There are two main loci of contemporary debate about the nature of Madhyamaka ethics. The first investigates the general issue of whether the Madhyamaka philosophy of emptiness is consistent with a commitment to systematic ethical distinctions. The second queries whether the metaphysical analysis of no-self presented by Śāntideva in his Bodhicaryāvatāra entails the impartial benevolence of a bodhisattva. This article will critically examine these debates and demonstrate the ways in which they are shaped by competing understandings of Madhyamaka conventional truth (...)
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  17. added 2015-11-01
    On the Classification of Śāntideva’s Ethics in the Bodhicaryāvatāra.Stephen E. Harris - 2015 - Philosophy East and West 65 (1):249-275.
    In this essay several challenges are raised to the project of classifying Śāntideva’s ethical reasoning given in his Bodhicaryāvatāra, or Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva, as a species of ethical theory such as consequentialism or virtue ethics. One set of difficulties highlighted here arises because Śāntideva wrote this text to act as a manual of psychological transformation, and it is therefore often difficult to determine when his statements indicate his own ethical views. Further, even assuming we can identify (...)
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  18. added 2015-11-01
    Demandingness, Well-Being and the Bodhisattva Path.Stephen E. Harris - 2015 - Sophia 54 (2):201-216.
    This paper reconstructs an Indian Buddhist response to the overdemandingness objection, the claim that a moral theory asks too much of its adherents. In the first section, I explain the objection and argue that some Mahāyāna Buddhists, including Śāntideva, face it. In the second section, I survey some possible ways of responding to the objection as a way of situating the Buddhist response alongside contemporary work. In the final section, I draw upon writing by Vasubandhu and Śāntideva in reconstructing a (...)
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  19. added 2015-11-01
    Does Anātman Rationally Entail Altruism? On Bodhicaryāvatāra 8: 101-103.Stephen Harris - 2011 - Journal of Buddhist Ethics 18.
    In the eighth chapter of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva has often been interpreted as offering an argument that accepting the ultimate nonexistence of the self (anātman) rationally entails a commitment to altruism, the view that one should care equally for self and others. In this essay, I consider reconstructions of Śāntideva’s argument by contemporary scholars Paul Williams, Mark Siderits and John Pettit. I argue that all of these various reconfigurations of the argument fail to be convincing. This suggests (...)
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  20. added 2015-04-13
    Suffering and the Shape of Well-Being in Buddhist Ethics.Stephen E. Harris - 2014 - Asian Philosophy 24 (3):242-259.
    This article explores the defense Indian Buddhist texts make in support of their conceptions of lives that are good for an individual. This defense occurs, largely, through their analysis of ordinary experience as being saturated by subtle forms of suffering . I begin by explicating the most influential of the Buddhist taxonomies of suffering: the threefold division into explicit suffering , the suffering of change , and conditioned suffering . Next, I sketch the three theories of welfare that have been (...)
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  21. added 2015-04-13
    Environmental Philosophy and Ethics in Buddhism.Padmasiri De Silva - 1998 - St. Martin's Press.
    This work introduces the reader to the central issues and theories in Western environmental ethics, and against this background develops a Buddhist environmental philosophy and ethics. Drawing material from original sources, there is a lucid exposition of Buddhist environmentalism, its ethics, economics and Buddhist perspectives for environmental education. The work is focused on a diagnosis of the contemporary environmental crisis and a Buddhist contribution for positive solutions. Replete with stories and illustrations from original Buddhist sources, it is both informative and (...)
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  22. added 2014-04-02
    Examining the Bodhisattva's Brain.Bronwyn Finnigan - 2014 - Zygon 49 (1):231-241.
    Owen Flanagan's The Bodhisattva's Brain aims to introduce secular-minded thinkers to Buddhist thought and motivate its acceptance by analytic philosophers. I argue that Flanagan provides a compelling caution against the hasty generalizations of recent “science of happiness” literature, which correlates happiness with Buddhism on the basis of certain neurological studies. I contend, however, that his positive account of Buddhist ethics is less persuasive. I question the level of engagement with Buddhist philosophical literature and challenge Flanagan's central claim, that a Buddhist (...)
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  23. added 2013-11-22
    The Compassionate Gift of Vice: Śāntideva on Gifts, Altruism, and Poverty.Amod Lele - 2013 - Journal of Buddhist Ethics 20:702-734.
    The Mahāyāna Buddhist thinker Śāntideva tells his audience to give out alcohol, weapons and sex for reasons of Buddhist compassion, though he repeatedly warns of the dangers of all these three. The article shows how Śāntideva resolves this issue: these gifts, and gifts in general, attract their recipients to the virtuous giver, in a way that helps the recipients to become more virtuous in the long run. As a consequence, Śāntideva does recommend the alleviation of poverty, but assigns it a (...)
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  24. added 2013-09-27
    Śāntideva.Amod Lele - 2009 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    An encyclopedia article about Śāntideva, the 8th-century Indian Mahāyāna Buddhist philosopher known for his work on ethics. The article explores his history and written corpus and classifies his work (as he does) by way of the "perfections" (pāramitā) of the bodhisattva. It addresses his views on metaphysics and their implications for ethics and practice, as well as his views on gift-giving, anger and other emotions. It also briefly discusses his relationship to virtue ethics and consequentialism.
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  25. added 2013-09-27
    Ethical Revaluation in the Thought of Śāntideva.Amod Lele - 2007 - Dissertation, Harvard University
    This dissertation examines the idea of _ethical revaluation_ — taking things we normally see as good for our flourishing and seeing them as neutral or bad, and vice versa — in the Mahāyāna Buddhist thinker Śāntideva. It shows how Śāntideva’s thought on the matter is more coherent than it might otherwise appear, first by examining the consistency of Śāntideva’s own claims and then by applying them to contemporary ethical thought. In so doing, it makes four significant contributions. Śāntideva claims that (...)
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  26. added 2008-12-31
    Buddhist Meta-Ethics.Bronwyn Finnigan - 2010-11 - Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 33 (1-2):267-297.
    In this paper I argue for the importance of pursuing Buddhist Meta-Ethics. Most contemporary studies of the nature of Buddhist Ethics proceed in isolation from the highly sophisticated epistemological theories developed within the Buddhist tradition. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that an intimate relationship holds between ethics and epistemology in Buddhism. To show this, I focus on Damien Keown's influential virtue ethical theorisation of Buddhist Ethics and demonstrate the conflicts that arise when it is brought into dialogue (...)
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