An Abhidharmic theory of welfare

Asian Philosophy 31 (3):254-270 (2021)
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ABSTRACT Do Buddhist philosophical commitments support a particular theory of well-being? Most authors who have examined this question argue that Buddhist ideas are compatible with multiple theories of well-being. In this paper, I contend that one tradition of Buddhist philosophy—Abhidharma—does imply a specific theory of welfare. In particular, Abhidharma supports hedonism. Most Ābhidharmikas claim that only property-particulars called dharmas ultimately exist and I argue that an Abhidharmic theory of well-being should only refer to these properties. Yet the only dharmas that could plausibly be intrinsically good are phenomenal properties that are good in virtue of how they feel. Thus, the only intrinsically good things are pleasures. I defend this surprising conclusion from various interpretative objections and show that my argument can also inform contemporary philosophical debates about welfare.

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Javier Hidalgo
University of Richmond


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