Vice and Virtue in Sikh Ethics

The Monist 104 (3):319-336 (2021)
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In recent years, there has been increasing interest in analytic philosophy that engages with non-Western philosophical traditions, including South Asian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. However, thus far, there has been no engagement with Sikhism, despite its status as a major world religion with a rich philosophical tradition. This paper is an attempt to get a start at analytic philosophical engagement with Sikh philosophy. My focus is on Sikh ethics, and in particular on the theory of vice and virtue that can be gleaned from Sikh scripture. According to this theory, the five major vices have a unified source in the vice of haumai. Haumai is a kind of false conception of oneself as singularly important, and correspondingly, a false conception of the world as revolving around oneself, as a world of objects there for one’s use. Vice, then, comes down to the failure to recognize the importance of others. The corresponding picture of virtue is that virtue consists in a recognition of the importance of others, through the recognition of an ultimate reality on which all are One. After reconstructing the Sikh theory of vice and virtue, I conclude with some comparative remarks on Sikh and Western ethics.
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