Karma, Character, and Consequentialism

Journal of Religious Ethics 24 (2):329 - 350 (1996)
Abstract
Karma is a central feature of Buddhist ethics, but the question of its classification in terms of ethical theory has so far received little attention. Granting that karma is foundational to Buddhist ethics and arguing that what is fundamental to the Buddhist understanding of karma is the samskāric modification of the agent, this article relates the doctrine of karma as understood in Theravāda Buddhism to Western ethical concepts and challenges the casual consensus that treats Buddhist ethics as a variety of consequentialism. The contrary argument, that Buddhist ethics is best understood in terms of virtue-mediated character transformation, is made dialectically through a critique of recent discussions of karma by Roy Perrett and Bruce Reichenbach and through an assessment of the plausibility of Philip Ivanhoe's concept of "character consequentialism.".
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