Stephen E. Harris
Leiden University
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 that, for Madhyamaka Buddhists, an understanding of anātman does not entail acceptance of the Bodhisattva path, but rather is instrumental to achieving it. Second, it suggests the possibility that in these verses, Śāntideva was offering meditational techniques, rather than making an argument for altruism from the premise of anātman.
Keywords Śāntideva  Buddhism  Buddhist Ethics  Mahayana Buddhism  not-self  altruism  benevolence  anatman  personal identity  ethics
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford University Press.
Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations.Paul Williams - 1990 - Religious Studies 26 (3):429-431.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Madhyamaka Ethics.Bronwyn Finnigan - 2018 - In Daniel Cozort & James Mark Shields (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 162-183.

View all 10 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Basics of Spiritual Altruism.Sangeetha Menon - 2007 - Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 39 (2):137-152.
Sterba’s Argument From Non-Question-Beggingness for the Rationality of Morality.Duncan Macintosh - 2014 - International Journal of Applied Philosophy 28 (1):171-189.
Altruism as a Thick Concept.Michael Schefczyk & Mark Peacock - 2010 - Economics and Philosophy 26 (2):165-187.
Altruism in Medicine: Its Definition, Nature, and Dilemmas.David Steinberg - 2010 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 19 (2):249.
Putting Altruism in Context.Joel Sobel - 2002 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (2):275-276.
The Ethics of Altruism.Jonathan Seglow (ed.) - 2004 - F. Cass Publishers.


Added to PP index

Total views
799 ( #9,149 of 2,519,512 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
78 ( #9,765 of 2,519,512 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes