Fundamental Buddhist teachings -- Main features of some western ethical theories -- Teravāda ethics as rule-consequentialism -- Mahāyāna ethics before Śāntideva and after -- Transcending ethics -- Buddhist ethics and the demands of consequentialism -- Buddhism on moral responsibility -- Punishment -- Objections and replies -- A Buddhist response to Kant.
This book examines the theoretical structure of Buddhist accounts of morality, defends them against objections, and discusses their implications for free will, the justification of punishment, and other issues.
Does the decision to relax by taking a drive rather than by taking a walk cause harm? In particular, do the additional carbon emissions caused by such a decision make anyone worse off? Recently several philosophers have argued that the answer is no, and on this basis have gone on to claim that act-consequentialism cannot provide a moral reason for individuals to voluntarily reduce their emissions. The reasoning typically consists of two steps. First, the effect of individual emissions on the (...) weather is miniscule: the planet’s meteorological system is so large, and the size of individual emissions so tiny, that whatever impact an individual emission has on the weather must be vanishingly small. Second, vanishingly small impacts aren’t morally relevant because no one could possibly tell the difference between such an impact occurring and it not occurring. In this paper, we show why both steps are mistaken, and hence why act-consequentialism implies that each of us has an individual obligation to do what we can to stop damaging the climate, including by refraining from, or perhaps by purchasing offsets against, our own individual luxury carbon emissions. (shrink)
The Tattvasaṃgraha, or Encyclopedia of Metaphysics, is the most influential and most frequently studied philosophical text from the late period of Indian Buddhism. This edition includes verses by Śāntarakṣita (c. 725-788 CE), which are clarified and expounded in the commentary of his student Kamalaśīla (c. 740-795 CE); both of these authors played crucial roles in founding the Buddhist tradition of Tibet. In the Tattvasaṃgraha, they explain, discuss and critique a vast range of views and arguments from across the whole South (...) Asian philosophical and religious spectrum. The work deals at length with ideas drawn from Buddhism, Jainism, and a variety of traditions now incorporated within Hinduism, including Mīmāṃsā, Nyāya-vaiśeṣika, and Sāṃkhya; it also includes the earliest discussion of Advaita Vedānta in any Buddhist text. The chapters selected for translation from Sanskrit and Tibetan deal with such fundamental philosophical issues as the existence or nonexistence of God and the soul; the nature of matter and of causal relationships; the connection between words and their referents; the rules of logic; the sources of our knowledge; and the compatibility of beliefs about karma with Buddhism's fundamental claim that there is no self. Introductory chapters discuss translation choices and explain the forms of argument and methods of reasoning employed by Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla. (shrink)
The Training Anthology-or Siksa-samuccaya-is a collection of quotations from Buddhist sutras with illuminating and insightful commentary by the eighth-century North Indian master Santideva. Best known for his philosophical poem, the Bodhicaryavatara, Santideva has been a vital source of spiritual guidance and literary inspiration to Tibetan teachers and students throughout the history of Tibetan Buddhism. Charles Goodman offers a translation of this major work of religious literature, in which Santideva has extracted, from the vast ocean of the Buddha's teachings, a large (...) number of passages of exceptional value, either for their practical relevance, philosophical illumination, or aesthetic beauty. The Training Anthology provides a comprehensive overview of the Mahayana path to Awakening and gives scholars an invaluable window into the religious doctrines, ethical commitments, and everyday life of Buddhist monks in India during the first millennium CE. (shrink)
Most modern analytic philosophers have ignored works of Indian philosophy such as Vasubandhu's 'Treasury of Metaphysics'. This neglect is unjustified. The account of the nature of the physical world given in the 'Treasury' is a one-category ontology of dharmas, which are simple, momentary tropes. They include basic physical tropes, the most fundamental level of the physical world, as well as higher-level tropes, including sensible properties such as colours, which are known as derived form. I argue that the relationship between the (...) basic physical tropes and derived form is one of supervenience. Vasubandhu's theory is a powerful and flexible one, which can be adapted so as to be consistent with modern science. (shrink)
Owen Flanagan's important book The Bodhisattva's Brain presents a naturalized interpretation of Buddhist philosophy. Although the overall approach of the book is very promising, certain aspects of its presentation could benefit from further reflection. Traditional teachings about reincarnation do not contradict the doctrine of no self, as Flanagan seems to suggest; however, they are empirically rather implausible. Flanagan's proposed “tame” interpretation of karma is too thin; we can do better at fitting karma into a scientific worldview. The relationship between eudaimonist (...) and utilitarian strands in Buddhist ethics is more complex than the book suggests. Flanagan is right to criticize incautious and imprecise claims that Buddhism will make practitioners happy. We can make progress by distinguishing between happiness in the sense of a Buddhist version of eudaimonia, and happiness in the sense of attitudinal pleasure. Doing so might result in an interpretation of Buddhist views about happiness that was simultaneously philosophically interesting, historically credible, and psychologically testable. (shrink)
: Scholars have proposed several different interpretations of the doctrine of no-self found in the Buddhist Abhidharma literature. It is argued here that two of these, Constitutive Reductionism and Eliminativism, are ruled out by textual evidence. A third, the Eliminative Reductionism of Siderits, is much closer to the intent of the texts.We can refine it further by attending to the role of metaphor in Vaibhāsika accounts of the no-self doctrine. If we update this view by drawing on analytic philosophy, the (...) result is a variety of metaphoricalism that portrays statements about composite, persisting objects as literally false but practically useful and approximately true. This theory could be relevant to contemporary discussions of reductionism in personal identity. (shrink)
: What kinds of comparisons can legitimately be made between Mahāyāna Buddhism and Western ethical theories? Mahāyānists aspire to alleviate the suffering, promote the happiness, and advance the moral perfection of all sentient beings. This aspiration is best understood as expressing a form of universalist consequentialism. Many Indian Mahāyāna texts seem committed to claims about agent-neutrality that imply consequentialism and are not compatible with virtue ethics. Within the Mahāyāna tradition, there is some diversity of views: Asaṅga seems to hold a (...) complex and interesting version of rule consequentialism, whereas Śāntideva is closer to act consequentialism. (shrink)
Most forms of Buddhist meditation do not require any particular doctrinal commitments, metaphysical assumptions, or leaps of faith in order to work as advertised. According to Buddhists meditation can be helpful to people in general, whether they currently find other aspects of Buddhist teaching plausible or not. This chapter explains how to do three major forms of meditation widely practiced in Buddhism, being shared in common by a number of lineages, including both Theravāda and Tibetan Buddhism. Drawing on the basic (...) texts of the Pāli canon, sacred to the Theravāda tradition, the author also tries to offer some elements of an explanation of how meditation could work in the way Buddhists say it does. The three forms of meditation are known as breathing mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, and meditation on lovingkindness. (shrink)
Many Indian Buddhist texts have a great deal to say about metaphysics, ontology, epistemology and the philosophy of language; many of them offer quite a bit of guidance about how to live, and about the qualities of mind and heart that are worthy of ethical commendation; but most of these texts say nothing at all about the topics that we today would classify as ethical theory and metaethics.Yet there was at least one Indian author who aspired to systematize Buddhist normative (...) teachings into a coherent and general framework. This was the eighth-century North Indian monk Śāntideva. In his two major works, Śāntideva again and again justifies deviations from what would otherwise be binding moral rules whenever a person.. (shrink)
According to an intriguing Chinese narrative, Laozi, founder of Daoism, did not restrict his teaching activities to his own countrymen. After entrusting his Daodejing to Yin Xi, the Keeper of the Pass, Laozi traveled west into the wilderness. Perhaps with the aid of supernatural powers, Laozi reached India and began to teach. There he came to be known as the Buddha. In this way, the striking similarities between Daoism and Buddhism are the result of these two traditions having had the (...) same founder; and the equally striking differences are the result of the failure of the Western barbarians to understand the depth and subtlety of Laozi's thought.Amused by the story? Here's another. In this second narrative, the... (shrink)
A translation of a major part of Prajñākaramati’s canonical commentary on the Perfection of Patient Endurance chapter of Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra. The introduction clarifies the importance of the commentary and explores what can be learned from it. Prajñākaramati’s comments help illuminate the meaning of the verses and provide evidence for the view that the Bodhicaryāvatāra should be understood as offering not just meditation exercises, but also rational arguments that can be evaluated as philosophy.
People, and perhaps certain other living things, really exist; but chairs, rocks, and all other inanimate, composite material substances do not exist. Or so Trenton Merricks tells us in Objects and Persons. This view, though striking and strange, is not entirely new: Peter van Inwagen has defended it, and it represents a natural development of ideas that come to us from Aristotle through David Wiggins and others. However, Merricks offers us an entirely new strategy for defending the view, a strategy (...) based on certain ideas about causality. It is relatively easy to find reasons for repudiating chairs and rocks. What is difficult is defending the asymmetry between real living things and alleged nonliving things. Merricks advances an interesting and forceful argument for this asymmetry, one with which anyone working on material constitution will have to grapple. (shrink)
In Globalization and Global Justice, Nicole Hassoun presents a new andfundamental challenge to libertarian political thought. Her LegitimacyArgument tries to show that natural rights libertarians are committed bytheir own principles to a requirement that their states recognize and meetthe positive welfare rights of certain merely potentially autonomous persons.Unfortunately, this argument suffers from two flaws. Hassoun needs to show,but has not shown, that the libertarian state would have to infringe any ofthe negative rights of the merely potentially autonomous in such a (...) way asto require consent from them. Moreover, the libertarians could arrange theirinstitutions, justifiably by their own lights, so as to expel all indigent, merelypotentially autonomous persons from their territory. This second solution isintuitively unpalatable, but may be no more morally problematic than thebasic natural rights libertarian view itself. (shrink)
In defending the teaching of emptiness, Bhāvaviveka offers some very strange arguments, which initially may appear so weak that we may be hard pressed to understand how anyone could endorse them. To make sense of these passages, it is helpful to compare them to an argument found in the writings of the Naiyāyika Uddyotakara. These arguments have a certain formal feature which makes them count as valid from the point of view of the rules and norms of some forms of (...) Indian logic. Once we understand the logical structure of the arguments offered by Uddyotakara and Bhāvaviveka, we will not only have a better grasp on their philosophical views, but we will also be in a better position to understand how and why those views were rejected by later figures in the Indian tradition, such as Dharmakīrti and Śāntarak⋅ita. (shrink)
In defending the teaching of emptiness, Bh vaviveka offers some very strange arguments, which initially may appear so weak that we may be hard pressed to understand how anyone could endorse them. To make sense of these passages, it is helpful to compare them to an argument found in the writings of the Naiy yika Uddyotakara. These arguments have a certain formal feature which makes them count as valid from the point of view of the rules and norms of some (...) forms of Indian logic. Once we understand the logical structure of the arguments offered by Uddyotakara and Bh vaviveka, we will not only have a better grasp on their philosophical views, but we will also be in a better position to understand how and why those views were rejected by later figures in the Indian tradition, such as Dharmakīrti and ntarak ⋅ ita. (shrink)
Can we describe the ethical views of premodern Buddhist authors, without distorting them, using the terms and concepts employed in contemporary discussions of philosophical ethics? If we can, just how should we do so? Mark Siderits was one of the first authors to propose that we try to understand the normative views of the South Asian Buddhist tradition considered as a whole, and of Śāntideva in particular, as forms of consequentialism. Since his pioneering work, the discussion has advanced considerably, and (...) scholars have raised a number of questions about, and objections against, consequentialist interpretations of Buddhist ethics. This paper defends a consequentialist interpretation of Śāntideva in particular, offering replies to the most important of these questions and objections. If my arguments are successful, they reveal that Siderits’ pioneering articles about Buddhist ethics were quite close to the mark, at least so far as Śāntideva is concerned. (shrink)