Volume 9 2002
The Value of Human Differences: South Asian Buddhist Contributions Toward an Embodied Virtue Theory
Western Michigan University
What are virtues? Are these best described as cognitive and affective aspects of a person’s psyche, or can virtues also be described as features, postures, and movements of a person’s body? This paper explores the relationship between virtues and bodies in South Asian Buddhist traditions. The paper illumines several different ways in which Buddhist ethical discourse construes the nature of this relationship: (1) Bodies are the material effects of practicing virtues; (2) bodies are the material conditions for practicing virtues; (3) certain kinds of bodies can influence others to practice virtues; and (4) certain features, postures, and movements of bodies constitute in and of themselves virtues. The paper foregrounds the corporeal specificity of ethical agents in order to consider how South Asian Buddhist ethical discourse can contribute to the development of an embodied virtue theory.