Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Archive for the ‘Volume 24 2017’


The Good in Aristotle and Early Buddhism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

On the Good in Aristotle and Early Buddhism: A Response to Abraham Vélez

Damien Keown
University of London, Goldsmiths

In an earlier publication I compared Aristotelian and Buddhist concepts of the consummate good. Abraham Vélez de Cea has claimed I misrepresent the nature of the good by restricting it to certain psychic states and excluding a range of other goods acknowledged by Aristotle and the Buddha. My aim here is to show that my understanding of the good is not the narrow one Vélez suggests. The article concludes with some observations on the relationship between moral and non-moral good in Buddhism.

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Capital Punishment: a Buddhist Critique

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Capital Punishment: a Buddhist Critique

Martin Kovan
University of Melbourne

Capital punishment is practiced in many nation-states, secular and religious alike. It is also historically a feature of some Buddhist polities, even though it defies the first Buddhist precept (pāṇatipātā) prohibiting lethal harm. This essay considers a neo-Kantian theorization of capital punishment (Sorell) and examines the reasons underwriting its claims (with their roots in Bentham and Mill) with respect to the prevention of and retribution for crime. The contextualization of this argument with Buddhist-metaphysical and epistemological concerns around the normativization of value, demonstrates that such a retributivist conception of capital punishment constitutively undermines its own rational and normative discourse. With this conclusion the paper upholds and justifies the first Buddhist precept prohibiting lethal action in the case of capital punishment.

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Can Animals Understand the Dharma?

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Dharma Dogs: Can Animals Understand the Dharma? Textual and Ethnographic Considerations

James Stewart
University of Tasmania

Pāli textual sources occasionally mention the existence of unusual animals with an aptitude for the Buddha’s dharma. In the Jātaka, clever animals do good deeds and are thus reborn in better circumstances. In the Vinaya, the Buddha declares to a serpent that he should observe Buddhist holy days so he can achieve a human rebirth. But can animals develop spiritually? Can they move towards enlightenment? In this article I will be examining textual and ethnographic accounts of whether animals can hear and understand the dharma. Using ethnographic research conducted in Sri Lanka, I will show that although animals are thought to passively benefit from being in proximity to dharma institutions, there seems to be agreement amongst the monks interviewed that animals cannot truly understand the dharma and therefore cannot practice it. Animals are therefore severely hampered in their spiritual advancement. However, these ethnographic and textual findings do indicate that passively listening to dharma preaching, whether it is understood or not, has spiritually productive consequences.

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Dependent Origination and the Value of Nature

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 24, 2017

Dependent Origination, Emptiness, and the Value of Nature

David Cummiskey and Alex Hamilton
Bates College

This article explains the importance of the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination to contemporary environmental ethics and also develops a Buddhist account of the relational, non-instrumental, and impersonal value of nature. The article’s methodology is “comparative” or “fusion” philosophy. In particular, dependent origination and Nāgārjuna’s doctrine of emptiness are developed in contrast to Aldo Leopold and J. Baird Callicott’s conception of deep ecology, and the Buddhist conception of value is developed using Christine Korsgaard’s Kantian analysis of the distinction between intrinsic/extrinsic value and means/ends value.

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