Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.


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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Buddhist Practice as Play

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 21, 2014

Buddhist Practice as Play: A Virtue Ethical View

Meynard Vasen

The debate about which Western ethical theory is most suited to understand Buddhist ethics has been fruitful, because it places the Buddhist tradition in a light that brings out new features. In this article I take further Keown’s view on Buddhist ethics by offering a virtue ethical interpretation of Buddhist ethics with praxis/practice as a central notion, and a form of naturalism as foundation. I draw on the notion of play, as developed by Gadamer and Wittgenstein, and on MacIntyre’s view on virtues as grounded in practices, narratives, and traditions, as widening hermeneutical circles. I conclude by arguing that such an interpretation is a fruitful one, both in the sense that it increases our understanding and that it motivates to engage in Buddhist practice.

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