Journal of Buddhist Ethics

An online journal of Buddhist scholarship related to ethics.

Buddhism and Speciesism

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 15, 2008

Buddhism and Speciesism: on the Misapplication of Western Concepts to Buddhist Beliefs

Colette Sciberras
University of Durham

In this article, I defend Buddhism from Paul Waldau’s charge of speciesism. I argue that Waldau attributes to Buddhism various notions that it does not necessarily have, such as the ideas that beings are morally considerable if they possess certain traits, and that humans, as morally considerable beings, ought never to be treated as means. These ideas may not belong in Buddhism, and for Waldau’s argument to work, he needs to show that they do. Moreover, a closer look at his case reveals a more significant problem for ecologically minded Buddhists—namely that the Pāli texts do not seem to attribute intrinsic value to any form of life at all, regardless of species. Thus, I conclude that rather than relying on Western concepts, it may be preferable to look for a discourse from within the tradition itself to explain why Buddhists ought to be concerned about the natural world.

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