Buddhism, Equality, Rights

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

Buddhism, Equality, Rights

Martin T. Adam
University of Victoria

How might rights be grounded in Buddhist doctrine? This article begins by attempting to demonstrate the conceptual link between the idea of equality and the ascription of rights in Western philosophic thought. The ideas of Thomas Hobbes are taken as an example. The paper then proceeds to examine the possibility that Buddhist ideas of equality could serve as grounds for the attribution of rights in a similar manner. A number of senses of equality in Buddhism are identified. I argue that while these ideas of basic equality clearly underlie Buddhist morality, any attempt to found rights on such grounds should lead to a conception of rights that is truly universal in scope, notably including the animals. For a Buddhist believer in rights, rights-possession cannot be limited to human beings.

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