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Cultivation of Virtue in Buddhist Ethics

ISSN 1076-9005
Volume 20, 2013

The Cultivation of Virtue in Buddhist Ethics

Charles K. Fink
Miami Dade College, Kendall Campus

One question pursued in Buddhist studies concerns the classification of Buddhist ethics. Damien Keown has argued that Aristotelian virtue ethics provides a useful framework for understanding Buddhist ethics, but recently other scholars have argued that character consequentialism is more suitable for this task. Although there are similarities between the two accounts, there are also important differences. In this paper, I follow Keown in defending the aretaic interpretative model, although I do not press the analogy with Aristotelian ethics. Rather, I argue that Buddhist ethics corresponds to a more generic, act-centered virtue ethics. Buddhist moral reasoning is often strikingly consequentialist, but I argue that this does not support the consequentialist interpretation. Analyzing the concept of right action must be distinguished from providing a justification for living a moral life and from formulating a procedure for making moral decisions.

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