Comments on “After Buddhist Ethics”

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Philosophy of ethics

SusanC 2021-01-18

Hi David,

I’ve recently been reading Nagarjuna’s Middle Way, and it strikes me that it doesn’t have much to say about the philosophy of ethics. Lots of epistemology, but short on ethics.

My own prejudice is a feeling that it ought to have one. In Plato’s Euthypro, Socrates argues with Euthypro that doing what the Gods tell you isn’t going to cut it as an ethical theory. Although I might be something of a postmodern skeptic towards Plato’s overall project, the feeling that we ought to have justifications remains. ( “These fornicating monks are making the sangha look bad” seems to be the main justification behind much of the Vinaya).

There is possibly an ethical theory implicit somewhere in Machig Labdron, although not spelled out. To my modern taste, at least, once you’ve declared that there is no God and moved on to the practical details of how to make a flute out of a human thigh bone, there ought to be something somewhere that keeps your coreligionists within some kind of sane bounds…

In short: even if vajrayana didn’t traditionally have a philosophy of ethics, as modern people we feel we could do with obtaining one from somewhere.

Buddhist ethics is dead

SusanC 2021-01-18

<block quote>Maybe I killed it</block quote>

I don’t know if you intended the allusion, but as I was reading that I was thinking of Nietzsche’s “God is dead and we have killed him. Oh murderer of murderers” etc.

I agree

David Chapman 2021-01-18

I think I agree with everything you said there!

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