Consequentialism, Agent-Neutrality, and Mahāyāna Ethics

Goodman, Charles
January 2008
Philosophy East & West;Jan2008, Vol. 58 Issue 1, p17
Academic Journal
What kinds of comparisons can legitimately be made between Mahāyāna Buddhism and Western ethical theories? Mahāyānists aspire to alleviate the suffering, promote the happiness, and advance the moral perfection of all sentient beings. This aspiration is best understood as expressing a form of universalist consequentialism. Many Indian Mahāyāna texts seem committed to claims about agent-neutrality that imply consequentialism and are not compatible with virtue ethics. Within the Mahāyāna tradition, there is some diversity of views: Asanga seems to hold a complex and interesting version of rule consequentialism, whereas Śāntideva is closer to act consequentialism.


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