International Journal for Philosophy of Religion

, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 149–165

Retributive karma and the problem of blaming the victim


DOI: 10.1007/s11153-012-9376-z

Cite this article as:
Burley, M. Int J Philos Relig (2013) 74: 149. doi:10.1007/s11153-012-9376-z


A defining feature of retributive conceptions of karma is their regarding of suffering or misfortune as consequent upon sins committed in previous lives. Some critical non-believers in karma take offence at this view, considering it to involve unjustly blaming the victim. Defenders of the view demur, and argue that a belief in retributive karma in fact provides a motivation for benevolent action. This article elucidates the debate, showing that its depth is such that it is best characterized as a disagreement in form of life (in Wittgenstein’s sense) rather than as a disagreement in opinions. Also briefly discussed is an example of a non-retributive form that belief in karma and reincarnation can take.


KarmaReincarnationBlaming the victimArvind SharmaLudwig WittgensteinHinduismBuddhism

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Theology and Religious Studies, Hopewell House, University of LeedsLeedsUK