Advertisement

Argumentation

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 115–124 | Cite as

Classes of Agent and the Moral Logic of the Pali Canon

  • Martin T. Adam
Article
  • 129 Downloads

Abstract

This paper aims to lay bare the underlying logical structure of early Buddhist moral thinking. It argues that moral vocabulary in the Pali Suttas varies depending on the kind of agent under discussion and that this variance reflects an understanding that the phenomenology of moral experience also differs on the same basis. An attempt is made to spell this out in terms of attachment. The overall picture of Buddhist ethics that emerges is that of an agent-based moral contextualism. This account does not imply that the prescription for moral conduct differs according to class of agent, but rather that the correct description of moral experience does. Further it implies that the descriptions of the moral experiences of different classes of agent differ phenomenologically, rather than in terms of overt behavioral characteristics. While most of the discussion is centered on the distinction between ordinary persons and disciples in higher training, the paper concludes with a brief exploration of the problematic moral experience of the arahat.

Keywords

Buddhist ethics Morality Pali canon Kusala Puñña Agents 

References

  1. Adam, Martin T. 2005. Groundwork for a metaphysic of Buddhist morals: a new analysis of puñña and kusala, in light of sukka. Journal of Buddhist Ethics (http://www.buddhistethics.org) 12: 62–85.
  2. Adam, Martin T. 2006. Nonviolence and emptiness: Buddha, Gandhi, and the ‘Essence of Religion’. ARC, The Journal of the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University 34: 225–238.Google Scholar
  3. Anscombe, G. E. M. 1963. Intention. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bodhi, Bhikkhu. 1992. The discourse on the root of existence: The Mūlapariyāya Sutta and its commentaries. Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society.Google Scholar
  5. Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyana CD-ROM, Version 3.0. Vipassana Research Institute, Igatpuri, India, 1999.Google Scholar
  6. Cousins, L. S. 1996. Good or skillful? Kusala in Canon and commentary. Journal of Buddhist Ethics 3: 136–164.Google Scholar
  7. Gethin, Rupert. 1998. The foundations of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Gethin, Rupert. 2004. Can killing a living being ever be an act of compassion? The analysis of the act of killing in the Abhidhamma and Pāli commentaries. Journal of Buddhist Ethics 11: 168–202.Google Scholar
  9. Harvey, Peter. 2000. An introduction to Buddhist ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Keown, Damien. 1992. The nature of Buddhist ethics. London: Macmillan Press.Google Scholar
  11. King, Winston L. 1964. In the Hope of Nibbaṇa. LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court.Google Scholar
  12. Ñāṇamoli, Bhikkhu, and Bhikkhu Bodhi. 1995. The middle-length discourses of the Buddha: A new translation of the Majjhima Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
  13. Premasiri, P. D. 1976. Interpretation of two principal ethical terms in early Buddhism. Sri Lanka Journal of the Humanities 2: 63–74.Google Scholar
  14. Premasiri, P. D. 1987. Early Buddhist concept of ethical knowledge: A philosophical analysis. In Buddhist philosophy and culture: Essays in honor of N.A. Jayawickrema, eds. D. Kalupahana and W. G. Weeraratne, 37–70. Colombo: N. A. Jayawickrema Felicitation Volume Committee.Google Scholar
  15. Rhys-Davids, C. A. F. 1975. A Buddhist manual of psychological ethics. New Delhi: New Oriental Books Reprint Corporation.Google Scholar
  16. Spiro, M. E. 1971. Buddhism and Society: A great tradition and its Burmese vicissitudes. London: George Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  17. Velez de Cea, Abraham. 2004. The criteria of goodness in the Pāli Nikāya and the nature of Buddhist ethics. Journal of Buddhist Ethics 11: 123–142.Google Scholar
  18. Walshe, Maurice. 1995. The long discourses of the Buddha: A translation of the Dīgha Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

Personalised recommendations