Dharma as Moral Duty

  • P. K. Mohapatra


As a sequel to the claim that Indian scholars have been theorizing about practice, this chapter emphasizes that the domain of practice in the true sense is the domain of individual and social morality and that the centre of this morality is dharma. However, almost all Indian systems, with notable exception of Mimamsa, seem to be minimally concerned with dharma, which was virtually treated as an instrumental value, a means to moksa. This chapter focuses on a hermeneutic critique of the classical theory of dharma and on providing to it a firm foundation as moral duty, as a duty for its own sake, without which Indian thinkers’ claim to practicality would only be a pretence, the chapter argues. Of the many senses of ‘dharma’. its sense as moral duty, is shown to be of central importance to Indian ethics with arguments and support from scriptural sources.

Further, dharma in this sense is critically examined and reinterpreted to suitably deal with conflict situations and ensure its consistent application. In keeping with the central contention of this work, dharma is shown to be [normally] absolute but defeasible. As a categorical imperative, the concept of dharma has been analyzed and reconstructed accordingly with support from Indian sources, especially the Bhagavad-Gita, as well as Kantian ethics.


Dharma as moral duty Social morality Instrumental value Hermeneutic critique Absolute but defeasible Absolutistic preconception 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. K. Mohapatra
    • 1
  1. 1.Former Professor of PhilosophyUtkal UniversityBhubaneswarIndia

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