• Ethical revaluation in the thought of Śāntideva

    Amod Lele (see profile)
    Buddhist Studies, Indology, Philosophy, Religious Studies
    Philosophy, Asian, Buddhism, Buddhism--Study and teaching, Religious ethics, Ethics, Comparative, Religions, South Asia
    Item Type:
    Harvard University
    anger, attachment, Martha Nussbaum, patient endurance, Śāntideva, Asian philosophy, Buddhist studies, Comparative religious ethics, Religion in South Asia
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    This dissertation examines the idea of ethical revaluation — taking things we normally see as good for our flourishing and seeing them as neutral or bad, and vice versa — in the Mahāyāna Buddhist thinker Śāntideva. It shows how Śāntideva’s thought on the matter is more coherent than it might otherwise appear, first by examining the consistency of Śāntideva’s own claims and then by applying them to contemporary ethical thought. Śāntideva claims that property and relationships are bad for us because they promote attachment, and that others’ wrongdoing is good for us because it allows us to generate patient endurance. Yet he also urges his readers to give property to others, and to prevent their wrongdoing. Is he caught in contradiction? The dissertation argues that he is not, because giving to others is not intended to benefit them materially, but rather to produce beneficial mental states in them, and preventing wrongdoing is intended to benefit the wrongdoer and not the victim. In both cases, Śāntideva emphasizes individual action in a way that makes social or political action more difficult to justify. The dissertation makes four significant contributions: it shows how this interpretation of Śāntideva contrasts notably with standard presentations of Mahāyāna ethics; it refutes claims that Buddhists have no normative ethics; it shows how ethical revaluation is a more sustainable position than Martha Nussbaum's criticisms of it would imply; and by finding similarities of concern and differences of opinion between Śāntideva and a contemporary thinker, it helps bridge the gap between normative and comparative religious ethics.
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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