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Consequences of CompassionAn Interpretation and Defense of Buddhist Ethics$
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Charles Goodman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195375190

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195375190.001.0001

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Theravāda Ethics as Rule-Consequentialism

Theravāda Ethics as Rule-Consequentialism

(p.47) 3 Theravāda Ethics as Rule-Consequentialism
Consequences of Compassion

Charles Goodman (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes the theoretical structure of Theravāda ethics, drawing primarily on the Pali Canon. This form of Buddhist ethics has much in common with consequentialism. Several explicit statements connect the rightness of actions with their consequences. Moreover, Pali texts commend extreme acts of self-sacrificing generosity. On the other hand, the Theravāda tradition attaches great importance to moral rules. Yet it differs fundamentally from Kantian deontology. So the best interpretation of Theravāda ethics is as a form of rule-consequentialism. The conception of well-being in this tradition includes both happiness and virtue as intrinsic goods. Although attachment to wealth and craving for sensual pleasures are very bad, the pleasures themselves have some small but genuine value, and wealth can be an instrumentally valuable means to benefit oneself and others. Nirvana is the final goal of Theravāda practice, but it is inaccurate to say that Nirvana is the good.

Keywords:   Theravāda, consequentialism, rule-consequentialism, well-being, virtue, Nirvana

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