Buddhist Ethics presents an outline of Buddhist ethical thought. It is not a defense of Buddhist approaches to ethics as opposed to any other, nor is it a critique of the Western tradition. Garfield presents a broad overview of a range of Buddhist approaches to the question of moral philosophy. He draws on a variety of thinkers, reflecting the great diversity of this 2500-year-old tradition in philosophy but also the principles that tie them together. In particular, he engages with the literature that argues that Buddhist ethics is best understood as a species of virtue ethics, and with those who argue that it is best understood as consequentialist. Garfield argues that while there are important points of contact with these Western frameworks, Buddhist ethics is distinctive, and is a kind of moral phenomenology that is concerned with the ways in which we experience ourselves as agents and others as moral fellows. With this framework, Garfield explores the connections between Buddhist ethics and recent work in moral particularism, such as that of Jonathan Dancy, as well as the British and Scottish sentimentalist tradition represented by Hume and Smith.

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