[Buddha-l] Ethical Dilemmas

Dan Lusthaus vasubandhu at earthlink.net
Sat Jun 12 04:05:59 MDT 2010


> Fortunately that would strike almost anyone as barbarious, which is a sign
> we have moved on. Yet at the same time, all proportions being kept, I can
> easily recognize the functioning of a legal justice system in this
> description. Especially legal systems where the death penalty is still
> active, and where certain groups of the population seem to be more present
> among the executed than others.

this sort of sloppy conflationaryism [to coin an ugly word] is a disservice, 
and hinders rather than sharpens thinking. Without even getting into great 
detail let me again simply invoke the distinction between innocent and 

Bug exterminators, same thing?


At some level it may be important to examine the lines that run between 
Aztec sacrifice and, for instance Vedic yajna, in which the sacrifice was 
also envisioned as guaranteeing and furthering the continuance of the 
culture and the cosmic order (Rta). Or, again, the apparent power of such 
images -- such as a well known religion that centers itself on the bloody 
execution of its deity, and places the death implement on buildings, in 
buildings, around their neck, pantomiming it with their hands during prayer 
or while repelling vampires.

Metaphors can be useful tools for thinking, but they can obscure as well. If 
I really thought that you don't see the chasm of difference between the US 
judicial system and the Aztecs' sacrificial system, I would bother to 
explain that for you. Attali's musical metaphor has a certain appeal, but in 
the end it seems to be more about cleverness than elucidation (I could be 

All sorts of problems begin when metaphors are taken literally. Ethics, for 
better or worse, has to deal primarily with the literal, not the 
metaphorical. Both Derrida (in "White Mythology") and Sthiramati (in 
Trimsika-bhasya to k.1) work hard to undermine the distinction between 
literal and metaphorical, but they do so by treating such things carefully, 
not by misleading conflations.


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