[Buddha-l] Compassionate Violence?

James A Stroble stroble at hawaii.edu
Fri Jun 7 02:19:00 MDT 2013

On Fri, 31 May 2013 22:21:33 -0600
Richard Hayes <richard.hayes.unm at gmail.com> wrote:

> On May 31, 2013, at 21:07, "Dan Lusthaus" <vasubandhu at earthlink.net>
> wrote:
> > The issue is intent -- he has to be willing to go to hell for his
> > deed, not act with presumed impunity.

> A lot of ink is being spilled on this issue in recent years. Charles
> Goodman has argued that overdemandingness is a typical feature of
> consequentialism. Some modern consequentialists have argued that it
> is immoral not to exhaust all one's personal resources as long as
> there are people more needy than oneself. It is immoral, they say, to
> own a home as long as others are homeless, or to eat when others are
> starving, even if the others are thousands of miles away. Goodman
> claims that the bodhisattva literature makes similar demands on the
> bodhisattva. The bodhisattva, he says, must take the risk of going to
> hell for killing a wicked person who would do great evil if he were
> allowed to live. And this over-demandingness, he says, shows that
> Mahāyāna is essentially consequentialist in nature.

Yes, but if the bodhsattva _knows_, then it is not self-sacrifice?  And
if the bodhisattva doesn't know, how could the act be justified?  
> Those who disagree with Goodman point out that there is no suggestion
> that anyone is required to be a bodhisattva; being a hero is
> voluntary, not compulsory. And heroism—doing more than one is obliged
> to do—is what one associates more with virtue ethics than with
> consequentialism. (Of course some virtue ethicists would argue that
> there is nothing virtuous in purposely endangering oneself, even to
> save others from danger; that is rashness, not bravery, and therefore
> fails to find the mean between excess and deficiency. But that is
> really another matter.)
Doing what one has as a duty to do is more deontology, and thus is
definitely not consequentialism.  Rashness depends not on the outcome,
but on the obligation.  Hmm, this gets interesting. 

> So far I have never seen anything that settles this dispute between
> those who read Buddhism as virtue ethics and those who read it as
> consequentialism. It may be another logomachy.
> Richard

Logomachy, or logorhea?  Of course, I am more interested in the
justifications for violations of the Buddhist consequentialist
theories.  We take karma to be the crucial insight of Buddhism, that
there is a cause for suffering.  But if karma can be short-circuited
by enlightened beings, we have to wonder if the whole system of
accounting is not somehow misconstrued. 

One thing: in western just war thought (it is not a "theory"), war is
justified if it prevents or rectifies greater wrongs.  But it is
clearly recognized as still being an evil, albeit a "lesser evil".  I
do not see that in the bodhisattva literature. An abundance of "merit"
is absolute justification? The question then is who is to judge? 


James Andy Stroble
Leeward Community College

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