Karma, Moral Responsibility and Buddhist Ethics

Finnigan, B. (2022), 'Karma, Moral Responsibility, and Buddhist Ethics' in Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology , edited by Manuel Vargas and John M. Doris, Oxford University Press, pp.7-23 https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198871712.013.4

The Buddha taught that there is no self. He also accepted a version of the doctrine of karmic rebirth, according to which good and bad actions accrue merit and demerit and cause beneficial or harmful events to occur in this life or the next. But how is karmic rebirth possible if there are no selves? The relevant philosophical issues inspired centuries of philosophical reflection and debate. This chapter will contextualize and survey some of the historical and contemporary debates relevant to moral psychology and Buddhist ethics. They include whether the Buddha's teaching of no-self is consistent with the possibility of moral responsibility; the role of retributivism in Buddhist thought; the possibility of a Buddhist account of free will; the scope and viability of recent attempts to naturalize karma to character virtues and vices; and how right action is to be understood within a Buddhist framework.