Is there a “common element” in Buddhist ethical thought from which one might rationally reconstruct a Buddhist normative ethical theory? Many construe this as the question Which contemporary normative theory does Buddhist ethics best approximate: consequentialism or virtue ethics? This article argues that two distinct evaluative relations underlie these positions: an instrumental and a constitutive analysis. This chapter raises some difficulties for linking these distinct analyses to particular normative ethical theories but gives reasons to think that both may be justified as meta-ethical grounds for rationally reconstructing Buddhist thought as an ethical theory. It closes with some reflections on the complexity involved in trying to establish a single and homogeneous position on the nature of Buddhist ethics.
This article was shortlisted for the Annette Baier Prize in 2018