Hindu Ethics: A Philosophical Study

Hindu Ethics: A Philosophical Study

Hindu Ethics: A Philosophical Study

Hindu Ethics: A Philosophical Study


"This philosophical study offers a representation of the logical structure of classical Hindu ethics and argues for the availability of at least the core of this ethical system to Westerners." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Do the ethical systems of India rest upon (non-moral) factual presuppositions that are unacceptable to modern Western philosophers? In his book Mysticism and Morality: Oriental Thought and Moral Philosophy Arthur Danto argues for the affirmative and hence for the unavailability of these moral systems to Western philosophers:

The civilizations of the East are defined through sets of factual and moral propositions pragmatically connected in the minds of their members since it is with reference to certain factual beliefs that those members would judge and act as moralists. The factual beliefs they take for granted are, I believe, too alien to our representation of the world to be grafted onto it, and in consequence their moral systems are unavailable to us.

If Danto is right then this is bad news for those Western philosophers like myself who have thought to find in Indian thought ethical insights that can be appropriated by us as Westerners. It is equally bad news for those modern Indians who might have supposed it possible to combine a commitment to their traditional ethical systems with an openness to Western thought. It seems to me, however, that Danto is over-pessimistic here. Indeed I wish to argue for the opposite position to his -- at least, in the first place, with regard to the Bhagavadgĩtā (a text he discusses at some length). That is, I shall argue that the ethic of the Bhagavadgĩtā does not logically presuppose any (non-moral) factual theses that are generally unacceptable to modern Western philosophers.

My strategy in this chapter is as follows. First, I address the question of how moral beliefs can rest upon factual presuppositions. I argue that even if there is a fact-value gap ("no 'ought' from an 'is'"), nevertheless moral beliefs can be logically dependent upon factual . . .

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