tobes wrote:Jnana wrote:tobes wrote:Yes, of course he acknowledges that, and of course those differences are very significant. However, although ethics (or ethos) is a Greek term, I think it would be a huge mistake to conclude that Buddhism does not (and has not ,historically) have a deep and profound focus on 'ethics.' And this is not restricted merely to the concept of śīla; it involves all the elements of the path, and the way that agents on that path have a profound responsibility to cultivate and develop themselves and positively affect others. To treat this in squarely soteriological terms is fine - but there is no good reason to draw a fixed line and say "there is only soteriological content here, and no ethical content." I think there is clearly both, even if the latter is not as systematically expressed as, for example, epistemology or metaphysics might be.
So yes, of course there are significant differences. But there are also very significant continuities. And they are frutiful to contemplate.
I think ethics are important. I would also agree that this is an area with enough commonality to make for fruitful comparison and dialogue. I certainly wouldn't dismiss this field of comparative study as unimportant.
That said, my own interest in the subject is primarily concerned with contemplative asceticism. A mode of practice and way of life that was much more valued in the ancient world than in contemporary Western society or liberal academia. Here, the writings of Neoplatonists such as Porphyry and Christian authors such as Evagrius and John Cassian offer useful points of comparison. Of course, there are many other important authors as well.
I guess my personal interest in the subject is related to the potentially positive role that Buddhist thought could play in the field of contemporary ethics, and by extension, political and social philosophy. Academia is very global now. China and India are on the rise. I don't think it is acceptable any more to think of ethics as a western discipline, complete with its three major thinkers - Aristotle, Kant and Bentham/Mill. But of course, this is still largely how people think - aside from China, where there has been a huge Confucius/Mencius revival (incidentally, on the back of a great deal of comparative work with Aristotle and the virtues tradition).
The Buddha belongs in this discourse, in the canon of moral philosophy, as one of the great moral teachers humanity has known. Buddhists need to learn how to speak in the language of contemporary ethics, if only because they can greatly enrich that field.
Tobes, agree with the above 100% and I think this is going to be a hotter topic in the next couple of years.
Your post above did come as a surprise after having read your initial comments about finding Keown's arguments compelling upon reading NE. I see an inherent problem with works such as Keown's or that of Goodmans in that they fail to recognise what is unfamiliar as unfamiliar. For example, when we reduce a concept like cetanā to prohairesis, we loose much more than we gain from the dialogue. For Buddhist ethics to actually contribute to the conversation its unique structure needs to be appreciated and not reduced to some type of virtue ethics, consequentialism or deontological ethics.