‘‘Buddhist Contributions to Contemporary Moral Reflection: Selflessness and Moral Responsiveness,’’ is a Mead-Swing Lecture presented by Jay Garfield ’75, Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy, Logic, and Buddhist Studies, Smith College.
‘‘With few exceptions, Western moral philosophers focus on what we might call the 'output side' of ethics. That is, they focus on the principles or motives that guide action. Buddhist philosophers focus on what we might call the 'input side' of ethics. They are concerned not so much with what we do, but with how we experience ourselves and others, pursuing ethics as moral phenomenology.
‘‘This approach encourages us to think that ethical cultivation begins with the cultivation of perceptual skills, not with the adoption of principles or of habits. Western ethical thought is generally grounded in the view that we are relatively autonomous moral agents. Buddhist reject the idea that we are autonomous, or that we are agents in the sense assumed by most Western theorists.
‘‘I will focus on what Buddhist moral reflection can contribute to ethical thought.’’
Garfield is also visiting professor of Buddhist Philosophy, Harvard Divinity School; Professor of Philosophy, University of Melbourne; and adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies.