Is there a ‘common element’ in Buddhist ethical thought from which one might rationally reconstruct a Buddhist normative ethical theory? While many agree that there is such an element, there is disagreement about whether it is best reconstructed in terms that approximate consequentialism or virtue ethics. This paper will argue that two distinct evaluative relations underlie these distinct positions; an instrumental and constitutive analysis. It will raise some difficulties for linking these distinct analyses to particular normative ethical theories but will give reasons to think that both analyses may be justified. It will close with some reflections on the complexity involved in trying to establish a single and homogeneous position on the nature of Buddhist ethics.