Buddhism and the Psychology of Moral Judgement

In Oxford Handbook of Buddhist Ethics. New York, NY, USA: (2018)

Emily McRae
University of New Mexico
In this chapter I analyse two Buddhist moral psychological categories: the brahmavihāras (the four Boundless Qualities), which are the main moral affective states in Buddhist ethics, and the kleśas, or the afflictive mental states. Based on this analysis, I argue for two general claims about moral psychology in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist ethics. First, I argue that Buddhist moral psychology is centrally interested in the psychology of moral improvement: how do I become the kind of person who can respond in the best possible way to the moral needs of myself and others? Second, and related, Buddhist moral psychology focuses on the skills of moral perception and attention. Moral philosophical arguments, I argue, are generally offered in the context of self-cultivation exercises and not, as they often are in Western ethics, as models of moral deliberation.
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