Categorical imperative and buddhism

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Categorical imperative and buddhism

Post by Aemilius » Wed Sep 12, 2012 9:34 am

On his last teaching tour Shakyamuni taught how Meditation is based on Morality, how Wisdom is based on Meditation that is based on Morality, and only thus will its reasult be great.
In films about criminals you often see how people behave as Immanuel Kant has described. This means that even when you lie and cheat you still expect that the society and other people will behave morally, you expect that the dentist will care for your teeth, you expect to receive goods from the supermarket when you buy them, you expect to receive treatment in hospitals, you expect that there are roads, that there is electricity, and so on... The criminals don't realize that they are dependent on the moral behaviour of other people, they take all these things for granted.
Immanuel Kant has called this categorical imperative, that you must yourself behave according to the principles that you expect from others.
Shakyamuni teaches that the human society is based on morality, it is based on the principles that are expressed as five precepts and the ten ways of wholesome action.
"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1.)

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Re: Categorical imperative and buddhism

Post by muni » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:20 am

A description of samsara! An unchanging me who need to be pleased and protected, lacking to see the interdependency with other beings and the whole world, not knowing ones' ceaseless transforming stream........a me in the middle of all wrong ones when they don't please me..... :jedi:

Buddha said all is empty like my brain.
Let’s make a selfie!
Having meditated on love and compassion, I forgot the difference between myself and others. Yogi Milarepa.

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Re: Categorical imperative and buddhism

Post by futerko » Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:37 am

For me, this raises a number of issues.

I know the Kantian imperative does not say this, but I have encountered many "Buddhists" who try to universalise in reverse. The kind of rationalisation where someone says to themselves, the car is empty, the self is empty, so they won't mind us borrowing their car... oops I dented it and now they are angry at me, look how attached they are to their material things!

Equally with other people's bad behaviour, where "Buddhists" use their own values to judge. Say for example someone else is running around killing insects and I try to convince them to stop on the basis of a viewpoint that they clearly don't share. It leads to conflict with them and can disturb my own equipoise. Both of these examples show the perils of trying to (reverse) generalise to other (non-Buddhists).

On a more serious, properly Kantian, note. In order to treat others in the way I would like to be treated - don't I have to take an imaginary third person perspective on the situation?
It seems to me that Kantian morality is based upon a consensus of vaules, viewed from outside of any one individual, rather than based upon my relationship with my own karma. Living in a society of many non-Buddhists with different motivation and values (and even if they were all Buddhists, no doubt they would all be at different levels of realisation), I think this would make it very difficult.

I'm finding it hard to see a way of applying it in one direction only, treating others as I would like, because once you take that 3rd person viewpoint and start to universalise, it seems very difficult to not start lecturing others on the basis of how you would act yourself in any given situation.

The reason stealing is bad for Kant is because I cherish my own posessions - I wouldn't want anyone to take my stuff - therefore I should apply that respect to their possessions also.
The reason stealing is bad for a Buddhist is because it shows attachment to worldly goods, it reveals that I have failed to see the emptiness of phenomena, and so creates karma.

When I try to combine the two, I end up with some really warped logic - phenomena are empty, I don't mind who takes my stuff, therefore other people's claim to private property is based upon attachment. In fact I am doing them a "karmic" favour by giving all their stuff to charity! (It might sound crazy, but I am speaking from experience here!)
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche

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Re: Categorical imperative and buddhism

Post by lobster » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:26 am

Aemilius wrote:The criminals don't realize that they are dependent on the moral behaviour of other people, they take all these things for granted.
Some realise. Some have a higher code of ethical behaviour in some areas, such as loyalty, than the other members of society. They are members of society however marginalized.
We may be criminals if living in a dictatorial regime that tries to marginlise Buddhism as atheistic, pro gay, heretical or some other arbitrary reasoning of the political criminals.

Sometimes we are a participant in the very behaviour we abhor . . .

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Re: Categorical imperative and buddhism

Post by DGA » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:33 pm

Kant had six different ways of articulating the categorical imperative if I remember correctly. One of them works like this (to put a contrasting view into the conversation):

*I am thinking of doing something.

*Before I act, I reflect: what if I made something of a universal rule, that if under these circumstances, everyone should do this, always. Would the outcome be harmful or helpful?

*If that maxim to be helpful, I will take the action. If not, then I will decline it.

This kind of reasoning has its advantages as a way to reflect on ethical action. At a minimum, the bit about reflecting before taking action has value.

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Re: Categorical imperative and buddhism

Post by viniketa » Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:22 am

Aemilius wrote:... you must yourself behave according to the principles that you expect from others....
This would seem to place the 'categorical imperative' as a direct contra-distinction to Buddhist ethics, as per the 8FNP:
right intention....proceeds from right view. If we are able to abandon our expectations, our hopes and fears, we no longer need to be manipulative. We don't have to try to con situations into our preconceived notions of how they should be. We work with what is. Our intentions are pure." onclick=";return false;
Which is the same reason that Buddhist illuminated "enlightenment" is quite distinct from Western Civilization's Age of Reason "enlightened-rationality", in general. If "intention" (i.e., expectation for outcome) is the basis for "action", then karma accrues. To eliminate karmic influx, such expectations are totally abandoned. Buddhist ethics would require "right action" regardless of the behavior of "other".

If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment

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