The General and the Particular in Theravada Ethics: A Response to Charles Hallisey

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kevin Schilbrack Ph.D., Professor of Religious Studies and Department Chair (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: In the most recent issue of JBE(vol.31996:32-43), Charles Hallisey calls into question what he sees as a pernicious assumption at work in the study of Theravàda ethics. The problem, according to Hallisey, is that many scholars who study Theravàda ethics assume that the Theravàda tradition has only a single moral theory, and they therefore try to reduce the plurality of the tradition to fit their single-theory view. Hallisey recommends that scholars see the Theravàda ethical tradition as an instance of ethical particularism, a position he describes both as pluralistically including many theories and as having no theory at all. For this reason, Hallisey recommends that scholars abandon the abstract search for the nature of Buddhist ethics in general. After clarifying Hallisey's recommendation, I argue that it is wrong. Although the Theravàda tradition, like any religious tradition, includes more than one ethical theory, there is no good reason not to inquire into its general or formal features. With Russell Sizemore, I recommend an inclusive understanding of comparative religious ethics that sees a place for both for the historical study of the particular and the philosophical study of the general.

Additional Information

Schilbrack, Kevin. 1997.“The General and the Particular in Theravada Ethics: A Response to Charles Hallisey,” The Journal of Buddhist Ethics 4:1 (1997) (ISSN: 1076-9005) The version of record is available open access from the publisher, Pennsylvania State University at
Language: English
Date: 1997

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