Volume 16, December 2011
Confucianism, Buddhism and Mill
When discussing Eastern philosophy there is often a difficulty since characteristically Eastern ways of thinking do not map well onto Western philosophic categories. Yet, P. J. Ivanhoe suggests that a careful reading of Confucianism can illuminate and expand Western approaches to ethics. Ivanhoe maintains that the best way to understand Confucian ethics is as a hybrid of virtue ethics and consequentialism, a view he calls character consequentialism (CC). The paper will progress in the following way. First, I present Ivanhoe's conception of character consequentialism. Second, I discuss how C C , particularly as it is developed by Charles Goodman as a way to interpret Mahayana Buddhist ethics, relates to aspects of Mill's utilitarianism. This suggests that there is nothing especially new about CC. However, the similarities actually underscore the ways that Eastern and Western ethical theories can illuminate each other. Finally, I respond to Damien Keown's concern that CC is hopelessly confused.