Western philosophers such as Richard Rorty and Martha Nussbaum have written about the importance of great literature to personal edification and ethics. Similarly, recent work in Buddhist studies has emphasized the powerful role that narrative literature plays in Buddhist ethics. For instance, while the workings of karma have been articulated, in philosophical genres, as adhering to an abstract and resolute logic, this logic has been continually challenged and scrutinized through narrative genres. Indeed, the philosophical subtlety of so-called “story literature” gives the lie to the popular misconception that Buddhists ethics is primarily about abstract reasoning and meditation. This panel examines the import of literature and narrative in Buddhis ethics—how have Buddhists understood the significance of narrative literature whether as an occasion for ethical reflection or a method of moral cultivation? What moral lessons have been the traditional province of Buddhist narrative literatures? And how may Buddhist literature illuminate contemporary ethical perspectives?
Charles Hallisey (Harvard Divinity School)
Sara McClintock (Emory University)
Jonathan Gold (Princeton University)
Lynne Tirrell (University of Massachusetts)
Matthew Kapstein (University of Chicago)