Thich Nhat Hanh’s Ethic

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests in No Death, No fear that we should act in ways that minimize the generation of additional suffering and promote the alleviation of suffering in our daily lives as much as possible.  Of course, life lives on death; this is the archetypal mystery that is perennially expressed in so many of our myths and rituals as Joseph Campbell points out (even in our dear Communion!). Therefore, some harm is necessary, but this harm produces consequences for us and other beings, and so we must seek to minimize harm as best we can. Buddhist ethics is fundamentally a virtue ethics and not a utilitarianism, however. Thich Nhat Hanh seems to advocate a kind of utilitarianism but ultimately suggests aiming to cultivate wisdom, compassion and mindfulness as the primary goal, suggesting that this will entail a reduction of harm as a natural consequence.


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