Eastern spirituality and utilitarian philosophy meet in these unique dialogues between a Buddhist monastic and a moral philosopher on such issues as animal welfare, gender equality, the death penalty, and more
An unlikely duo—Professor Peter Singer, a preeminent philosopher and professor of bioethics, and Venerable Shih Chao-Hwei, a Taiwanese Buddhist monastic and social activist—join forces to talk ethics in lively conversations that cross oceans, overcome language barriers, and bridge philosophies. The eye-opening dialogues collected here share unique perspectives on contemporary issues like animal welfare, gender equality, the death penalty, and more. Together, these two deep thinkers explore the foundation of ethics and key Buddhist concepts, and ultimately reveal how we can all move toward making the world a better place.
Western utilitarianism meets Buddhist philosophy in this intellectually stimulating if uneven outing. In 2016 at the Bodhi Monastery in Taiwan, Singer (Animal Liberation), an ethicist and professor of bioethics at Princeton, and Chao-Hwei (Buddhist Normative Ethics), a Buddhist monastic and professor of ethics at Hsuan-Chuang University in Taiwan, discussed a broad range of moral issues, including abortion, the death penalty, animal rights, and euthanasia. Edited and expanded here, their dialogues unfold in rigorous detail and probe rich and trenchant ethical questions: for example, the conversation on the use of embryos for medical research examines the limits of sentience, the biological instinct to survive, and the respect that should be afforded to nonconscious beings. (Chao-Hwei sees the biological will to live as an indication of inherent moral worth, while Singer argues this biological impulse has no inherent moral value.) Chao-Hwei's perspective is more prominent throughout, and provides valuable context on Buddhism's application to contemporary ethical debates. Unfortunately, Singer's utilitarianism occasionally gets lost in the shuffle, and the pair's exchanges can feel stilted after being adapted for the book. Still, readers with an interest in either school of thought will find plenty of insight in these challenging and thought-provoking investigations.