Are Plato’s Altruistic Philosophers Like Buddhist Bodhisattvas?

Part of the Colloquium on Religion, Literature and the Arts

Speaker: Michael Griffin, Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies & Philosophy

Are Plato’s Altruistic Philosophers Like Buddhist Bodhisattvas?

In the Republic’s celebrated Allegory of the Cave, Plato sketches the philosopher’s escape from ignorance and grief, culminating in a liberating insight into the Good. But the person who escapes the “cave” will descend again, Plato insists, to rescue others. Why? This talk compares Plato’s reasoning with the Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition, which developed extended accounts of the Bodhisattva’s motivation to remain in cyclic existence (saṃsāra) in order to liberate others, before entering nirvāṇa. I suggest that Plato and the Buddhist tradition develop comparable utilitarian, deontological, and virtue-ethical reasons for the philosopher or bodhisattva to return to the “cave,” but that none of these modern, Western metaethical frameworks fully capture their arguments.

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
Room 604, Asian Centre, 1871 West Mall

This talk is for anyone – no prior familiarity with the texts is assumed.

Sponsored by the Religion, Literature, and the Arts Interdisciplinary Program, with the additional support of UBC Asian Studies.