Monima Chadha (Monash)
“AGENCY: WHO IS (MORALLY) RESPONSIBLE?”
Abstract: In the Abhidharmakośa-Bhāṣya, Vasubandhu defends a no-agent view. Actions, he argues, can be explained in terms of causal relations between mental and physical states. If there are no agents, it seems that no one could be held (morally) responsible for ‘their’ (morally evaluable) actions. Vasubandhu’s theory of agency, however, is not very different from the standard theory of action in contemporary philosophy: “Her desiring ... and her believing ... caused and rationalized a bodily movement.” The standard theory too leaves agents out. Defenders of the standard theory reconstruct agents from among the mental states. Some or other mental state or set of mental states is suitable to play the functional role of the agent, or so they argue. I argue that whatever it is that plays the causal role of agent in these accounts, it is not identical to ‘that’ which is held (morally) responsible. How then is the Buddhist supposed to make sense of karma? And, how are we supposed to make sense of our current responsibility practices? The paper poses these problems and instead of trying to solve these problems it describes the inevitable revisionary upshot for the Buddhist theory of karma and our current responsibility practices.
Wednesday, December 7