© 2018

Ethics without Self, Dharma without Atman

Western and Buddhist Philosophical Traditions in Dialogue

  • Gordon F. Davis


  • Is unique in its coverage of multiple traditions in the history of philosophy

  • Addresses the relationship between personal identity and the scope of moral obligation

  • Is the first book to compare Buddhist philosophical ideas with both ancient and modern Western philosophers

  • Deals with Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu and Santideva from the combined perspective of analytic ethics and scholarship in the history of philosophy

  • Brings together many of the most distinguished practitioners of Buddhist philosophy


About this book


This volume of essays offers direct comparisons of historic Western and Buddhist perspectives on ethics and metaphysics, tracing parallels and contrasts all the way from Plato to the Stoics, Spinoza to Hume, and Schopenhauer through to contemporary ethicists such as Arne Naess, Charles Taylor and Derek Parfit. It compares and contrasts each Western philosopher with a particular strand in the Buddhist tradition, in some chapters represented by individual writers such as Nagarjuna, Vasubandhu, Santideva or Tsong Khapa. It does so in light of both analytic concerns and themes from the existentialist and phenomenological traditions, and often in an ecumenical spirit that bridges both analytic and continentalist approaches. 

Some of the deepest questions in ethics, dealing with the scope of agency, value-laden notions of personhood and the nature of value in general, are intertwined with questions in metaphysics. One set of questions addresses how varying conceptions of selfhood relate to moral values (e.g. the concern of self or selves for the well-being of others); another set of questions addresses how a conception of oneself or one’s selves should or should not affect how one thinks of happiness, or eudaimonia, or – in classical Indian terms – artha, sukha or nirvana.  Western philosophy has featured discussion of both, but some would argue that certain traditions of Asian philosophy have offered a more sustained and even treatment of both sets of questions.  The Buddhist tradition in particular has not only featured much discussion on both fronts, but has attracted many contemporary philosophers to its distinctive spectrum of approaches, and to what is – from many ‘Western’ points of view – a seemingly subversive analysis of ego, selfhood and personhood, whether in metaphysical, phenomenological or other incarnations.  


Buddhist Philosophy and Moral Psychology Comparative History of Philosophy Comparative Philosophy of Mind Conventional vs. Ultimate Truth and Mahayana Ethics Cross-cultural Philosophy Happiness, Eudaimonia, Mindfulness, Nirvana History of Moral Psychology Kantian Ethics and Buddhism Moral Themes in Philosophy of Religion Nagarjuna and Ethics Religious Ethics and Analytic Ethics Schopenhauer and Buddhism Selfhood and Ethics Stoicism and Buddhism

Editors and affiliations

  • Gordon F. Davis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

About the editors

Associate Professor and former Chair of Philosophy Dept. (Carleton U.) B.Phil. and D.Phil. in Philosophy, University of Oxford (D.Phil. 2005) Founding executive member of Ethics and Public Affairs doctoral program (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada) Research interests: Ethical theory, Comparative Philosophy, Buddhist Philosophy, Buddhist Ethics, Metaethics, Political Philosophy, History of Philosophy, Personal Identity, Early Modern Metaphysics Author of “Traces of Consequentialism and Non-Consequentialism in Bodhisattva Ethics” (Philosophy East & West 2013); “Moral Realism and Anti-Realism outside the West” (Comparative Philosophy 2013)

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Ethics without Self, Dharma without Atman
  • Book Subtitle Western and Buddhist Philosophical Traditions in Dialogue
  • Editors Gordon F. Davis
  • Series Title Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures
  • Series Abbreviated Title Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Religion and Philosophy Philosophy and Religion (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-67406-3
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-030-09800-1
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-67407-0
  • Series ISSN 2211-1107
  • Series E-ISSN 2211-1115
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIV, 284
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 0 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Ethics
    History of Philosophy
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
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“Ethics without Self, Dharma without Atman: Western and Buddhist Philosophical Traditions in Dialogue makes an important contribution to that literature, with a specific focus on the relation between ethics and the metaphysics of selfhood across a range of philosophies. … this volume as a whole constitutes a valuable addition to philosophical exchanges between Western and Buddhist traditions, competently exemplifying how these streams of intellectual endeavour can be brought into productive comparative, and occasionally critical, dialogue.” (Mikel Burley, Reading Religion,, November 12, 2018)