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Buddhist Moral Philosophy


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including World Philosophies: Modern Europe, Concepts of Selfhood, Language and Thought, and at least one of the courses World Philosophies: China, World Philosophies: India, World Philosophies: Africa, World Philosophies: Middle East.

  • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including Griekse en Romeinse filosofie, History of Modern Philosophy, Comparative Philosophy, Analytische filosofie or Philosophy of Mind.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement and who have to complete an advanced seminar, to be selected from package D.


This course offers an introduction to Indian Buddhist moral thought. The first part of the course examines the conceptual background provided by early Buddhist sutras, on topics such as suffering, virtue, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The remainder of the class focuses primarily on the ethical thought of the fifth century CE Theravada philosopher Buddhaghoṣa and the eighth century CE Mahayana philosopher Śāntideva on topics such as well-being and virtue, moral emotions, moral phenomenology, and free choice.

Course objectives

This course aims to offer an introduction to Indian Buddhist Moral philosophy. Students will develop the ability to read and intellectually engage with moral thought as developed by early Buddhist and Mahayana thinkers in the pre-modern Indian Buddhist philosophical tradition, as well as relevant secondary literature.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • central topics in pre-modern Buddhist moral thought, including their account of virtuous character, well-being, the moral psychology of virtuous and afflictive mental states, the relation between metaphysics and ethical commitment, and the relation between meditation and philosophical thought in moral development.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • present this knowledge in written and oral form (essays and oral presentations).

  • explain, critique and develop insights presented in contemporary secondary literature on Buddhist moral thought.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Essay proposal: 10 %

  • Final essay: 70%

  • Participation and class presentation: 20%


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (see above).


The resit consists of the final essay (70%). The mark for the resit covers the previously earned mark for the final paper only. The grades for the essay proposal and for participation and class presentation remain in place. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Exams inspections will be scheduled at the request of the student.

Reading list

  • Śāntideva. 1997. A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. Translated by Vesna Wallace and Alan Wallace. Snow Lion Press.

Optional reading list:

  • Buddhaghosa. Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga). Translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. (Any edition).

  • Heim, Maria. 2020. Buddhist Ethics. Cambridge University Press.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is not possible for this course. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.