“Ethics” as a form of marketing

Buddhism is incredibly interesting to study, especially through a Western lens. David Chapman makes an interesting argument here about Buddhism as a form of virtue signalling.

His sobering argument applies to much more than Buddhism too.



By “ethics,” in quotes, I mean talk about ethics, rather than what people actually do. This page explains “ethics” as signaling: personal advertisement. We all display “ethicalness” as a strategy for looking like attractive mates and coworkers, by signaling class status, tribal loyalty, and superior personality traits.

Although this post is part of a series on leftish “Buddhist ethics,” most of it applies equally to all ethical posturing. As you read it, you can imagine the small adjustments required for Christian rightish “ethics,” or for secular centrist “ethics.”

People really, really want Buddhism to be about ethics, even though it isn’t. Anyone who has read more than a couple Buddhist books knows:

  1. Consensus “Buddhist ethics” does not contradict leftish secular morality on any issue.
  2. Consensus “Buddhist ethics” contradictstraditional Buddhist morality on most issues.

From this, one ought to conclude that “Buddhist ethics” is not Buddhist at all…

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. Plectrumm says:

    Liberalism, Humanism, and Capitalism… lean people toward the individual perspective👀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interestingly, the post I am working on now is all about the power of community, but great point!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve Ruis says:

    Fascinating. You gave me an idea for expanding on a previous post of mine. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Major Styles says:

    Dalrok made an interesting comment about how faux Western Buddhism was used to promote divorce in the movie “Eat, Love Pray.” Divorce the husband, go to Europe, find Buddhism, meet a hot guy, have sex, get married, live happily ever after, etc. Buddhism was the spiritual means to serve the romantic ends. Like a cool shirt you wear to the concert, but you dispose of when it no longer meets your needs.

    I guess there is nothing wrong with “finding love,” per se. However, using Buddhism as a smoke screen for one’s aims is duplicitous. Somehow, I don’t expect the Julia Roberts character to spend years wandering through the streets of Luang Prabang, looking to become desireless.

    On a side note, the woman who wrote that semi-autobriographical book (Elizabeth Gilbert) ended getting scammed for a green card by the man she married – the one that the movie was based on. Now, she has become a lesbian.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is so funny, I had to read it out to the people in the room with me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Major Styles says:

        I’m glad you enjoyed. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Soul Gifts says:

      Really? About Elizabeth Gilbert I mean. Might be another book in the pipeline…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Major Styles says:

        Yes, very true. I am sure there is another book, but I don’t know if it will have the same success (it’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle twice).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Soul Gifts says:

        She can be a good writer. Have you read her novel ‘A Signature of All Things’ ?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Major Styles says:

        I have not, but I shall seek more info. Thank you for the heads up. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Soul Gifts says:

        It’s very different to her other books. Meticulously researched historical novel.

        Liked by 1 person

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