Eastern Buddhism and Western Ethics: An Interview with Robert Florida

Steve Bentheim


The differing Western ethical frameworks of Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan may reflect similar differences within Eastern Buddhism during the last 150 years, particularly on social concerns. Gilligan’s position to care for others first is more closely akin with the truth of Buddhism, according to Dr. Florida. In addition, the very sense of self is a different conception in Buddhism, contrasted with the more Western ideal of individualism.

The interview describes how early Buddhism focused on its monastic society and showed little interest in direct social action, although it did offer ethical guidance to rulers and suggested Buddhist principles for bringing the social world more in line with the dharma. However, from roughly the 1850’s onward, Buddhists in Asia began to play a more active role in trying to change society.

Robert E. Florida is Emeritus Fellow at the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. He was Professor of Religion and Dean of Arts at Brandon University. He researched at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado, the East–West Centre at the University of Hawaii in Honolulun and Mahidol University in Bangkok.


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18357/illumine1120021562

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ISSN (Print): 1705-2947
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