Research Proposal

Wisdom and Compassion:  A dynamic epistemology of value.

Various questions related to values and morality recur in the history of European Analytical philosophy.  Some core preoccupations can be summarized thus:

  • Are values and principles of right conduct “objective” and discoverable or are they grounded in (universalized) subjective preferences?
  • If values and principles of morality are discoverable, how do we discover them?
  • What is the relationship between moral reasoning and other forms of reasoning?
  • Can insight into values and moral truths have an intrinsically motivating force?

My research explores the ways that the interdependent concepts of Wisdom and Compassion articulated in the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophical tradition illuminate these questions as they are presented in the European tradition.  In particular, what is the status of ethical principles, and how do we discover them.

My approach begins with an exposition of the ideas found in the writings of specific thinkers from these two traditions, but my aim is to contribute to the philosophical discourse around the status and methods of enquiry into ethical principles, rather than focus on exegetical questions.

Section 1: the Questions

Values, moral principles and ethical conduct: how do they relate?

Motivation.  Why do we care?

Knowing what to do.  Practical Reason.

The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Value: what is it that we know and how do we come to know it?

Section 2:  The European Tradition

Section 3: The Indo-Tibetan Tradition

Section 4: Synthesis