Collective Moral Responsibility in the Thought of Vasubandhu: Philosophical, Comparative and Applied Issues


The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships in Buddhist Studies


Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies


the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley


The notion of collective moral responsibility refers to the accountability of groups for actions performed by their members. Western philosophers, however, disagree on the sense in which collectives can be regarded as moral agents and consequently, as bearers of moral responsibility. The present research seeks to shed light on the problem from an Indian Buddhist perspective, by investigating relevant philosophical ideas in the thought of Vasubandhu. The study explores his treatment of ideas such as collectivity, intentionality and responsibility, in his Abhidharma works (Abhidharmakośabhāṣya, Karmasiddhiprakaraṇa, Pañcaskandhaka), Yogācāra works (Viṃśikā, Triṃśikā) and their commentaries, while comparing them to Western accounts, and applies the new principles to current ethical issues.