“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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15 thoughts on ““Ethics” as a form of marketing”

  1. 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

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