Philosophy and Religion

Alice Bauman’s paper does a good job of using the rich moral tradition of Buddhism to confront a contemporary problem that she identifies as the “environmental crisis.” One of the strengths of this paper is that she avoids oversimplifying either the tradition or the problem. Buddhism is a diverse tradition that has developed over time in response to changing conditions, and Bauman’s essay considers both ancient texts and contemporary practice. Bauman identifies principles or practices central to Buddhism, such as ahimsa (non-violence) and compassion (as exemplified by the bodhisattva vow), and uses them to analyze current environmental concerns. The essay has a clear thesis statement regarding the applicability of Buddhist doctrine to environmental politics, and the argument is strengthened through thoughtful treatment of possible objections. In her discussion, Bauman considers how the Buddhist teachings of no-self, karma, and impermanence have been interpreted in ways which might or might not support environmental activism. She further acknowledges the challenges of applying Buddhist ethical principles through her discussion of a difficult case study regarding the practice of killing Cane Toads in Australia as a means of population control of this species. Her effective integration of material learned in several classes, including Philosophy, Religion and the sciences, contributes to the quality of her discussion. While the general organization of the essay and use of cited materials is generally strong, sentence-level errors in the writing could have been addressed through consultation with the WCU Writing and Learning Center.

-Amy McKenzie

Buddhism and Environmental Ethics, by Alice Bauman