Buddha and Adam Smith on Attaining Happiness: A Very Great Degree of Similarity in Their Analysis and Conclusions

23 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2019

See all articles by Michael Emmett Brady

Michael Emmett Brady

California State University, Dominguez Hills

Clark Tang

Independent

Date Written: January 20, 2019

Abstract

Buddha’s ethical system of thought is extremely close to Adam Smith’s ethical system of thought, since both taught versions of virtue ethics.This paper involves an examination of the processes by which humans can attain happiness according to both Buddha and Adam Smith.

Both agree that to attain happiness requires an individual to master and apply virtue ethics.The emphasis is initially placed on the application of the virtue of prudence. Prudence is required initially because each individual must first be able to care (meet the needs) for himself/herself before it would be possible to care (meet the needs) for others. The role of attaining money is as a means to an end. Attainment of money as an end itself leads to unhappiness because the material things (wants, not needs) that money can buy can never make one happy, but serve only to constantly and temporarily deflect the decision maker from attaining Buddha’s “balanced” view of life (Aristotle’s golden mean-temperance) by assuming himself with what Smith described variously as baubles, trifles, trinkets, toys and ornaments. Buddha described this type of behavior as “grasping or clinging” to a belief that wealth and riches will make you happy. Smith spends a number of pages in The Theory of Moral Sentiments discussing the rationale of what he calls the “poor man’s son”.

A systematic approach that incorporates elements of both Smith’s and Buddha’s thought is Wing Chun (Temple).

Keywords: Buddha, Smith, Harmony, Virtue Ethics, Prudence, Benevolence, Justice

JEL Classification: B10, B12, B14, B16, B20, B22

Suggested Citation

Brady, Michael Emmett and Tang, Clark, Buddha and Adam Smith on Attaining Happiness: A Very Great Degree of Similarity in Their Analysis and Conclusions (January 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3319183 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3319183

Michael Emmett Brady (Contact Author)

California State University, Dominguez Hills ( email )

1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson, CA
Carson, CA 90747
United States

Clark Tang

Independent ( email )

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