Ego, Egoism and the Impact of Religion on Ethical Experience: What a Paradoxical Consequence of Buddhist Culture Tells Us About Moral Psychology

Jay L. Garfield, Shaun Nichols, Arun K. Rai, Nina Strohminger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


We discuss the structure of Buddhist theory, showing that it is a kind of moral phenomenology directed to the elimination of egoism through the elimination of a sense of self. We then ask whether being raised in a Buddhist culture in which the values of selflessness and the sense of non-self are so deeply embedded transforms one’s sense of who one is, one’s ethical attitudes and one’s attitude towards death, and in particular whether those transformations are consistent with the predictions that Buddhist texts themselves make. We discover that the effects are often significant, but not always expected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-304
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Ethics
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015



  • Cognitive science of religion
  • Cross-cultural psychology
  • Death anxiety
  • Personal identity
  • Self
  • Tibetan Buddhism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy

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