Zen Buddhism and Environmental Ethics explores the implications of Zen Buddhist teachings and practices for our moral relations with the natural world. At once an accessible introduction to Zen and an important contribution to the debate concerning the environmental implications of the tradition, this book will appeal both to readers unfamiliar with East Asian thought and to those well versed in the field.
In elucidating the philosophical implications of Zen, the author draws upon both Eastern and Western philosophy, situating the Zen understanding of nature within the Buddhist tradition, as well as relating it to the ideas of key Western philosophers such as Aristotle, Kant and Heidegger.
These philosophical reflections on Zen are used to shed light on some prominent debates in contemporary environmental ethics concerning such issues as the intrinsic value of nature.
'It has long been rumoured that Zen Buddhism has something essential to teach about our relation to and treatment of the natural environment. Simon P. James's book, however, is the first to go beyond vague gestures as to what those lessons might be. In lucid and engaging prose, and with considerable scholarship, he clarifies the elusive character of Zen thought and makes a compelling case for the truth of the old rumour. Zen's perception of the world and of the place of human beings within it is indeed replete with moral implications for our treatment of the other living beings which also belong to that world.' David E Cooper, University of Durham, UK 'This is a very useful introduction to Zen Buddhist traditions and to environmental ethics, but it is more than that. Simon James manages to put these two themes into connection with each other and with general philosophy in a way that shows imagination and insight. An introduction to Zen requires a general background account of Buddhism, and this is supplied succinctly; an introduction to environmental ethics requires an account of the received approaches to moral thinking as they relate to the environment, and this is again done precisely. The success of this book must depend on showing a profound connection between the two, and James admirably meets this condition.' Michael McGhee, University of Liverpool, UK, and Editor of the journal Contemporary Buddhism 'This work helpfully dispels some persistent misunderstandings of Zen Buddhism and advances ideas concerning its relevance for environmental ethics that are sure to stimulate useful discussion.' Graham Parkes, Professor of Philosophy, University of Hawaii, USA 'This short, well-written, and highly intelligent book stands at the confluence of three important streams of contemporary intellectual and political life: the application of sophisticated analytical methods to the exposition of Buddhism, inquiries into the relationship between religion and nature, and the emergence of a specifically religious (both theological and activist) response to the environmental crisis... a worthwhile contribution to the literature, one which should raise the level of the discussion of Zen and ecology in fruitful ways.' www.arsdisputandi.org '... a stimulating and informative account of many of the issues that arise if one attempts to articulate Zen within a comparative religio-political philosophy.' Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies '... an excellent introduction to Zen philosophy and ethics in general, since it richly unfolds these dimensions of Zen in response to its critics... As this work excellently shows, Zen is not a mechanism or theory for resolving every problem. It is not a policy, political program, or general moral theory at all but rather a profound and ecologically insightful response to questions of the kind of life best worth living.' Journal of Buddhist Ethics '... takes an important step forward in the discussion of Zen and the environment... offers well-developed arguments... should provoke healthy controversy both from mystical followers of Zen and from Western environmental philosophers of an analytical bent. We have needed a book like Zen Buddhism and Environmental Ethics for a long time. I am confident that it will serve as a benchmark for future discussion.' Environmental Values '... well written and, for a work of philosophy, accessible...' The Middle Way '... I would strongly recommend this book to readers with some grounding in both Zen and environmental ethics, or for Zen students who want to explore mainstream environmental ethics more deeply. It would also help banish some myths about Zen for students of environmental ethics who might otherwise be untempted.' Ecotheology '...this book is creatively conceived and beautifully executed. Simon James has done a masterful job in dealing with some of the most difficult issues in Zen Buddhism and its implication for environmental ethics. It has successfully debunked the myth that Zen is non-philosophical, quietist, and impractical. His approach is philosophically rigorous and yet meditative, practical and yet insightful. I have certainly benefited a great deal in both my teaching and research from reading this book. I highly recommend this book for any person who is interested in the fields of Buddhism and of environmental ethics.' Dao - A Journal of Comparative Philosophy