What can we learn from Buddhist moral psychology? | OUPblog

Implicit bias demonstrates that the roots of virtue and vice, or of good and evil lie not in what we do, but in how we see. The fact that in the moment we have no control over our implicit bias may excuse us from culpability of that bias in the moment, but it does not excuse us from responsibility to transform ourselves so as to eliminate that bias. Involuntariness, that is, may excuse the act, but it does not absolve us of moral blameworthiness. The same goes, mutatis mutandis, for morally salutary perceptual sets. We have an obligation, once we recognize our implicit biases, to remediate them. We cannot reflectively endorse being the kind of person who perceives the world in this way.

Implicit bias is only the tip of the moral iceberg of our perceptual lives. The very processes that are salient when we investigate racial or gender bias in these disturbing studies are ubiquitous in our psychology. It is not only racial stereotyping that is problematic; the representation of Maseratis as desirable, or of insect protein as undesirable may be just as morally charged, and just as deeply implicated in perceptual processes. And the powerful effects not merely of implicit social pressures at work in the cases of racial stereotyping, but also the deliberate efforts of advertisers, demagogues, preachers and moral philosophers to distort our perception must be morally scrutinized, for just as implicit bias demonstrably distorts our explicit reasoning and judgments in invidious ways, the panoply of subliminal processes to which it is kin have the same effect across the domains in which agency is manifest.

A Buddhist moral psychology shows us just how and why our moral lives begin with perception, and Buddhist meditative practices provide an avenue to eradicate the vices of perception and to encourage more virtuous ways of seeing the world.

Jay L. Garfield, in What can we learn from Buddhist moral psychology? | OUPblog.

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