I argue that a normative environmental ethical theory can be coherently derived out of the theological matrix of the Bhagavad Gītā.
I build upon Ithamar Theodor’s articulation of the Gītā
’s underlying unifying structure to depict how the Gītā
conceives of three possible relationships with nature. This allows me to tease out three concurrent worldviews in the Gītā
—a world-affirming worldview, a world-renouncing worldview and a bhakti
worldview, which is simultaneously world-affirming and world-renouncing. I show how three distinct theories of motivation—three different reasons for acting in the world—emerge from the interconnected normative, soteriological and ontological dimensions of each of these three worldviews. More importantly, the motivation to act for the welfare of individuals in nature, such as animals and plants, can be legitimately derived from these three theories of motivation. I contextualize the Bhagavad Gītā
’s environmental ethics by placing it within the larger framework of the text’s distinctive multi-layered approach to ethical theory, in which the foundational teleological mokṣa
theory grounds and explains the plurality of more superficial normative foundational theories.
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