Similarities beyond differences: Mill's utilitarianism and the consequentialism of the the consequentialism of the Bhagavad Gita

It is often argued that the Gitā spouses the ideal of nishkām karma i.e. a disinterested performance of one’s moral obligations and is inherently incompatible with all kinds of consequentialism. In this paper, I challenge the above interpretation of the Gitā. I argue that even though nishkām karma plays an important role in the assessment of moral motivations in the Gitā, it is certainly not the only factor. On numerous occasions in the Gitā, we see lord Krishna paying serious attention to the worldly consequences and using them to convince Arjuna to fight an eminent war. I use Krishna’s insistence on consequences to support my claim that there is an alternative theory of moral motivations in the Gitā, and that this theory is much more sympathetic to utilitarian consequentialism. Accordingly, I conclude that both the Gitā and J. S. Mill have a sophisticated notion of moral agency and that their consequentialism is a mirror image of the same.


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