Anagarika wrote:Should we look at the act itself, or look at the act in the context of its root cause or intention, per the Sammaditthi Sutta?
The causal intention is indeed where the ethical weight seems to reside. This is why I spoke up to address the earlier idea about fate and choice; it isn't that we have total freedom in every way such that we could choose to levitate and shoot fireballs, but this isn't what free will has to mean, so thinking of this lack of fireball-shooting-choice as a problem is off-target, a red herring.
Choice is definitely constrained by various circumstances & environments, but not wholly so. I can't choose to not need food, but I can choose to find food or to ask for it or to fast, and so on. It's true that the range of choices is a conditioned state, but nevertheless choices abound for a given individual, and this is the crux of all ethics.
For what it's worth, in a past life hanging with Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu folk, I read Jack Hoban's The Ethical Warrior
, which addresses this topic directly but in terms of personal martial arts and individual interventions, expanding this approach to divide those who kill out of greed or hate or what have you from those who kill out of circumstantial necessity due to the fact of there being people of the first sort.
But while self-defense and larger nation-state defense are complicated issues, I think they are still usefully teased apart. I don't think a Buddhist Just War theory can have any traction at all, but individual and small-group defense is easily aligned with moral behaviors, given the proper motives.
Finally, asking "who acts" or "who chooses" is off target as well; it is wrong attention to ask this and seek an answer to this. There is just choice and consequence, cause and effect, conditionality, that is to say, with X as condition, Y...
Self-doer is a convention, a way of speaking. There is no conflict between individuated lifeforms and anatta, only between Self-as-permanent-etc. and anatta. The individual acts, a change-while-standing sort of thing for a time, and these acts are either dark, bright, mixed, or liberative.