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Karma, Morality, and Evil



The doctrine of karma has been praised as a rational and morally edifying explanatory response to the existence of evil and apparent injustice in the world. Critics have attacked it as a morally misguided dogma that distorts one's vision of reality. This essay, after outlining the traditional doctrine, examines three criticisms that have been central to recent debates: firstly, that the doctrine offers no practical guidance; second, that it faces a dilemma between free will and fatalism; and third, that it involves a morally repugnant form of blaming victims for their own misfortunes. Possible responses are considered, the depth of the disagreement is highlighted, and a morally significant difference between alternative ways of articulating the belief in karma is analyzed.