Suppose we find that everybody who talks about a certain subject is either a fool or a knave or both, what can we properly conclude?
1) Not that the subject has a tendency to deprave or render stupid- it may be that fools and knaves alone are attracted to the subject.
2) Not that only fools and knaves take up the subject- it may be that someone neither a fool or a knave is forced to comment on the subject and only by doing so is shown to be either a fool or knave or both.
3) Not that someone neither a fool or a knave forced to comment on the subject, and thus shown to be a fool or knave or both, is actually commenting on the subject- one may be forced to do something but end up doing something else which suffices to end the compulsion. This would be the case if the force which compels one towards a particular course of action can not itself distinguish between that action specifically and some other action which appears the same to the compelling agent but not so to others.
This last point saves us from having to conclude that all talk about about Ethics, Duty, Dharma etc, is only indulged in by fools or knaves or both. I'm not saying this isn't empirically true. Indeed, for any possible world one may care to specify, one could, in general, prove that this is a necessary truth. However, once we admit that people who speak of these things may have been compelled to do so and that what we mistake as the usual foolish, knavish or both foolish and knavish verbiage is in fact merely a simulacrum with an opposite illocutionary force- i.e. it is a savage parody and indictment of the brutish stupidity of the sort of fools and knaves who force people to talk about Ethics, Duty, Dharma etc.- then a new vista is opened for us.
Indeed, we now have the possibility of taking a more charitable view of our fellow creatures. We can imagine that their foolish, knavish or both foolish and knavish babble about Morality proceeds, not from their irremediable stupidity and knavishness, but from some brutish and merciless force constraining them to such revolting behaviour.
Obviously, words like Morality, Duty, Ethics and so on only become interesting, only register as something other than phatic, when, in their name, some particularly stupid and knavish action is performed.
Let's say I become friends with some guy and do something nice for him. Well, you might commend me for my friendly character and felicitate me for my deftness in performing some particular pleasing action. What you wouldn't do is uphold me as an exemplar of a higher morality, a sterner ethics, a more than mortal attachment to Duty.
Well, you wouldn't, unless you were a knave with an ulterior motive or a fool who thought it remarkable that I should find pleasing a friend a source of satisfaction to myself.
On the other hand, if I meet a guy, befriend him and then beat him to death though it causes me pain to do so- clearly I have acted from some motive of Morality, Duty, Ethics or other such shite. To the degree that you are a knave or fool, or both, you are now obliged to hold me up as an exemplar and gas on in philosophical vein.
BK.Matilal has written some foolish or knavish or both foolish and knavish shite on the topic of 'Ethics and Epics'. Was he forced to do so? Dunno. Maybe. Let us say that being a Professor forces one to do shite things of this sort. Still his shite on this topic sets higher than mandated standards of stinkiness because he won't even entertain the possibility that the guys who wrote the Epics were forced to drag in talk about Morality, Duty, Ethics and so on.
Let's face it. Interesting stories are of the form- x liked y but fucked y up something rotten though it hurt x to do so. Boring stories are of the form- x liked y and did something nice for y coz x was a nice guy that way.
What about meta-stories? I mean a story about story telling? The Mahabharata is such a story. We know, in advance, the authors are going to be constrained to talk about Morality, Ethics, Duty and other such shite- coz. for the heroes to retain our interest they're gonna have to fuck up for some high minded reason every so often- but we don't know whether the Epic is going to take advantage of its meta-linguistic structure to fuck up the vile and brutish force compelling the mention of Dharma, or whether that fucking black hole is going to turn the writers in to fools or knaves or both - or even only the simulacrum of such scum.
In order to find to determine the outcome of the Mahabharata's meta-story, I'm first going to have to formalize the terms fool and knave.
Briefly, a fool is someone who wastes information. A knave is someone who steals it. The reason that all talk about Morality, Duty, Ethics etc is either foolish or knavish or both is because such talk loses information. But if information is lost, something is no longer being conserved. But if something is no longer being conserved, then a symmetry has disappeared. If a symmetry has disappeared then a Game has become unbalanced.
Let us look again at the Mahabharata- if it is nothing but a chaotic mass of interpolations and priestly longeurs then it can't be preserving symmetries, it can't be conserving any Principles, it's merely a dissipative system- in which case, why read it- unless you're forced to?
Since the Mahabharata can look like a dung heap of precisely this sort, stupid or knavish people- Professors for example- who are forced to read it, are then compelled to say foolish and knavish things about it- e.g. 'It conceives of Dharma as deontological' 'Nope, it's all Virtue Ethics' etc.
However, when the MHb's object language- i.e. what the text says happens- is looked at as a non-dissipative, highly symmetric, Balanced Game sequence (which, by reason of its redactive heuristics is precisely what it is) then, it becomes clear that, as meta-story, it achieves the most praiseworthy of objectives- viz. rigorously fucking over that vile and brutish force which compels people to talk about Morality, Ethics, Duty and other such shite without in any way getting meta-shite upon its own dick.
To summarise- only fools or knaves talk about Morality, Ethics, Duty and other such shite. Why? Because these concepts actually set out to lose information, to conserve nothing, to efface symmetries, to ubnbalance Games. Thus fools, who waste, and knaves, who steal, whatever they get their hands on, are the necessary tools for this foulest of forms of shitting through the mouth.
The Mahabharata, as meta story, by a powerful heuristic which conserves symmetries, balances Games and never throws away information in its object language, so to speak, is able to use its Second Order, meta-linguistic illocutionary force to do the work of sanitizing, by rendering entirely ironic, the obligatory shite about Ethics and Morality and so on.
To, conclude, the correct answer the question- is Dharma a Virtue Ethics?- is shhhhh! I'm trying to watch Svetlana.