Abstract

Recent years have seen a considerable growth in interest among Western philosophers and psychologists in the Buddhist idea of anattā—“no self”—as it is usually translated. A number of philosophers have published works, addressed to Western philosophical audiences, expounding and defending versions of anattā, some claiming that the Buddhist doctrine has significant affinities with various Western forms of reductionism or eliminativism about the self. Here a number of these accounts are considered and criticized. The concerns are not primarily exegetical; the author writes, not as a scholar of Buddhism, but as a philosopher, trained in the Western tradition(s), and interested in assessing the various recent interpretations/defenses of anattā on their philosophical merits. It is argued that none of them gives us grounds for abandoning a commonsense, phenomenology-based view of the reality of the self. In conclusion, a way is tentatively suggested in which we might interpret anattā “practically” and not see it as a theory about personal identity in the standard post-Lockean Western philosophical sense at all.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 869-891
Launched on MUSE
2015-09-03
Open Access
No
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