An Irrealist Theory of Self

The Harvard Review of Philosophy 12 (1):60-79 (2004)

Jonardon Ganeri
New York University
It has become a common-place to read the ‘no-self’ theory of the Buddhist philosophers as a reductionist account of persons. In Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit himself seemed to endorse the association, having learned of the Buddhist theory from his colleague at All Souls College, Bimal Krishna Matilal. The Buddha’s denial that there are real selves metaphysically distinct from continuous streams of psycho-physical constituents lends itself, to be sure, to a reductionist interpretation. I believe, nevertheless, that there are good grounds for scepticism, and I think it is time for scholars of Buddhism to be more cautious about the identification than they have been up until now. Different Buddhist schools, not to mention different thinkers within particular schools, have given widely varying philosophical construals of the Buddha’s claim about ‘no-self’, and, while some thinkers and some schools might favor a reductionist reading of the claim, others, I would argue, do not. In this paper, I will examine the theory of persons of one such, the Mādhyamika Buddhist Candrakīrti. Candrakīrti’s interpretation of the “no self” slogan is, I believe, anti-reductionist but irrealist: persons are not reducible to psycho-physical streams, nor are they real existents distinct from the stream. How is it possible for him to say both these things? Let us see.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 1062-6239
DOI 10.5840/harvardreview20041219
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No-Self and the Phenomenology of Agency.Monima Chadha - 2017 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 16 (2):187-205.
Reconstructing Memories, Deconstructing the Self.Monima Chadha - 2019 - Mind and Language 34 (1):121-138.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

An Irrealist Theory of Self.Jonardon Ganeri - 2004 - Harvard Review of Philosophy 12 (1):61-80.
Naturalism, Truth and Beauty in Mathematics.Matthew E. Moore - 2007 - Philosophia Mathematica 15 (2):141-165.
Irrealist Cognitivism.John Skorupski - 1999 - Ratio 12 (4):436–459.
Must a Moral Irrealist Be a Pragmatist?Don Loeb - 1996 - American Philosophical Quarterly 33 (2):225 - 233.
The Participant Irrealist at Large in the Laboratory.Ian Hacking - 1988 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 39 (3):277-294.
The Status of Content.Paul A. Boghossian - 1990 - Philosophical Review 99 (2):157-84.
Constructivism, Expressivism and Ethical Knowledge.Matthew Chrisman - 2010 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 18 (3):331-353.
Ancient Indian Logic as a Theory of Case-Based Reasoning.Jonardon Ganeri - 2003 - Journal of Indian Philosophy 31 (1/3):33-45.
Artha =.Jonardon Ganeri - 2006 - Oxford University Press.
Colour Irrealism and the Formation of Colour Concepts.Jonathan Ellis - 2005 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (1):53-73.


Added to PP index

Total views
266 ( #25,354 of 2,285,684 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
48 ( #18,907 of 2,285,684 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature