The Abhidharma Buddhist revisionary metaphysics aims to provide an intellectually and morally preferred picture of the world that lacks a self. The first part of the paper claims that the Abhidharma ‘no-self’ view can be plausibly interpreted as a no-ownership view, according to which there is no locus or subject of experience and thus no owner of mental or bodily awarenesses. On this interpretation of the no-self view, the Abhidharma Buddhist metaphysicians are committed to denying the ownership of experiences, and (...) thereby apparently obliged to explain our purported experience of ownership. My experiences seemingly come with the sense that I am the one who is undergoing this experience. But is there a really an experience of ownership—namely, an experience of being a subject that underlies our sense of ownership? I argue that there is nothing that it is like to be an owner of experiences, in the sense that there is no experiential phenomenology associated with the ownership of experience. The second part of the paper argues that, since there is no experience of ownership, there is no onus on the Abhidharma philosopher to give an explanation of the sense of ownership. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The manifest fact of experiential unity—namely, that a single experience often seems to be composed of multiple features and multiple objects—was lodged as a key objection to the Buddhist no-self view by Nyāya philosophers in the classical Indian tradition. We revisit the Nyāya-Buddhist debate on this issue. The early Nyāya experiential unity arguments depend on diachronic unification of experiences in memory, but later Nyāya philosophers explicitly widened the scope to incorporate new unity arguments that invoke synchronic unification in experiences. (...) We argue that classical responses to this objection in the Buddhist traditions are not satisfactory. We offer a new solution on behalf of the Buddhists, with some help from cognitive sciences. We argue that there are different kinds of experiential unity and that, once we distinguish between these kinds, the Nyāya argument becomes difficult to sustain. (shrink)
The Buddhists philosophers put forward a revisionary metaphysics which lacks a “self” in order to provide an intellectually and morally preferred picture of the world. The first task in the paper is to answer the question: what is the “self” that the Buddhists are denying? To answer this question, I look at the Abhidharma arguments for the No-Self doctrine and then work back to an interpretation of the self that is the target of such a doctrine. I argue that Buddhists (...) are not just denying the diachronically unified, extended, narrative self but also minimal selfhood insofar as it associated with sense of ownership and sense of agency. The view is deeply counterintuitive and the Buddhists are acutely aware of this fact. Accordingly, the Abhidharma-Buddhist writings are replete with attempts to explain the phenomenology of experience in a no-self world. The second part of the paper reconstructs the Buddhist explanation using resources from contemporary discussions about the sense of agency. (shrink)
The Buddhist no-self and no-person revisionary metaphysics aims to produce a better structure that is motivated by the normative goal of eliminating, or at least reducing, suffering. The revised structure, in turn, entails a major reconsideration of our ordinary everyday person-related concerns and practices and interpersonal attitudes, such as moral responsibility, praise and blame, compensation, and social treatment. This essay explores the extent to which we must alter and perhaps discard some of our practical commitments in light of the Buddhist (...) revisionism. I do not argue here that we should change our ordinary practices, concerns, and attitudes, or that the Buddhist metaphysics does succeed in presenting a better structure. Rather, I offer it as an alternative structure that should be considered seriously. (shrink)
Recent discussions of emotions in Buddhism suggest that one of the canonical self-conscious emotions, shame, is an emotion to be endorsed and indeed cultivated. The canonical texts in the Abhidharma Buddhist tradition, endorse hiri as one of the wholesome factors “always found in all good minds” and as one of “the guardians of the world”. Shame is widely taken to be a self-conscious emotion, and so if hiri counts as shame, this seems to be in tension with the central Buddhist (...) claim that we should rid ourselves of the idea that there is a self. Buddhist moral education seems to promote an emotion that fundamentally presupposes something that Buddhist metaphysics fundamentally rejects: a self. This puzzle provides the motivation for our paper, and we will argue for a new understanding of hiri that also has implications for how we should think about one important “self-conscious” moral emotion, guilt. This puzzle about the Buddhist tradition also raises a basic philosophical question: What kinds of moral emotions are theoretically consistent with the denial of a self? We argue that anticipatory guilt might be such an emotion, and that it provides a plausible interpretation of hiri in key Buddhist texts. (shrink)
In this paper we (i) identify the notion of ‘essentially non-conceptual content’ by critically analyzing the recent and contemporary debate about non-conceptual content, (ii) work out the basics of broadly Kantian theory of essentially non-conceptual content in relation to a corresponding theory of conceptual content, and then (iii) demonstrate one effective application of the Kantian theory of essentially non-conceptual content by using this theory to provide a ‘minimalist’ solution to the problem of perceptual self-knowledge which is raised by Strong Externalism.
The paper argues that empirical work on Buddhist meditation has an impact on Buddhist epistemology, in particular their account of unity of consciousness. I explain the Buddhist account of unity of consciousness and show how it relates to contemporary philosophical accounts of unity of consciousness. The contemporary accounts of unity of consciousness are closely integrated with the discussion of neural correlates of consciousness. The conclusion of the paper suggests a new direction in the search for neural correlates of state consciousness (...) or creature consciousness. (shrink)
Abhidharma Buddhist philosophy presents a version of what is now often called “panprotopsychism.” The most pressing group of problems for the Abhidharma panprotopsychism, like all other panpsychist views, is what Seager calls “the combination problem.” There are at least three versions of the problem: the subject-combination problem; the quality-combination problem; and the structure-combination problem. I begin with the Abhidharma Buddhist version of panprotopsychism and its account of conscious experience. The main focus of this paper is to show that Abhidharma panprotopsychist (...) account of conscious experience solves the quality-combination problem. In the last and closing Section, I look at other versions of the combination problem, primarily the subject-combination problem and the structural problem and provide a sketch of the Abhidharma Buddhist response to these. (shrink)
In this paper I revisit the early Nyāya argument for the existence of a self. In section 1, I reconstruct the argument in Nyāya-sūtra 1.1.10 as an argument from recognition following the interpretation in the Nyāyasūtra-Bhāṣya and the Nyāya-Vārttika. In Section 2, I reassess the plausibility of the Nyāya argument from memory/recognition in the Bhāṣya and the Vārttika in the light of recent empirical research. I conclude that the early Nyāya version of the argument from recognition can only establish a (...) minimal conclusion that self is a unitary and persisting conscious agent, in contrast to the ontological conclusion that the self is distinct a substance qualified by consciousness. In the final section, I address the tension between the two conclusions in Nyāya and suggest how it might be resolved. (shrink)
The doctrine of karma, as elaborated in the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious traditions, offers a powerful explanatory account of the human predicament, and in particular of seemingly undeserved human suffering. Whitley R. P. Kaufman is right to point out that on some points, such as the suffering of children, the occurrence of natural disasters, and the possibility of universal salvation, the karma theory appears, initially at least, much more satisfactory than the attempts made to solve the perennial problem of (...) evil by writers working within the mainstream theistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam .1 Kaufman, we think, is also correct to highlight the lack of critical analysis given by contemporary philosophers of religion to the theory of karma, at least in comparison with the voluminous body of work produced in recent years on the theistic problem of evil . Kaufman?s recent article in this journal, therefore, is to be welcomed as a step toward redressing this imbalance in the literature, and in the process helping to remove the Western theistic bias of much contemporary philosophy of religion. On the other hand, we think that Kaufman has unfortunately done little to further the general understanding of the doctrine of karma. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that some of the work to be done by the concept of self is done by the concept of mind in Buddhist philosophy. For the purposes of this paper, I shall focus on an account of memory and its ownership. The task of this paper is to analyse Vasubandhu’s heroic effort to defend the no-self doctrine against the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣikas in order to bring to the fore the Buddhist model of mind. For this, I will discuss (...) Vasubandhu’s theory of mind in the early Abhidharma as well as post-Abhidharma period to show the continuity in his work. (shrink)
This paper defends the realist representationalist version of the Buddhist-Abhidharma account of consciousness. The account explains the intentionality and the phenomenality of conscious experiences by appealing to the doctrine of self-awareness. Concerns raised by Buddhist Mādhyamika philosophers about the compatibility of reflexive awareness and externality of the objects of perception are addressed. Similarly, the Hindu critiques on the incoherence of the Buddhist doctrine of reflexive awareness with the doctrines of no-self and momentariness are also answered.
In the absence of continuing selves or persons, Buddhist philosophers are under pressure to provide a systematic account of phenomenological and other features of conscious experience. Any such Buddhist account of experience, however, faces further problems because of another cardinal tenet of Buddhist revisionary metaphysics: the doctrine of impermanence, which during the Abhidharma period is transformed into the doctrine of momentariness. Setting aside the problems that plague the Buddhist Abhidharma theory of experience because of lack of persons, I shall focus (...) on problems that arise because of its allegiance to momentariness and explore some responses on behalf of the Abhidharma Buddhist philosophers. I address two challenges to the Buddhist view in this paper. The first, which I will call the “Phenomenological Challenge”, primarily concerns the temporal properties of what is represented in conscious experience. The second, which I will call the “Metaphysical Challenge”, concerns the temporal properties of conscious representation itself. (shrink)
In a series of classic papers, Donald Davidson put forward an ingenious argument to challenge the ascription of minds to nonlinguistic animals. Davidson's conclusions have been mercilessly demolished in the literature by cognitive ethologists, but none of them have directly addressed Davidson's argument. First, this paper is an attempt to elucidate and evaluate Davidson's central argument for denying minds to nonlinguistic animals. Davidson's central argument puts forth a challenge to those of us who want to attribute minds to nonlinguistic animals. (...) Second, this paper uses counterexamples offered in the cognitive ethology literature to meet Davidson's challenge directly. (shrink)
It is commonly believed that the given consists of particulars cognized as such in perceptual experiences. Against this belief it is argued that perceptual cognition must be restricted to universal features. A Nyāya-Kantian argument is presented to reveal the incoherence in the very idea of a conception-free awareness of particulars. For the Naiyāyika philosophers and Kant, conceptualization is a necessary ingredient of perceptual experience, since perceptual cognition requires the possibility of recognition. From this it follows that perceptual cognition must be (...) restricted to universal features. This is surprising, for it rules out the possibility of knowledge of particulars. This counterintuitive consequence can be avoided by reconsidering our intuitive notion of knowledge of particulars. (shrink)
In the sixth century a.d., in a debate with the Buddhists about the nature of Self, the well-known Naiyāyika Uddyotakara declared that there is no need prove that the Self or what is referred to by the pronoun “I” exists, for on that score there cannot be any significant disagreement.1 It is only this or that specific metaphysical nature of the self that is the subject of controversy. To limit the scope of the debate at issue here, we employ the (...) same strategy. It is beyond doubt that many cognitive processes involve consciousness of the self, for example monitoring one’s activities, as in learning how to dance or planning an important event in the near future. We can safely assume that there cannot be any .. (shrink)
In this paper I aim to situate the Naiyayika theory of perception in contemporary philosophy of mind. Following the ancients, I suggest we reconsider the taxonomy and the assumed interactions between kinds of perceptual content. This reclassification will lead us to reconsider some aspects of the Cartesian conception of mind that continue to influence the work of contemporary theorists. I focus attention on different accounts of sensory perception favoured by ancient Indian Naiyayika philosophers and Descartes as a starting point for (...) reconsidering contemporary accounts of perceptual content.I show that Descartes' account of sensory perception provides the impetus for a causal-explanatory account of conceptual content in terms of its non-conceptual counterpart. Though contemporary philosophers claim to have cast off their Cartesian heritage, my discussion reveals that some of its tenets continue to influence the work of contemporary philosophers. I offer reasons for rejecting yet another Cartesian influence and recommend that we follow the Nyaya taxonomy of perceptual states. (shrink)
One of the major aims of this article is to provide the theoretical account of mindfulness provided by the systematic Abhidharma epistemology of conscious states. I do not claim to present the one true version of mindfulness, because there is not one version of it in Buddhism; in addition to the Abhidharma model, there is, for example, the nondual Mahāmudrā tradition. A better understanding of a Buddhist philosophical framework will not only help situate meditation practice in its originating tradition, but (...) it will also clarify a Buddhist perspective on consciousness. In this article, I present the Abhidharma account of mindfulness—as explicated in the Abhidharmakośa, the root text for the Abhidharma tradition—and the theoretical model of the mind that underlies its practice. Abhidharma–Yogācara model of the mind, I believe, contains critical philosophical insights relevant to contemporary concerns while at the same time placing mindfulness meditation in its proper philosophical context. (shrink)
In the last decade, the research into the sciences of the mind has witnessed what some aptly call a “consciousness boom”. This boom has resulted in a new willingness to include the earlier frowned-upon discussions of dimensions, traditions, and practices into these sciences. Nowadays it is commonplace to find philosophers and scientists engaging in discussions of Conscious Presence, Subjectivity, Out-of-Body Experiences, Meditation, Phenomenology, and, more recently, Asian—particularly Indian—theories of the mind. This essay contributes to this process by showing that Yogācāra (...) Buddhist ideas on consciousness can significantly advance contemporary research into consciousness. Furthermore, it also.. (shrink)
The overall goal of this paper is to offer an independent, empirical route to characterize the content on nonconceptual content. I pursue a recent move by Pylyshyn, a leading cognitive scientist and philosopher of mental representation, who focuses on empirical considerations in favor of nonconceptual representations. Pylyshyn proposes a minimalist view of nonconceptual representations. I offer empirical reasons that force us to go beyond minimalist account and reinstate empirically defensible richer nonconceptual representations into a theory of content.
Jonardon Ganeri has written an impressive book that is a must-read for anyone interested in cross-cultural philosophy. Attention, Not Self moves Buddhist philosophy further into the center of contemporary philosophical debates about self, personhood, agency, action, perception, attention, and the kinds of mental content. The book is focused on work attributed to a single philosopher, the fifth-century Theravāda monk Buddhaghosa. However, this book is much more than an exegesis of Buddhaghosa's work. It is, in its own right, an original exploration (...) of foundational issues in the philosophy of mind, consciousness, personhood, and self. Ganeri's aim is to think about long-standing problems in a fresh, new light, and... (shrink)
This review details Jonardon Ganeri’s laudable attempt to move Buddhist philosophy further into the center of contemporary philosophical debates about self, personhood, agency, action, perception, attention, and kinds of mental content. This book is a must read for any contemporary philosopher interested in these debates. My only concern is that Ganeri is reading too much of P.F. Strawson into Buddhghosa’s philosophy.