Self, No-Self? (book review) Mark Siderits

Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions


050917: collection of critical essays on the self, no-self concepts. some very good of traditions somewhat read (advaita-vedanta, Buddhism, phenomenology) some of tradition i do not know (analytic) so i have no educated opinion, only some dissatisfaction with arguments... this is the reason i raise the rating to five: it inspires me to think/write out these arguments...


again, this is first draft, amateur, interested if not argumentative, and no more than book review. rather than focus on any one or several essays, i shall try to describe my own concept of the self, somewhere between the Indic and phenomenological concepts, to clarify, express, such thought to myself if no one else. there are no doubt other essays from other thinkers who could engage and critique such thought...


av and bd have original, opposing, radically different concepts of the self. in av the self is the human essential, the necessary focus, organizing, creating coherent experiences of self in world, thought, dreams. all sorts of bd have to some degree refused the concept of self as anything other than conventional, illusory, mistaken, with reduction of self to flow of experiences in time, arising, departing, and 'empty' of conceptual essence but product only of 'dependent origination', that is, only the results of previous events/environment rather than defined by itself. in bd there is thus the necessary intuition/experience of such emptiness to alleviate the thinker/meditator from bounds of this world... both av and bd have the particularly Indic purpose of soteriological value, of transcending the ground, the cycle of samsara (rebirth/redeath)...


the problem for av is to recognize one's original, ultimate, 'self' as unified with Brahman. the world is either illusion or real but both ways are distraction hindering union with this all, Brahman. the self thus suffers, feels incomplete, inadequate, because it tries all the other ways to satisfy this need (wealth, power, sex) all failing in some way, and must recognize this advaita- 'non-dual'- being of self, world, immanence. the problem for bd is to recognize there is no persisting self, nothing to unify, nothing to even call 'self'. i have read much more bd than av and must address the common argument that because we talk only of transience, momentariness, how can we assert any continuing 'self' as responsible, thinking, subject, so characterized and defined to karma and thus freeing it from samsara... this is bd distinction of identity and continuity...


when i think of bd and continuity i think in quantum physics terms, however little understood without necessary math (in other words not at all- maybe...) and think of 'identity' as particles and 'continuity' as waves. neither exists without the other. it all depends what you are looking for. from that famous 'double-slit experiment' we get the 'interference' pattern of waves but also the 'pointillist' effect of particles. but there is no ether to carry waves and also there are no particular elements, so we have to create concepts of 'quantum packets' and theorize about 'wave collapse' then do stuff with math i will never understand... so for me, bd is quantum and 'self' is as illusory as either quantum packets of energy or wave collapse...


the images of flickering flame or combination of parts independent but only effective when made into 'empty' cart, are viewed as flawed in one (analytic) essay because they do not recognize autonomy, intelligence, of imagined. this i respectfully dispute, for aside from such enlightenment being exactly such awareness, from a certain perspective the ever-changing yet singular flame through time characterize to me exactly what both experiential consciousness and 'narrative' 'self' are... obviously sense, thought, emotions, are essentially transient, temporal, yet 'self' also can only arise narratively if they are 'fueled' in whatever manner of greed, hatred, delusion... this 'autonomy' (analytic) argument seems as relevant as particles 'deciding' which slit to pass through or somehow going through both...


phenomenology is perhaps closer to av, but the 'how' of concept 'self' is that very autonomy i think bd refuses. ph is always consciousness 'of' and thereby the 'self' is in essence, inside, always present in the questions of expression, body movements, thoughts, and so the 'self' must by definition be real and not illusion. ph is always about 'intentionality', consciousness always 'of' something, whether thought, emotion, relations, and so there is 'self' though this is only built of transient and transcendent illusions of unity. this is not the risible 'fiction' of say Hume, but is maybe not the ultimate but only conventional truth of 'self'. ph does not have the usual Indic concern with samsara, karma, moksha, despite which husserl will say truly recognizing this 'style' of thought is ‘enlightenment’ akin to religious experience... my most favoured ph is that of merleau-ponty, in which perception is key in such that there is no need of Cartesian or other substances to 'have' experiences...


ph and Buddhism rather than av, seem to me offering the best concept of 'self' by recognizing there is, ultimately, 'no-self'. i do not agree with either the Cartesian theatre model of representations, or the human fictional bundles of sensations, but rather the 'emptiness' and 'co-dependent' models of human 'self'. perhaps this is my way to unify such opposites in a 'jaina' (and quantum) way, that is, true from this perspective and true from this other perspective and inexpressible...


note: someone explain this discomfort i always have with the phrase 'what-it-is-like' as much as 'sense-data' or 'qualia'. this seems a refusal of conceptualizing rather 'what-it-is' and 'how-it-is', tending towards collapsing distinctions of senses, thoughts, actions (how exactly is music like liquid sculpture? how is something seen ‘like’ something tasted?), all human somewhat autonomous 'expression', into metaphors (like) becoming realities (is) and so reifying the persistent, real, acting, 'self'... but then maybe i have just not read enough... there are so many books to read and so little time...


more

[book:Buddhism: A Philosophical Approach|18443946]

[book:What the Buddha Thought|6980500]

[book:Nietzsche and Buddhist Philosophy|22619704]

[book:Buddhist Philosophy: A Historical Analysis|1709074]

[book:Empty Words: Buddhist Philosophy and Cross-Cultural Interpretation|1639206]

[book:Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction|2487511]

[book:The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā|1048288]

[book:Ethics Embodied: Rethinking Selfhood Through Continental, Japanese, and Feminist Philosophies|9447857]

[book:Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person Perspective|475449]

[book:The Experiential Dimension of Advaita Vedanta|6048382]

[book:Hindu Theology of Liberation, A|25985246]

[book:Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings|6531274]

[book:After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age|25246817]

[book:Jainism as Meta-Philosophy|34729893]

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