Who Am I?: Self and Consciousness

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There is a rough intuition we all have that it is nonsensical to say that we have no self. Yet, not only have various thinkers from the Buddha down to contemporary Western philosophers said precisely that, but even when thinkers in India (as in the West) have agreed that there is a self, they have meant very different things.

Some of the initial difficulty is with the many usages of ‘self’, especially, of course, when taken as the translation of words from ancient Indian languages like Sanskrit and Pali. On careful examination of different meanings of ‘self’, it turns out that many denials of self are actually insightful and ethically important. At the same time, arguments in defence of self also mean very specific things. In the ancient and classical debates between Buddhists and Hindus in India, many sophisticated views about self - and related concepts, which can be translated into English as ‘person’, the ‘I’, and ‘subject’ - were denied and defended.

These debates have intellectual and ethical value to this day; and given the growth of interest in these topics in contemporary Western philosophy, they provide valuable resources for the development of a genuinely cross-cultural philosophy that can be both very technical and of immediate interest to any interested... person. 


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Professor Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad

Professor Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad is the Professor and Associate Dean for Research, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Lancaster University.

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