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The No-Self Theory: Hume, Buddhism, and Personal Identity


#1

A few years ago I read this article by James Giles, who is a Canadian philosopher. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on it. :slightly_smiling_face:

The no-self theory is not a theory about the self at all. It is rather a rejection of all such theories as inherently untenable.

THE NO-SELF THEORY: HUME, BUDDHISM, AND PERSONAL IDENTITY (est. reading time: 50 min)


#2

Glad you asked, said the guy with the Hume avatar. Hume seems to have written something quite close to not-self independently of Buddhism. To quote Hume:

I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.


#3

Thanks for the link. The blog post quotes Could David Hume Have Known about Buddhism? by Alison Gopnik; an interesting read in itself.

At least, we have to give up the apparently obvious assumption that Hume could not have known about Buddhism in the 1730s

http://alisongopnik.com/Papers_Alison/Gopnik_HumeStudies_withTOC.pdf


#4

Also very much worth reading is the late philosopher Derek Parfit’s essay Personal Identity.

:anjal:


#5

Interestingly, Giles mentions Parfit in footnote 11:

Parfit is one of those who fail to distinguish between the eliminative no-self theory and reductionism. Consequently, he mistakenly thinks that the Buddhist position supports his reductionism.


#6

One thing that is interesting about Hume is that, despite having a theory of mind that is in many ways similar to the Buddha’s, he had a general moral outlook on life that was radically different. Hume was a worldly philosopher with a generally very positive outlook on commercial society and what the Buddha denigrated as the dusty household life. The Buddha was an ascetic world-renouncer, but Hume was a politically engaged bon vivant, who was contemptuous and dismissive of asceticism and mocked what he called the “monkish virtues”.


#7

@DKervick

http://static.existentialcomics.com/comics/buddhaAndHume.png