Granted that consciousness is reflective, that is, aware of itself, do we need anything like a "self" on top of that?
During the conference on Self: Hindu responses to Buddhist Critiques, Matt MacKenzie proposed an updated version of Śāntarakṣita's account as the best solution to the debate on self and subjectivity. According to his interpretation (provided that I understood it correctly), Dharmakīrti maintained, as Brentano, that every consciousness act is a complex of subject and intentionality. Śāntarakṣita, instead, pushed the Buddhist position closer to the Advaita one insofar as he identified prakāśatva ('the fact of being luminous', that is, reflective, auto-aware) of the consciousness, with the fact of being sva-prakāśatva ('the fact of being self-luminous', self-aware). Further, he described such svaprakāśatva as the essence of consciousness, which could not present objects unless it were svaprakāśa. In other words, the fact of being self-luminous is not an accident to consciousness, but its true essence. Consciousness throws light on objects insofar as it is self-reflective.
At this point, there seems to be not much difference left between Śāntarakṣita's and the Advaita Vedānta position, apart from the issue of temporality. In fact, as argued also by C. Ram-Prasad, the two positions would be undistinguishable if not for that.
But here comes the most intriguing move of MacKenzie. Actively engaged in the philosophical enterprise initiated by Śāntarakṣita's innovations, MacKenzie proposed to emend the latter's proposal. In fact, temporality is a problem for Śāntarakṣita's account, according to MacKenzie. Its problematicity is proved by the tension, within Yogācāra Buddhism, between the stress on momentaryness (kṣaṇikatva) and that on the depository-consciousness (ālayavijñāna). In fact, the latter accounts for temporal continuity and causal connections, but risks to contradict the former.
However, maintains MacKenzie, this is a false choice. It is possible to have both non-substantialism and diachronical persistence, IF ONLY we give up momentariness. Hence, getting rid of momentariness improves the Yogācāra account of consciousness as it allows for phenomenological temporality. An external reader (such as myself) might ask how can temporality be phenomenologically present, although not substantially real. MacKenzie can answer this rebuttal through Husserl's account of the phenomenological time-consciousness. According to it, every experience is made of retention (of the past moment)-experience of the present moment-protention (towards the next). In this way, we can experience a melody as melody (through retention of the last heard note, experience of the present one, protension towards the next expected one).
I am still in trouble, since retention seems not to last long enough to make sense of recollections or only of experiences interrupted by gaps (such as that of looking for one's drink while watching a movie).
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