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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What if one could prove the existence of a transcendent self?

The Nyāya and Advaita ātman could be though of as beyond the risk of being harmed by transplanted memories and the like, since it lies beyond "personal" experience, it is the sheer fact of being aware, devoid of any content. Hence, since experience is always, necessarily, intentional (that is: it is experience of something), such an ātman lies beyond experience. It is akin to Kant's Ich-denke (I think).
In this way, if I am not misunderstanding him, Ram-Prasad (in Siderits 2010, forthcoming), describes the Nyāya and Advaita ātman. He also adds the further note that the Nyāya ātman is the substance of which consciousness is a quality, whereas the Advaita one is itself tantamount to consciousness.
But of what "use" is this ātman, which cannot be experienced? Theoretically, even if one could prove its existence (and this can be done, according to Ram-Prasad, through the very fact that one remembers, apart from the memories' contents), one still had to prove its connection with one's "personal" feeling of being an I. One's true explanandum, hence, would not be explained through this unconditioned ātman.

3 comments:

ombhurbhuva said...

The Advaitin school hold that svabhava is kuthasta or self-evident without the need for proof. That Self is not the self that Buddhists deny with their anatta theory.

ombhurbhuva said...

The Advaitin school hold that svabhava is kuthasta or self-evident without the need for proof. That Self is not the self that Buddhists deny with their anatta theory.

elisa freschi said...

I see your point. If I understand your hint correctly, you mean that Buddhists deny more "personal" levels of the ātman (such as the existence of an enduring personality apart from 'my' single and whimsical emotions, thoughts, etc.). The ātman of the Advaitins remains untouched by that. Hence my problem: even if such an ātman were established, we would still be confronted with the unexplained fact that thoughts, emotions, desires, etc. –which are not directly 'made' by the ātman– seem yet to endure through time.

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