• Three Ways of Denying the Self

      Jones, Dhivan Thomas; University of Chester
      Buddhist philosophers have tried to work out the implications of the Buddha’s teaching of non-self (anattā). I characterise the teaching of non-self in the Pāli discourses, noting that, although the Buddha denied the existence of a ‘metaphysical’ self, he did not completely deny the ‘everyday’ self but presupposed the ‘I’ as a continuously identical moral agent. I go on to explain three attempts to explain the Buddha’s teaching. (1) Nāgasena in the Milindapañha uses the chariot argument to show that the self, like a chariot, is a conventional designation for a functional arrangement of parts. (2) The Yogācāra philosopher Vasubandhu argues that the self is a cognitive mistake and that in reality there is only non-dual awareness. (3) The Madhyamaka philosopher Candrakīrti argues that there is the appearance of a self but it does not exist in the way that it appears. I conclude that these ways of denying the self are distinct and that Candrakīrti’s way seems closest to the Buddha’s as recorded in the Pāli canon.