Buddhism as Reductionism: Personal Identity and Ethics in Parfitian Readings of Buddhist Philosophy; from Steven Collins to the Present

Sophia 57 (2):211-231 (2018)
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Abstract

Derek Parfit’s early work on the metaphysics of persons has had a vast influence on Western philosophical debates about the nature of personal identity and moral theory. Within the study of Buddhism, it also has sparked a continuous comparative discourse, which seeks to explicate Buddhist philosophical principles in light of Parfit’s conceptual framework. Examining important Parfitian-inspired studies of Buddhist philosophy, this article points out various ways in which a Parfitian lens shaped, often implicitly, contemporary understandings of the anātman doctrine and its relation to Buddhist ethics. I discuss in particular three dominant elements appropriated by Parfitian-inspired scholarship: Parfit’s theoretical categories; philosophical problems raised by his reductionist theory of persons; and Parfit’s argumentative style. I argue that the three elements used in this scholarship constitute different facets of one methodological approach to cross-cultural philosophy, which relies on Western terminology and conceptual schemes to establish a conversation with non-Western philosophy. I suggest that while this methodology is fruitful in many ways, philosophy as a cosmopolitan space may benefit significantly from approaching Buddhist philosophy using its own categories and terminology.

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Author's Profile

Oren Hanner
Universität Hamburg (PhD)

References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Sources of the self: the making of the modern identity.Charles Taylor - 1989 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity.Charles Taylor - 1989 - Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity.Charles Taylor - 1994 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54 (1):187-190.

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