Thursday, March 03, 2011

Buddhism & the Problem of Evil - A Question About "Self"

Lawrence made a point re. my recent post on Buddhism and evil. He said: "The teachings on "non-self" mean that there is no such thing as a solid, unchanging self." I'm certain he is correct about this.

My response was:

What do you think of this?

In Western culture (especially Plato onward), and in Judaism-Christianity-Islam, the notion of "self" means: "enduring self," or "permanent self." In this tradition there is a self, an 'I,' who has attributes. The attributes are not themselves the self. So "I" have emotions, but I am not my emotions in the sense that my emotionsa re sufficient to explain "I."

So, in my tradition, the idea of "no such thing as a solid, unchanging self" is nonsensical. That's why, I think, many comparitive religion scholars talk of Buddhism as having non "self"; viz., no solid, enduring self that has attributes.

Like, e.g., a "soul."

As you may know, there's a lot of philosophical discussion going on now about whether persons have souls. See, e.g., philosopher Owen Flanagan's The Problem of the Soul, where Flanagan (as a philosophical naturalist) denies the idea of a soul, and then embraces trhe Buddhist idea of no-self (= no enduring self) as a religious or philoslophical option that syncs with his philosophical naturalism.