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The phenomenal separateness of self: Udayana on body and agency

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date2011
JournalAsian Philosophy
Number of pages18
Early online date6/09/11
Original languageEnglish


Classical Indian debates about ātman—self—concern a minimal or core entity rather than richer notions of personal identity. These debates recognise that there is phenomenal unity across time; but is a core self required to explain it? Contemporary phenomenologists foreground the importance of a phenomenally unitary self, and Udayana's position is interpreted in this context as a classical Indian approach to this issue. Udayana seems to dismiss the body as the candidate for phenomenal identity in a way similar to some Western philosophers. He also provides some inkling of how alternative ways of defending phenomenal unity without self fail. A criticism of some Western phenomenological theories of self is that they do not explain how unity is provided by the ‘mineness’ of cognition. Udayana's suggestion that a sort of agency provides such an explanation can be developed as an original argument for a phenomenally unitary self.