Historical Prelude: Varieties of Naturalism

Jonardon Ganeri

in The Self

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652365
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740718 | DOI:
Historical Prelude: Varieties of Naturalism

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The author identifes forms of naturalistic thinking in ancient India, in particular Cārvāka emergentism, early Buddhist trope dualism, and the minimal physicalism of Nyāya‐Vaiśeṣika. It is from a stance grounded in liberal naturalism that the Buddha investigates the moral psychological properties of suffering and craving, which are to be understood within a manifestly normative framework of wrong belief and mistaken conception. The false move he identifies above all else is that of “taking as one's own” particular states of mind, and in so doing fabricating an idea of self. This transition to a first‐person stance is a move, for the Buddha invariably a bad one, in the space of reasons. Cārvāka thinkers argue that mental properties emerge when physical elements are organised in systems of appropriate complexity, just as the power to inebriate emerges in a mixture of yeast and barley. Their conception of a human being is that of a physical body qualified by consciousness; it is the Strawsonian concept of a person, something to which both corporeal and psychological predicates are ascribed. The self in Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika, on the other hand, is best understood in terms of a unity of commitment, preference, emotion, and will, the unity of which is explained with reference to unconscious psychological mechanisms supervening on states of the physical body. What makes it a version of liberal naturalism is the account afforded of ownership: normative relations of endorsement and participation are constitutive of a thought's being “mine,” and so of the existence of a first‐person stance.

Keywords: naturalism; liberal naturalism; Cārvāka; Nyāya‐Vaiśeṣika; early Buddhism; ownership

Chapter.  7213 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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