The Distinctness of Selves

Jonardon Ganeri

in The Self

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652365
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191740718 | DOI:
The Distinctness of Selves

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It follows from the Nyāya‐Vaiśeṣika conception of self that there is a multiplicity of distinct individual selves. The account of how they are distinct distances the theory from any Cartesian conceptions of self, which are faced by the threat that in the limit “there is absolutely nothing left to distinguish any Cartesian ‘I’ from any other, and it is impossible to see any more what would be subtracted from the universe by the removal of me”. Selves are individuated in terms of a common ownership relation obtaining between clusters of commitments, resolutions and intentions, delimited by normative emotional response and implying agency and sentience and so embodiment. Historically it would be a decluttered version of the Nyāya‐Vaiśeṣika view that would gain prominence in early modern India, perhaps because of the distinctive support it affords to an increasingly secular conception of autonomous agency. An early modern Nyāya thinker will recommend that once liberated the distinction between selves is dissolved, and he thereby preserves individuation by embodied mental life and rejects altogether an earlier doctrine of brute individual difference. Any imagined state of discarnate existence is not the existence of a self, and does not represent the survival of any individual.

Keywords: distinct selves; individuation; ipseity; Early Modern India; Cartesian self; agency; dentience; embodiment

Chapter.  5978 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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