Echoes of Anattā and Buddhist Ethics in William James and Bertrand Russell View Full Text


Ontology type: schema:Chapter     


Chapter Info

DATE

2018

AUTHORS

Nalini Ramlakhan

ABSTRACT

Surprising parallels can be found between the philosophical psychologies of William James, Bertrand Russell and Early Buddhist thought. James, a philosopher and psychologist who was influential in the early twentieth century, puts forth a view of selfhood that resembles the Buddhist doctrine of no-self (anattā). I suggest that James holds a reductionist view of the self that is very similar to the Early Buddhist conception of selfhood. The idea of relinquishing the notion of selfhood is then discussed in relation to philosophy of religion as well as ethics. I show how a no-self perspective, whether that of James or that of Buddhists, tends to support a form of impartial consequentialism in ethics. In fact, the endorsement of impartial consequentialism is evident in James’s own discussions of moral philosophy. Parallels can also be drawn with some of James’s ideas in The Varieties of Religious Experience, where various Asian notions of self-transcendence are treated sympathetically. The chapter ends with a consideration of various points of contact between James, Russell, and Buddhism. Russell, a friend and interlocutor of James, was impressed by aspects of Buddhism from an early age, and I discuss and examine the parallels between his early ideas and those of Buddhist philosophy. James’s exposure to Buddhist ideas may likewise have played an important role in his development. Though Russell and James did not agree on much else, they were both drawn to one or another version of the no-self claim and also both drawn to consequentialism. In the history of twentieth-century metaphysics and ethics – and especially the areas where they overlap – we thus find a hitherto unexplored triangular relationship between these two major figures of Western philosophy and a system of Buddhist ideas that was just beginning to make an impact in their milieu. More... »

PAGES

197-217

Book

TITLE

Ethics without Self, Dharma without Atman

ISBN

978-3-319-67406-3
978-3-319-67407-0

Author Affiliations

Identifiers

URI

http://scigraph.springernature.com/pub.10.1007/978-3-319-67407-0_10

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-67407-0_10

DIMENSIONS

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