The two-tiered illusion of self
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AbstractParties from traditions in both East and West have claimed that the self lacks reality. I defend a version of this claim that uses some concepts and ideas drawn from an unorthodox (but argued-for) reading of the Buddhist doctrine of no-self (anattd). On this reading, the ordinary self is an illusion; its singular impression created by input from two sources. One source pertains to what I refer to as underlying witness-consciousness or awareness: this, I argue, is neither illusory nor mentally constructed. I argue that, through its very nature, awareness brings to the 'self a host of non-illusory features: a subjective sense of presence, the elusiveness to its own observation, unity (disparate percepts appearing to a single point of view), endurance and invariability (non-perduring, unchanging sense of presence). The other source pertains to what I call 'boundedness', and it brings to the 'self an ontological distinctness, such that the self is felt to be an individual, personalised entity with all the features of awareness. I argue that boundedness is not intrinsic to awareness, but comes about through desire-driven thoughts and emotions. When infused with the 'awareness source', their content depicts a separate self as their subject. Input from the 'boundedness-source' makes the self a mental construct, and the constructedness bestows on the self an illusory status. (For the self does not subjectively seem to be the mental construct it actually is: the self seems to be an unconstructed entity which thinks the thoughts rather than an entity whose existence depends on thoughts). In virtue of its two sources or 'tiers' - one constructed and one unconstructed -1 term the phenomenon a 'two-tiered illusion of self. The theory is to be contrasted with standard Western theories of self-as-illusion (e.g., Hume, James, Dennett) which tend to pin the selfs illusory status on unity and endurance, by regarding these features as illusory in themselves.
Bibliography: p. 263-273