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Episode 10: Buddhism and the non-self / October 30, 2020

With Pavel Nitchovski

Hosted by Hamish Stewart Keir Aitken

Edited by Signe Emilie Eriksen

Posted in Metaphysics Main feed History of Philosophy

Buddhism, and its metaphysics, is not given much attention in Western philosophy. Fortunately, Pavel Nitchovski, a PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was as annoyed as we were about this, and decided to teach the topic in the Summer of 2020. In this episode, Hamish Stewart and Keir Aitken quiz Pavel about Buddhism’s conception of the non-self.

Buddhist metaphysics starts with the notion that the self does not exist. But how is this idea formed and is it stable? Finally, how does Buddhist ethics look different as a result of there being no clear notion of the self? Though shrouded somewhat in mysticism and a rich history, in fact, Buddhist writings contain complex philosophical arguments for the non-self as well as a whole lot more.


1:18 – What are the basic tenets of Buddhism?

5:54 – The origination of suffering

8:09 – Why is the self an illusion for the Buddha?

12:55 – Could the combination of the parts not make up the whole (of the self)?

13:45 – Why might a non-self be undesirable?

17:18 – What, for the Buddha, is a person?

18:13 – Buddhist ethics

20:48 – A change of perspective for suffering


Further Reading:

Pavel Nitchovski's Twitter: @nitchovski

Garfield, J., 2015. Engaging Buddhism. Oxford University Press. Ch. 2+3.

Siderits, M., 2018. Buddhism as Philosophy. Routledge. Ch. 6