Concept of Self in Hume and Buddha
Desh Raj Sirswal
ICPR-JRF, Department of Philosophy, K.U.K.
The aim of this paper is to give a descriptive analysis of the conception of self in eastern and western tradition with special reference to David Hume and the Buddha. David Hume concludes that self is merely a composition of successive impressions. Philosophers call Hume’s theory of self as a “bundle theory of mind” and again Hume says, “I may venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.” We can easily consider that like other substances Hume also denies the self. We can compare this idea of Hume with Buddha. The Buddha denies the existence of any permanent entity either physical or mental. He considers the human person as a psychophysical complex. For him all worldly things are momentary and likewise the self is not more than it and rejects commonly believed conception of self. But how, it may be asked, does he then explain the continuity of a person through different births, or even through the different states of childhood, youth and old age? Though denying the continuity of an identical substance in man, Buddha does not deny the continuity of the stream of successive states that compose his life….This continuity is often explained with the example of a lamp burning throughout the night….The existence of man depends on this collection and it dissolves when the collection breaks up. The self or the ego denotes nothing more than this collection. But there is also much difference between Hume’s and Buddha’s conception of self. We can conclude that both describe self in empirical sense not as a metaphysical entity.
This paper is presented at 44th session of the All India Oriental Conference held on 28-30 July,2008 at Kurukshetra University,Kurukshetra.