Philosophy without a philosopher

Anātman as a special case of dependent arising

Authored by: Lou Marinoff

Routledge Handbook on the Philosophy of Meditation

Print publication date:  May  2022
Online publication date:  May  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367647469
eBook ISBN: 9781003127253
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter employs several analytic philosophical arguments in support of the traditional, literal version of the Buddhist claim that there is no self. However, to intellectually understand the no-self doctrine – or even to be convinced that the arguments in its support are sound – will not do the transformative trick on the psyche, such that the individual integrates that realization into their cognitive/conative psychological/behavioral systems. The transformative experience – and thus the integrated realization – of the unreality of the self, anātman (no-self), according to Buddhist doctrine, and over two millennia of practice consistent with it, is believed to be generally attainable only through a series of interdependent, highly disciplined meditative practices, and it is this experientially integrated realization that is considered the culmination of the Buddhist path: nirvana, enlightenment. If this is so, and if enlightenment genuinely counts as the summum bonum of philosophical wisdom, as it is conceived within Buddhism, then, this chapter argues, meditative access to this experiential insight thus has clear epistemic implications for our understanding of not only the metaphysics of personhood, but for the nature of wisdom and the practical means to its attainment.

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