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Anatman, Identity and Change )

To: alt.zen,talk.religion.buddhism,alt.religion.buddhism,talk.religion.misc
From: dharmatroll@my-dejanews.com
Subject: Re: Anatman, Identity and Change (was Re: Smullyan, Robot-Anatman, Roshi Alarms (was Invitation to http://taoism.net))
Date: Mon, 22 Mar 1999 05:17:12 GMT

In article <36F509E7.354FFAA2@bu.edu>,
  Tang Huyen  wrote:

> In Buddhism, it is said that thing-events (including us) are not
> identical and not different: they (including us) change from moment
> to moment, and therefore are different, yet retain enough identity
> (inertia, momentum) to conserve a sense of ... identity. The recipient
> of the return of a deed is not the same as the original doer, and yet
> is not different.
>
> Metaphysicians insist on clear-cut conceptual choices: either absolute
> identity (as with Platonic-Aristoteltian Forms and
> Abhidhammic-Abhidharmic dhamma-dharma-s), or absolute difference
> (as the absolute is different from the relative in said metaphysicians),
> but the Buddha negotiates an in-between flexibility (and therefore is
> accused of being sloppy by the Abhidhammist-Abhidharmists).

Right. This is exactly the move made by modern analytical philosophers
in the area of personal identity as well. While *identity* requires such
a strict absolute identity or difference, Derek Parfit suggested that
identity is not what matters for my survival from moment to moment. What
instead matters is psychophysical continuity and connectedness from one
moment to the next. In a relational view of personal identity, there is
not a strict yes or no answer, and survival is always a matter of degree.
Thus Parfit also negotialtes an in-between flexibility as well. Of course,
this is the move to make, if Parfit (and the Buddha of course) are right
that there is no further fact to being the same person, but only the
recurrance of dharmas which are very similar to the previous ones.

> So, not the same, and not different, that is how the Buddha negotiates
> the treacherous waters of reality. He has high tolerance for ambiguity,
> conceptual ambituity, you see, while metaphysicians have zero such
> tolerance for ambiguity. Metaphysicians insist on clear-cut conceptual
> choices, and that is what makes him and them differ.

Until 1984, when all of that changed, and now there is a very Buddhist
feel to a lot of contemporary Western personal identity theories.

--Dharmakaya Trollpa

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