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    The anattaa doctrine and personal identity
     
    [ 作者: Richard Taylor   来自:期刊原文   已阅:3713   时间:2007-1-9   录入:douyuebo


    ·期刊原文
    The anattaa doctrine and personal identity

    By Richard Taylor
    Philosophy East and West
    Vol.19
    P359-366
    (C) by The University Press of Hawaii


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     


                                    P359


            Descartes  saw that  he could  not identify  himself
            with  his  body.  He  therefore  vacillated  between
            identifying  himself  with  his  mind, and  with  an
            awkward  amalgam  of his mind  and his body.  Gotama
            Buddha  more profoundly  argued  that one could  not
            identify  himself with his mind either, nor, indeed,
            with  anything  at  all.  This  is his  doctrine  of
            anattaa,  that  there  is  no  self.   He  evidently
            considered  rejection  of  belief  in  the  self  as
            essential  to  blessedness, as  Lucretius  similarly
            abominated  belief  in life after death, for similar
            reasons.

                It is essential  to note, however, that the self
            whose  existence  the  Buddha  denied  was  an inner
            enduring  self, having an identity  through time and
            presumably being, therefore, capable of an existence
            independent  of the body  and the world, even  after
            death. Thus:

            If there really  existed  the Self, there  would  be
            also  something  which  belonged  to the  Self.  As,
            however, in truth and reality, neither the Self, nor
            anything belonging  to the Self, can be found, is it
            not therefore  really  an utter fool's  doctrine  to
            say: `This is the world, this am I;  after  death  I
            shall be permanent, persisting, and eternal'?(1)

            And all speculations on the self--whether  or not it
            is the self that perceives  the self, whether or not
            the  self  is  permanent, or subject  to  change--he
            dismissed  as  "mere  views, a thicket  of  views, a
            puppet-show  of views, a toil  of views, a snare  of
            views" through which no man will ever be "freed from
            rebirth, from  decay, and from  death, from  sorrow,
            pain,   grief    and    despair"-in    short,   from
            suffering.(2)

                Without  considering  the ethical  and religious
            implications of this teaching, I wish in an indirect
            way to defend  the claim  itself, that  there  is no
            personal self.  My approach will be indirect, in the
            sense that I shall maintain that a particular person
            or self is one and the same thing as his body.

                This  will, moreover, be quite  in keeping  with
            the claim of the Buddha, for in one place he said:

            It would  be better  for the unlearned  worlding  to
            regard  this body, built up of the four elements, as
            his Self, rather  than  the mind.  For it is evident
            that this body  may last  for a year, for two years,
            for three, four, five  or ten  years, or even  for a
            hundred  years  or more;  but that  which  is called
            thought,  or  mind, or  consciousness, continuously,
            during  day  and  night, arises  as  one  thing, and
            passes away as another thing.(3)

            Now one should  not, of course, on the basis of such
            passages  as this, represent  it as the teaching  of
            ancient Buddhism that the self and the body are one,
            for it was clearly the doctrine of Gotama that there
            simply is no self. The differ-
            -------------------
            Richard   Taylor   is   Professor   of   Philosophy,
            University of Rochester.
            1 The Word of the Buddha, ed.  Nyanatiloka (Colombo:
              Word of the Buddha Publishing Committee, 1952), p.
              34.
            2 Ibid., p. 34.
            3 Ibid.,p.40.


                                       P360


            ence between  these two claims is, however, only one
            of emphasis;  for, given that there  are such things
            as living  human bodies, i.e., living men, which the
            Buddha  hardly  denied,  then  the  two  claims  are
            logically     equivalent.     For,    given     this
            uncontroversial  presupposition, it is one  and  the
            same thing  to say (a) there is no self, and (b) the
            self  and the body  are one and the same or, perhaps
            better, there  is no personal  self other  than just
            the body.

                I shall, in pursuing  this theme, address myself
            to  the  question, What  is  a  person? And  I shall
            maintain  that any given person, such as oneself, is
            identical  with, or is one and the  same  thing  as,
            that palpable  physical  object  he refers to as his
            body;  in short, that no philosophical reason can be
            given  for believing  in any inner "self"  or person
            other than this.  One argument  often put forth  for
            denying  this claim, namely, that a man retains  his
            identity through time, while his body does not, will
            be briefly discussed at the end.

                Now this claim, that there is no inner self, or,
            as I prefer to express it, that the only thing a man
            can  claim  as  himself  is  his  body, is  a purely
            negative one, and cannot therefore  be proved by any
            philosophical discourse. All I can do, therefore, is
            to show that it is consistent with common sense, not
            inconsistent with anything that is known to be true,
            and that the typical  philosophical  arguments  that
            are often  given  against  it are inconclusive  and,
            usually, question-begging.

            What is a person? Now this question  can, of course,
            be  answered  in  a silly  and  superficial  way, by
            saying  that any given  person  is simply  identical
            with himself. This, however, only calls attention to
            the identity of the ordinary concept of a person and
            the philosophical  concept  of the  self, for  it is
            just conceptually true that every person is a "self"
            and vice versa.  And it is just for this reason that
            we  are  entitled  to ask, What  is a person? rather
            than the seemingly  more esoteric  question, What is
            the self?

              But it is, of course, possible to suggest  answers
            that  are not merely  analytic.  One might  say, for
            instance, that a given  person, such  as oneself, is
            (a) a particular  body;  for instance, that I am, or
            that  I am identical  with, or that I am one and the
            same thing as, that palpable physical object which I
            refer to as "my body." Or one might say that a given
            person, such  as oneself, is (b) a particular  mind;
            for instance, that I am identical with that thinking
            thing I refer to as "my mind." Or again, it might be
            claimed that a given person, such as oneself, is (c)
            an amalgam  of these  two;  for instance, that  I am
            identical  with that composite  of things I refer to
            as "my body"  and "my mind."  Or finally, it can  be
            argued  that a person  is none of these  things, but
            rather  that a given person, such as oneself, is (d)
            something  "primitive";   for  example,  that  I  am
            identical with something which is neither a body nor
            a  mind,  but  something  (namely, a  given  person,
            myself)  which   has  both   physical   and   mental
            properties.

                                    P361

                This last answer is, I believe, esoteric.  There
            is, in any  case, no need  to examine  independently
            any of the last three  answers  if the first  answer
            will do.

            Persons  and bodies.  Apart  from certain  religious
            presuppositions, which  I shall  leave  aside, there
            appear  to be two  kinds  of consideration, and only
            two, which  have  led  philosophers  to  doubt  that
            persons  are simply  identical  with those  physical
            objects  we see about  us all the time and which  we
            refer to as living  human beings, or simply  as men.
            The   first    is   linguistic,   and   the   second
            metaphysical.

            Linguistic considerations.  The grammatical forms we
            use to refer to our bodies and their parts appear to
            suggest  a distinction  between  ourselves  and  our
            bodies. Thus, everyone can say truly "I am a person,
            and  I have  a body," though  there  seem  to be  no
            contexts  in which one could say "I am a body, and I
            have a person."  Again, it is usual for one to refer
            to his bodily  parts, and  even  to the totality  of
            these,  by  means  of  a  first  person   possessive
            pronoun.  For example, I can speak  of my hands  and
            feet, my  heart, my brain, and  even  my body, which
            seems to suggest  a relationship  between myself and
            my body which is perhaps something like ownership or
            possession but not, apparently, identity.

            Reply.  Such  purely  linguistic  considerations  as
            these are highly superficial  and prove nothing.  In
            fact, if one compares  them with the manner in which
            we  commonly   speak  of  other  ordinary   physical
            objects, they appear perfectly  consistent  with the
            supposition  that  there  is no self in any absolute
            sense, but only bodily constituents  related to each
            other and functioning in such a way as to constitute
            a  human  being.   The  Buddha  has,  with  familiar
            analogies, made this point:

            Just  as that  what  we  designate  by the  name  of
            'chariot,' has no existence apart from axle, wheels,
            shaft,  carriage, and  so  forth;  or, as  the  word
            'house'  is  merely  a  convenient  designation  for
            various  materials  put  together  after  a  certain
            fashion  so  as to enclose  a portion  of space, and
            there is no separate house-entity  in existence:--in
            exactly  the same way, that which we call a 'being,'
            or an 'individual,' or  a 'person,' or  by the  name
            `I',  is  nothing  but  a  changing  combination  of
            physical  and psychical  phenomena, and has  no real
            existence in itself.(4)

            And I would express what I take to be the same point
            as follows.

                Every man can truly say, "I have a body." But in
            the  same  way one can say  of any  physical  object
            whatever  that it has a body.  Thus, I can say of my
            car that  it has a body, or of a table  that  it has
            four  legs and a top-and  this might  be all it has.
            This hardly  suggests  that the car or table  is one
            thing  and its  body  another.  Similarly, I can say
            that I have (say) a heart, legs, arms, brain, and so
            on, but no special relationship  is here connoted by
            "have."
            ----------------
            4 Ibid., p.11.

                                    P362

            Such a statement  only means, or certainly  may only
            mean, that I consist of a heart, legs, brain, and so
            on, along with other physical  parts, all related to
            each other and functioning  in a manner necessary to
            constitute  a living  human being  or, which  is the
            same thing, a person.

            Metaphysical  considerations.  If one  ventures  any
            true description  of something, A, and likewise  any
            true  description  of  something,  B,  then  one  is
            entitled   to  affirm  that  these  are  alternative
            descriptions  of the same thing--or  in other words,
            that A and B are one and the same thing--if and only
            if the description  rendered of A, whatever it might
            be, can now be applied  to B without  ceasing  to be
            true; and, of course, vice versa.  Thus, if one were
            to describe  a given man A as the father of numerous
            children, and a given  man  B as the junior  senator
            from New York, then one would be entitled  to affirm
            that  A and B are one and the same  man only  if one
            could likewise say that A is the junior senator from
            New York and B the father of numerous children.  And
            in case every descriptive  statement true of A turns
            out to be true of B as well, and vice versa, then it
            follows  that A and B are the same man;  or in other
            words, that these  are all just alternative  ways of
            describing one particular man.

                Now philosophers  have been apt in pointing  out
            the  incongruity  of certain  descriptive  locutions
            which, it would  seem, would  not be incongruous  if
            men  thought  of  themselves  and  their  bodies  as
            identical  things.  A person can sometimes truly say
            of himself, for example, that he loves  his country,
            is subject to quick changes of mood, admires Plato's
            theory of forms, is politically  liberal, and things
            of that sort.  It would  seem  utterly  incongruous,
            however,  to  assert   such   things   of  any  body
            whatsoever, and hence of one's own body;  to assert,
            for example, that  his body is politically  liberal.
            There  should  not be such  incongruity, however, if
            persons and their bodies are identical.  For if I am
            one  and the  same  thing  as my body, then  it must
            follow  that  if I, for example, admire  Plato, then
            that physical  object  I refer to as "my body"  must
            admire  Plato  too, this  body  referred  to  in the
            second statement and this self or "I" referred to in
            the first being one and the same thing, namely, that
            person  I call "myself."  But since this consequence
            seems  absurd,  we  seem  obliged   to  reject   the
            antecedent from which it is derived;  namely, that I
            and my body are one and the same thing.

            Can  matter  think? There  have  in the  history  of
            thought  been  many  ways of expressing  essentially
            this  same  metaphysical  point, all  of  which  are
            capsulated in the dictum that "matter cannot think."
            Thus, it has beep claimed  that ideas can exist only
            in a mind, not  in a body.  Or  again, it is thought
            obvious that matter cannot experience self-awareness;
            but since persons are undoubtedly sometimes aware of
            themselves, it follows again  that  persons  are not
            bodies. Or  again, it is said  that  sensations  and
            feelings are not material states or


                                    P363

            processes.  One could never  say that sensations  or
            feelings  are  transpiring   in  a  test  tube,  for
            example, because  the only kind of process  that can
            occur there is a physical process. Persons, however,
            do have  sensations  and feelings, and are therefore
            quite  unlike  the matter  that can exist  in a test
            tube.  Or again, there are certain  uniquely  mental
            things--mental images, for instance--which can by no
            means be described in terms of the concepts we apply
            to bodies.  One can  neither  say, for example, that
            such  images  are soluble  in alcohol, nor that they
            are not.  Persons, however, can possess  such things
            as mental images, so it would seem that persons must
            themselves be nonphysical things; and so on.

                It is fairly clear that all of these and similar
            familiar  remarks are but more or less crude ways of
            saying that matter cannot think, construing thinking
            sufficiently  broadly  to include  feeling, sensing,
            imagining, and so on.  And this dictum, that  matter
            cannot think, is itself a crude, epigrammatic way of
            expressing  the previous metaphysical  point, to the
            effect that there are many descriptive  predications
            which  are applicable  to persons  but not  to their
            bodies.  What we have here are certain  descriptions
            which, it is claimed, "make sense"  when applied  to
            persons, but "make  no sense"  when  applied  to any
            body  whatsoever,  and  hence  make  no  sense  when
            applied to one's own body.

            Reply.  In order to overturn this line of thought we
            have  to get a fresh  orientation  on the thing, and
            this I propose to do as follows.

                When one sees a man--sees a man tilling a field,
            for instance, or assembling an engine-what  one sees
            is a person.  One can point to that man and say, for
            instance,  that   he,  that   person,  is   tilling,
            tinkering, or whatnot.  It would  be incongruous  to
            say that his visible  body is tilling  or tinkering,
            unless this were understood as a funny way of saying
            that  the  man  himself, the person  pointed  to, is
            tilling  or tinkering;  for this latter is the truth
            of the matter.  One might  say of the man assembling
            the  engine, for  instance, that  he is reading  the
            instructions, inferring  the proper position of this
            part  or  that,  getting   things  wrong  sometimes,
            perhaps, and right  other  times, adjusting  this or
            that,  contemplating  the  result, checking  against
            diagrams, and so on.  It would  be quite strange  to
            say that his body was doing  these things.  It would
            be  incongruous, indeed, absurd, to  set  all  these
            activities down to his mind; to say that his mind is
            reading  instructions, adjusting  this and that, and
            so on.  It would be downright  primitive  to attempt
            distributing   these  various   tasks  between   two
            things--to say, for example, that his mind makes the
            appropriate inferences, that his body then makes the
            needed  adjustments, that his mind then contemplates
            the result, his body moving parts this way and that,
            and  so on--as  though  the work  of assembling  the
            engine were somehow divided between them.

                Clearly, we are talking  about  one and the same
            being when we say all of

                                    P364

            these things.  And the being we are describing  is a
            certain man, whom we see and point to. And that man,
            thus described, is a person;  for nothing  except  a
            person could be so described.

                The next  thing  to observe, then, is that  this
            man, whom  we see and  point  to, and who is one and
            the same thing as the person we are describing, is a
            visible,  palpable,  physical  object.   What  else,
            indeed, could one see and point to? And from this it
            surely   does  follow   that   the  person   we  are
            describing, the man who is assembling the engine, is
            a visible, palpable  object, a living human body or,
            in short, a body.

            Two common mistakes.  Why, then, do such commonsense
            observations  as  these  fail  to  satisfy  so  many
            philosophers? The  explanation  is  mainly  found, I
            think, in two common mistakes. The first is to treat
            certain  psychological   states  and  activities  as
            things rather than as states and activities, and the
            second  is to suppose  that the human body, being  a
            body,  can  have  only  those  capacities  that  are
            discoverable  in lifeless  things.  I shall consider
            these in turn.

            The first mistake.  Instead  of saying, for example,
            that  a  given  person, such  as  oneself, "has"  an
            image, sensation, or  thought, one  can  simply  say
            that  he imagines, senses, or thinks.  For instance,
            instead of saying that I "have" a mental image of my
            birthplace, I can surely say, conveying  exactly the
            same claim, that I imagine my birthplace. The former
            inept but common expression implies the existence of
            a thing  called  an image.  It is true  that no such
            thing  can be a physical  thing, but  it should  not
            therefore be supposed that it must be a nonphysical
            thing.  One can say, rather, that  there  is no such
            thing  to begin  with;  that there  is only a person
            imagining something. This implies only the existence
            of that  person, that  is, a certain  man, or living
            human being, and, perhaps (though  not necessarily),
            the  thing  imagined.  There  is no reason  why that
            person  may not be the very  man one points  to when
            one points to him. Indeed, it must be, for otherwise
            we could not point and say truly that he, the person
            so indicated, is imagining his birthplace.

                This  same observation  can be applied, I think,
            to  every  other  philosophical   locution  that  is
            brought  forth  as  implying  a distinction  between
            persons   and   their   bodies--such   as   "idea, "
            "sensation," "thought," and so on.  At least, I have
            discovered none which cannot be so dealt with.

                The second  mistake.  It seems  quite  obviously
            gratuitous to assume that the living human beings we
            see (which  are bodies) can have  no capacities  not
            exemplified  in inanimate  things, and to rest  this
            assumption on nothing more than the fact that things
            of either  kind are bodies.  One might as well claim
            that inanimate  things, like bricks  and stones, can
            think, resting this on the fact that, like men, they
            are  bodies.  If one  gravely  asserts  that  matter
            cannot  think, and then quite  validly  infers  from
            this that persons, who think, are not bodies,

                                    P365


            we can surely  reply that since those  living  human
            beings we see around us all the time do think--or at
            least, that there is every  reason  to believe  they
            do, and  no reason  to  doubt  it--then  the  proper
            inference  should  be that  some  physical  objects,
            namely, those  very  men  we see, do think.  And the
            same, of course, applies  to  every  other  capacity
            which  is  alleged  to be  a unique  capacity  of  a
            person: the capacity  to reason, daydream, plan  for
            the future, and so on.

            Personal identity through time. Are there, then, any
            special  problems  arising  from  the identity  of a
            given person  through  time which cast doubt  on the
            foregoing  suggestions? I cannot attempt  discussion
            of all such alleged problems, but one or two samples
            will, I believe, typify  them  all.  And  it can  be
            seen, I think, that they simply beg the question.

                Thus, it might  be asked, what  if  two  persons
            changed bodies--perhaps  gradually, bit by bit, over
            a long  period? Or what  if  they  merely  exchanged
            brains?  Or  suppose   you  and  I  were  physically
            conditioned, perhaps unbeknown  to us, in such a way
            that I (note) "woke  up" with all your memories  and
            you with all mine. Which would be you, and which me?
            What if, for example, I were forced to decide  which
            of these bodies  should  suffer  pain and death, the
            other  to be set free--which, out  of self-interest,
            would I designate for each fate?

                Now  it  should  be  obvious  that  in all  such
            questions it is simply presupposed  that a person is
            something  distinct  from  his body, such  that  the
            question  can, it  is thought, be  seriously  asked,
            Which person goes with which body?

                To see  the  absurdity  of these  questions  and
            others  like  them, let  us  consider  two  nonhuman
            things, such as two automobiles, yours and mine, and
            fabricate similar "problems."  Thus, what if the two
            cars changed  bodies, perhaps gradually, bit by bit,
            over a long period? Which would  be yours, and which
            mine? Or what if we merely exchanged  their engines?
            Or suppose my car were made to look just like yours,
            and yours like mine.  Suppose further  that each was
            physically  conditioned, perhaps unbeknown to us, in
            such a way that there  was every  reason  to believe
            that  what  I supposed  was my car  had the  history
            which was uniquely that of your car, and vice versa.
            Which  would  be  which? What  if I were  forced  to
            decide  which of the two cars should be wrecked, and
            which overhauled? Which, out of self-interest, would
            I designate for each fate?

                Now to affirm an analogy  here is, of course, to
            presuppose  that  persons  are, like cars, identical
            with  their  bodies.  But  to deny  the  analogy  is
            equally to presuppose that they are not. So, just as
            this alleged analogy does not show that persons  are
            bodies--which  it  was  not  intended  to  show--the
            denial  that  the two cases  are analogous  does not
            prove  any distinction  between  persons  and  their
            bodies. It merely presupposes that distinction.

                I do affirm, however, that no absurdity whatever
            can be derived from

                                      P366

            giving  the same kinds  of answers  to both  sets of
            questions. If my car were made to look like yours, I
            might think it was yours--but  I would be wrong.  If
            it  were  conditioned  to  appear  to have  had  the
            history yours had, I might think it was yours--but I
            would  be wrong.  If all the parts  of these objects
            were gradually  exchanged, there would be a point at
            which each would be about half yours, half mine.  If
            the engines  were switched, the exact truth would be
            that my car had your engine, or that your engine had
            my car.  And, I submit, exactly  the same  kinds  of
            answer can be given, with no absurdity  whatever, to
            the  similar  questions   about  persons  and  their
            bodies.  What any man would  think or say under such
            fanciful circumstances  is not in every case easy to
            see, but what the truth  of the matter  would  be to
            someone  not misled  and knowing  the facts, knowing
            just what has happened  with respect  to the two men
            involved, is not so recondite.


     

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