Vasubandhu on Selfless Agency and Caring for Our Future Self (Departmental Seminar)

Joining the Seminar face-to-face:
Limited seats for face-to-face seminar. Registrations will be handled on a first come, first served basis.
Register by 10 March 2024: https://cloud.itsc.cuhk.edu.hk/webform/view.php?id=13683685

Joining the Seminar online:
No registration is required.
Link: https://cuhk.zoom.us/j/96785363542
Meeting ID: 967 8536 3542

Tel: 3943 7135
Email: philosophy@cuhk.edu.hk


The Buddhist critique of the self raises a host of theoretical and practical difficulties within the philosophical fields of ethics and action theory. Vasubandhu’s essay on the negation of the self (Ātmavādapratiṣedha), constituting the ninth chapter of his Treasury of Metaphysics (Abhidharmakośabhāṣya), acknowledges some of these issues and tries to address them from a Buddhist point of view. One crucial difficulty in this regard, which is of significance both to followers of the Buddhist path who aim for awakening and to ordinary people who seek worldly happiness, is the issue of self-interested concern for the future; that is, the agent’s motivations to undertake actions for his or her future wellbeing. The question is how such an attitude can be justified and explained, if no permanent self exists. In the present talk, I will present Vasubandhu’s answer to this problem. I will begin by introducing Vasubandhu’s treatment of the broader issue of moral agency in the absence of an enduring self and what I see as his understanding of the agent on the two level of truths. The talk will then present the problem of Self-Interested Concern for the Future within this framework and Vasubandhu’s way of accounting for this ordinary motivation. I will argue that it rests on the notion that psychological identification with a persisting self is a necessary condition for being moral rather than a hindrance for ethics. The talk will conclude by showing the relevance of this solution to the broader field of Buddhist ethics.

Delivered in English.
All are welcome.