Review of and Response to Mark Siderits’s Interpretation of Not-Self in Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction

Alexandra S. Ilieva


Mark Siderits’s book Buddhism as Philosophy: An Introduction is an intriguing attempt to bring early Buddhist thought into dialogue with modern analytic philosophy. This review focuses on the author’s reconstruction of the Buddha’s argument of not-self. Using an ahistorical and philosophical approach Siderits reconstructs the Buddhist argument as an ontological denial of the self. However, I argue that a close analysis of early Nikāyic sources suggests a different understanding of not-self, one that is not an ontological denial of an essential self, but rather a far more complex, practical, and non-philosophical argument meant to show a path that avoids attachments, specifically to the self. I further argue that the methodology employed by Siderits in his book, although successful in recognising one level of sophistication in early Buddhist thought, is nevertheless less suited to the analysis of the specific arguments under consideration. Indeed it misses what I understand to be the more interesting and nuanced position taken regarding not-self, one that perhaps cannot be captured using a western analytic framework.


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