Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Santayana and the Buddhist doctrine of Anatman


Santayana in Scepticism and Animal Faith poses a question which is also applicable to the Buddhist anatman doctrine:

The ego, as Fichte tells us, unaware of itself, posits a non-ego, and then by reflection posits itself as the agent in that positing, or as the patient which the activity posited in the non-ego posits in its turn. But all this positing would be mere folly, unless it was an intelligent discovery of antecedent facts. Why should a non-existent ego be troubled with the delirious duty of positing anything at all ?

Buddhists of course go about the ‘delirious duty’ in a quite different manner postulating that vertiginous congeries, the five heaps. The fact of memory was the response of Shankara and is I think a sufficient refutation. Santayana goes beneath the tropes of faculty psychology to find in the animal response to nature an individuality which does not require demonstration but is the presupposition of demonstration and the discovery of structure. He does not seem to accept that evolution from hominid consciousness to human might bring a structure which is immediately known.

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