In this paper, I will look at the no-self view Nagasena argues for, and question its demand for a permanent self. I will argue that the self exists because it is created, that the self does exist from its point of creation. I will then attempt to justify my argument’s premise as they help to resolve the contention that the self’s memory and history, which Nagasena does not account for, are what defines the self.
In The Questions of King Milinda, Nagasena argues that the self does not exist. Using the analogy of the chariot, he argues:
1) The chariot is not its pole, its axle, its wheels or any other of its constituent parts only.
2) The chariot is not anything outside its constituent parts.
3) The chariot is not all of its constituent parts.
Therefore, the chariot does not exist.
Rather, the name “chariot” is only a “generally understood term” for something that has all the constituent parts of the chariot put together. Names of composite things are merely empty sounds that exist as ideas, and are used to refer to the collection of its constituent parts when they put together in reality.
In relation to the self, the names we assign to the self would then have “no permanent individuality implied in [the] name,” because the there is no fixed collection of constituent parts that would form the same self. The constituent parts of the self are continuously changing, and hence, the name we use to refer to a self does not refer to the same combination and arrangement of a particular group of constituent parts through time. That is why he believes that “there is no permanent individuality involved in the matter,” where the matter refers to his name, “Nagasena” and the self to which the name refers to. As such, the name we use to refer to the self is a “mere empty sound” because it does not always refer to the same combination of constituent things. Because the name is a mere empty sound, it does not refer to anything in reality. Therefore, the self does not exist in reality because there is no permanent thing that can be used to define it.
I agree with the premises in Nagasena’s argument. I also agree that the constituent parts of the self are continuously changing. However, I do not agree with the conclusion from these premises that the self does not exist because there is not always the same combination and arrangement of constituent parts coexisting to form the self. The conclusion above suggests that the self does not exist because its constituent parts cannot define a permanent self. Nagasena’s argument requires the self to remain permanent. Instead, the history of the self can be considered an integral part of the self, which allows experiences to help shape the self and exist through the continuum of time.
I believe that the self does exist. The self exists because:
a) The self is created once at a point in time.
b) Things created at a point in time exist.
Therefore, the self exists.
The self is thus defined as a person formed with...