Free Will, Agency and Selfhood in India’s Nyāya Tradition

Document Type

Grant Proposal

Date Accepted

Summer 2011

Project Description/Abstract

In classical Indian thought, various schools have deconstructive approaches to selfhood: under philosophical scrutiny and meditative reflection, the self of ordinary experience is claimed to be superficial and reducible to more fundamental elements or states. This approach to selfhood generates a severe tension: our everyday understanding of selfhood is what supports allied notions of personal freedom, moral agency and moral responsibility. And all of the schools in question argue that moral excellence, which presupposes some kind of moral agency and responsibility, is necessary for a good life. But if our notion of selfhood is to be deconstructed, how to preserve moral agency and responsibility? This project is meant to investigate the sources of this tension and attempts at its resolution, as developed by a leading tradition of Hindu thought, the Nyāya School.

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