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Reinterpreting Buddhist's No-self Theory: A Philosophical Study on Human Actions and Moral Responsibilities
International Journal of Philosophy
Volume 8, Issue 3, September 2020, Pages: 82-88
Received: Aug. 29, 2020; Accepted: Sep. 14, 2020; Published: Sep. 21, 2020
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Nishant Kumar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
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The relation between human actions and moral responsibility for the consequences of the actions is a debatable topic in contemporary Buddhism. The reason is each action has either good or bad consequence(s). If consequence(s) of an action are good, the action is praiseworthy and rewarding. But if consequence(s) of an action are disastrous then the action is blameworthy. Buddhists endorse the concept of human actions and their consequences as they uphold the doctrine of karma. However, they deny the existence of a ‘permanent self’. Few questions arise in this regard. If a permanent self does not exist then who guides a person to decide the course of an action? How does a person choose to perform an action of the many alternatives in a situation? Who takes responsibility for the consequences of an action? This paper attempts to answer these questions by reinterpreting the Buddhist’s ‘no-self’ theory from epistemological and logical perspectives. While answering these questions, the paper discusses libertarianism, paleo-compatibilism, hard-determinism, and soft-compatibilism theories. It finds out which theory supports Buddhist’s claim on human actions and moral responsibility for consequences of the actions. This paper argues that Buddhists while rejecting the existence of a ‘permanent self’ affirm the existence of impermanent psychophysical entities (five skandhas). The mereological sum of these psychophysical entities is known as a ‘person’ who performs an action. A person becomes morally responsible for the consequences of an action for the reason that it justifies the Buddhist’s doctrine of karma.
No-self theory, Moral Responsibility, Human Actions, Buddhism, Theory of Karma
To cite this article
Nishant Kumar, Reinterpreting Buddhist's No-self Theory: A Philosophical Study on Human Actions and Moral Responsibilities, International Journal of Philosophy. Vol. 8, No. 3, 2020, pp. 82-88. doi: 10.11648/j.ijp.20200803.14
Copyright © 2020 Authors retain the copyright of this article.
This article is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License ( which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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