Is Consciousness Reflexively Self-Aware? A Buddhist Analysis

Ratio 31 (4): 389-401 (2018)

This article examines contemporary Buddhist defences of the idea that consciousness is reflexively aware or self-aware. Call this the Self-Awareness Thesis. A version of this thesis was historically defended by Dignāga but rejected by Prāsaṅgika Mādhyamika Buddhists. Prāsaṅgikas invoke a distinction between two truths or realities; they deny an ultimate reality but admit the use of conventional frameworks. This article asks whether some contemporary account can withstand Prāsaṅgika critique and be accepted as conventionally true. It analyses the commitments of contemporary versions of the Self-Awareness Thesis into a fourfold taxonomy with distinct assessment criteria and shows how each can withstand four of the most prominent Prāsaṅgika objections. This article also discusses subtle differences in Prāsaṅgika criteria for distinguishing conventional truth and falsity and concludes by demonstrating that some defenses of the Self-Awareness Thesis can provisionally satisfy some Prāsaṅgika criteria for conventional truth. 

This article was shortlisted for the Annette Baier Prize in 2019