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The ethics of idealism

The ethics of idealism

Reading | Ethics

Asher Walden, PhD | 2021-09-19

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Research suggests that there is a neurological foundation to the experience of social connectivity, and that it is the same as the foundation of consciousness itself: synchronistic alignment appears not only within an individual brain in correlation with experience, but also between people taking part in joint tasks. This can form the basis for an objective ethics, argues Dr. Walden.

We are in the midst—arguably and hopefully—of two simultaneous paradigm shifts. The first is the result of an economic and demographic transition from a world of scarcity to one of plenty. I know that most people are accustomed to interpreting current affairs in terms of the climate crisis, continuing political instability and various other causes for despair. But there are a number of prominent voices asking us to lift our noses out of the daily news and attend to the big picture of human history. Consider: the incredible and persistent drop in violence of all kinds, world-wide, in the last several hundred years; the dramatic rise in literacy and even higher education, for boys and girls; the development of vaccines to all but eliminate early childhood mortality; and most importantly, the gradual fall in average fertility, such that the world population is projected to plateau, and then begin to fall, within another generation. I imagine that instead of building walls to keep immigrants out, rich nations will be paying foreigners to immigrate, just as a matter of economic necessity. Nationalism as we have come to know it will simply make no sense. What will be the prevailing moral and political ways of thinking in this new world?

The second paradigm shift is the movement within the natural sciences towards an Idealist metaphysical picture. I won’t rehearse the arguments or the evidence for that view here. I only want to raise this question: Assuming that we accept the truth of the mind-only doctrine, what are the specifically ethical implications? Many proponents of non-dual and Idealist philosophy—especially those who have come to the view through some kind of personal transformative experience—feel that it has profound normative impacts.1 There is a renewed and intense call for love, unity and community. But can we derive an ought from an is? Is there a necessary rational connection between metaphysical unity and social unity? If so, then the new metaphysics can truly serve as a bridge between the empirical sciences and the humanities.2 A universalist and humanistic spirituality may be possible.

Now, the philosophical tradition encompasses a number of competing theories about what morality is. Given that we all agree that things like murder and theft are unethical, why is it that we characterize them so? Is there some objective fact or quality about these actions that makes them bad? If the focus is on personality factors rather than behaviors, what is the ultimate difference between virtue and vice? Is it just a matter of what traits we—or other members of our culture—like or don’t like in others and ourselves? Or what benefits us pragmatically, or what benefits the species in an evolutionary context? And so on. Well, it turns out that analytic idealism suggests its own free-standing moral theory, one that stands alongside the traditional ones such as utilitarianism and Kantian deontology. In this essay, I would like to lay out in broad strokes what I believe that moral theory might look like.

The place to start is with reviewing what this new perspective says about what it is to be a self, what it means in relation to the social and natural worlds. The conventional view is that the self is an entity that has some kind of independent and robust existence, and consciousness is something that that self ‘has’ or does. The self is logically and ontologically prior, while consciousness is epiphenomenal. The emerging view essentially reverses that relation, with widespread consequences. It says that consciousness is the basic character or substance of the universe, while our awareness of ourselves as discrete selves is an heuristic projection of one specific cognitive apparatus, perhaps the default mode network. This is the cerebral network that seems to shut down in the midst of deep meditation and mystical experience, allowing a direct perception of broader dimensions of being consciousness, especially the depth dimension of love, insight and ultimate unity.

Whether they realize it or not, humans participate in a consciousness that is greater than their own private, internal subjectivity. The ultimate substance of that subjectivity is in fact the world itself, and to the extent that we isolate ourselves from that greater world, we feel alienated, constrained, powerless and hopeless. Truly, the mystery is why we work so hard to maintain that illusion of isolation. The religious traditions have their distinctive ways of talking about that mistake: ignorance, the Veil of Maya, sin. What is clear is that it is both pervasive and strangely attractive. There are reasons why we cling to our error. But there are also good reasons why we seek to know the truth. Principally, the effort to rejoin or realign our own awareness with ‘that which is greater than ourselves’ is widely recognized as the main source of joy and fulfilment in our lives. This pleasure is the experiential side of what, from a practical side, is called morality. The concept of morality is best understood as the set of rules, behaviors and social practices which, individually and in tandem, serve to orient humans toward, and reunite us with, this greater consciousness.

This greater consciousness is not just a metaphysical or regulative ideal: it can be measured. In the growing area of social cognitive neuroscience, cooperative consciousness can be characterized by shared patterns of neural activity.3 Researchers have identified a number of ways of quantifying neural synchronization, which appears to be strongly correlated with phenomenal consciousness. Rather than identifying consciousness with any one neural circuit or part of the brain, it appears to be a function of the synchronic coordination of different parts, such that different kinds of information can be synthesized into a meaningful whole in real time. What makes this really interesting, is that phase alignment appears not only within an individual brain, but between people taking part in joint tasks. That is, when people are asked to perform an activity together, their neural oscillations align. This does not happen when they are merely performing the same task, or similar tasks in the same environment, or competing. Moreover, the higher the degree of cooperation required for the task, the higher the degree of synchronization. And the higher the degree of synchronization, the more the participants experience a felt-sense of connection, sympathy and being ‘in-tune’ with one another.

There is a whole series of pleasurable experiences and activities that share this characteristic as the central feature of what makes them enjoyable: music, dance and marching come to mind immediately, as well as group calisthenics or martial arts training. But any task in which people have to work together, in person and in real time, has this quality as well. The research suggests that there is a neurological foundation to this experience of social connectivity, and that it is the same as the foundation of consciousness itself. If the consciousness of an individual is measurable as the synchronization of different parts of the brain, then whose consciousness are we measuring, when we measure the synchronized oscillations between different brains?

This is all intriguing enough, just in conventional neuroscientific terms. Indeed, now is the time to recall that the technique to measure brainwaves (EEG) was pioneered by someone who was seeking to understand the phenomenon of ‘telepathy.’ Hans Berger believed that the brain sent out and received consciousness via electromagnetic frequencies, just like a radio or telegraph, and later discovered Alpha waves with his new technique. In a funny way, the simplest way to read this data is still quite materialist and reductionist. Only instead of reducing consciousness to brain activity, i.e., meat, we are now reducing consciousness to electromagnetic activity, i.e., light. Brains not only generate such oscillations, they also appear, at the very least, to be affected by the oscillations from other brains, if not the environment more generally. (The next logical step is to ask whether brains are really primarily receivers, capturing and channeling specific frequencies of consciousness-at-large in the universe.) Cooperative consciousness, then, is quantifiable, at least in principle. So what would it look like to treat consciousness itself as the intrinsic good around which morality revolves?

From a practical perspective, the essence of morality is cooperation. No one will disagree, I assume, that cooperation is a pervasive and significant part of human life. The extent to which we trust one another, even strangers, to handle our money and prepare our food, and not drive on the wrong side of the road, is quite astounding. The classical idea of the social contract is meant to explain the overall prospect of this cooperative living, both the costs and the benefits. It is meant to explain why we want to follow certain laws and norms or, at least, why we should do so, even when we would prefer not to. Generally, we are meant to imagine what it would be like if there were no such contract, and what it would be like to live as isolated individuals, truly self-reliant and independent. Then, we imagine what is necessary, what we are required to give up, in order to be able to live in some sort of society. And when the principles of the preconditions for cooperative living are made clear, what does it take to put those principles into action?

Not surprisingly, the principles are basically the rules and practices that we are already familiar with, and refer to, as morality or ethics. Precepts against killing, stealing, breaking contracts or bearing false witness, and so on, create an environment in which people are able to trust one another, or at least not fear one another, enough to get along with the business of a civilized existence. This involves the division of labor and trade, as well as, ultimately, the arts, education and democracy. Modern neuroscience has ways of measuring these benefits as well, by the way. In their work on Dignity Neuroscience, researchers at Brown University4 have argued that what humans need for their individual and collective well-being, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, can be grouped into five classes: (1) agency, autonomy and self-determination; (2) freedom from want; (3) freedom from fear; (4) uniqueness; and (5) unconditionality, including protections for vulnerable populations. Each of these sets of needs shows up in distinct neural circuitry as both a characteristic of normal human function and a site of specific deficits or pathology in the cases where people are exposed to privation, abuse, discrimination, violent conflict, and so on.

Now, in the philosophical tradition, the social contract often has a conservative edge to it. There is a sense that the laws as they are are the correct ones, and that any change to the moral status quo could cause degeneration into chaos. It is also quite minimalistic. It does not really result in robust social cooperation, at least by itself. Its goal, apparently, is to create a situation in which such cooperation is possible, but its benefits seem to be practical. The social contract makes it easier to live longer, but does not really explain what it would mean to live better. In its traditional forms, it doesn’t explain, say, what the meaning of life is. The new view of consciousness provides a way to answer the metaethical question about why cooperation is not only an instrumental good, but the intrinsic good. And it has to do with reinterpreting the relation between the individual and the community.

What the findings in social cognitive neuroscience suggest is that there is no intrinsic difference between the way consciousness arises and appears within a single person, and among a group of people. And if consciousness itself is intrinsically good, as affirmed in the mystical tradition, then more consciousness (or bigger consciousness) is better. But from a practical perspective, consciousness can grow and develop in (at least) two different ways: at the level of the individual and at the interpersonal level. The personal development of consciousness is perhaps most familiar to people within the holistic/integral/spiritual-but-not-religious community. Psycho-spiritual practices such as mindfulness, nature-walks, the arts and music, and so on, all serve to integrate and expand one’s consciousness as we normally understand it. The integration of the self (in a broadly Jungian way) is a rare and difficult achievement, especially for those suffering from, e.g., trauma or depression. (Perhaps we never fully ‘achieve’ it, but continually move closer to it.) As well as being an intrinsic good on its own, this intra-personal integration of consciousness is a necessary precondition for social and cooperative consciousness, just like the social and economic preconditions for cooperation described by the social contract.

Finally, cooperative consciousness also requires one last practical piece: a common cause or task. The way in which people coordinate their consciousness is primarily through participating in a well-defined activity or purpose: think of playing music in a group or orchestra, or a church group building houses at Habitat for Humanity. On the largest scale, if humanity as a whole to is to share in a greater consciousness, it can only be by pursuing a goal or ideal that all humans can take up. Josiah Royce5 referred to this as “loyalty to the cause of loyalty itself.” John Dewey6 described this as a regulative ideal in his discussion of a Common Faith, a public commitment to the public good. In the present context, we can say that the minimal social contract justifies the laws and practices that are already in place, but that we have an additional obligation to see that the benefits of the society so formed are expanded to all people, including the poor, prisoners, the ill, the handicapped, refugees, and so on. In other words, our commitment to universal human rights and universal human dignity must be realized through the formation of a truly universal community, in which all people have both the spiritual and the economic opportunity to take part in ever-larger circles of shared consciousness.

We have already begun to develop the tools to establish which kinds of activities, and in what circumstances, give rise to the greatest degree of integral and shared consciousness. To summarize, we have a series of successive dimensions of human development that form an overall trajectory toward greater, more inclusive, more comprehensive consciousness within the human sphere, each of which has empirical neurological expressions: (1) the social and economic conditions that preserve and support human physical and emotional well-being can be specified through Dignity Neuroscience; (2) ongoing spiritual formation and integration are investigated through research into the neuroscience of prayer, meditation and increasingly-mainstream psychedelic therapies;7 (3) local, interpersonal avenues of cooperative activity are being explored in social cognitive neuroscience; (4) a normative culture of building the universal community though actively pursuing human welfare is defined and comprised by the other three areas. This interpretative, even theological, work is being actively pursued by philosophers, theologians, empirical researchers and practitioners from various fields (including the contributors to this website).

The insights of the new Idealism, in tandem with the rapidly expanding pool of data from the neurosciences, provides the basis for an ethical paradigm that is breath-takingly new, and yet also quite ancient. This model of ethics is not just a theory: it’s a research program, arguably the most important one of our lifetimes.

 

References

  1. See, e.g., James, William, (1982). The Varieties of Religious Experience. New York: Penguin Classics.
  2. Kripal, Jeffrey J. (2019). The Flip: Epiphanies of mind and the future of knowledge. New York: Bellevue. doi: 10.1093/nc/niaa010.
  3. Valencia, Ana Lucia and Tom Froese. (2020). “What binds us? Inter-brain neural synchronization and its implications for theories of human consciousness” in Neuroscience of Consciousness, 6( 1).
  4. White, Tara L. and Meghan A. Gonsalves. “Dignity Neuroscience: universal rights are rooted in human brain science” in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2021, 1. doi: 10.1111/nyas.14670.
  5. Royce, Josiah, John K. Roth ed. (1982) The Philosophy of Josiah Royce. Indianapolis: Hackett.
  6. Dewey, John. A Common Faith. (1966) New Haven: Yale University Press.
  7. Pollan, Michael. (2019) How to Change your Mind: What the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence. New York: Penguin: 2019

There is no self: the periodic table of experience

There is no self: the periodic table of experience

Reading | Theology

Asher Walden, PhD | 2021-07-25

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Theologian Dr. Asher Walden argues that the self can be accounted for purely as a momentary aggregate of mental factors, without any need to appeal to some additional thing that stands outside the mind-stream. Although we normally think of experience as some kind of relation between two independent real things—a subject and an object—he argues that, in truth, there is just experience; experience is the real thing.

When introducing a discussion on the nature of consciousness, philosophers typically begin with this sort of comment: “As I sit at my desk, I am aware of the sound of voices chatting cheerfully across the room. It is like the babbling of the ocean on a peaceful summer day. Also, I become aware that I am aware of that sound. This is a common enough event—it is usually called self-consciousness, or reflexive awareness, or something similar.”

This all seems innocuous enough. Not the kind of point which, by itself, would seem to start an argument. I suppose they are (unconsciously?) following the precedent set by Descartes in his Meditations. And yet it is viciously misleading. Despite the excellent and important work that has been done in developing and exploring the mind-only doctrine, we still carry along some old assumptions about what consciousness is and how it works which could not possibly be true. One of these is the assumption that the human person, or even the human brain, is the basic unit or locus of consciousness. This gives rise to a number of problems from the standpoint of technical academic philosophy. But it is also the foundation of what I think gives people such a hard time even considering idealism* as a real possibility. My guess is, when people reject idealism out of hand, it has to do with the feeling that consciousness is essentially something individual humans have or do. This is almost a grammatical or linguistic point: what we should be saying is that consciousness is something we participate in or share.

If you want a clearer and more typical example of what consciousness is, pick one of these: sharing a joke with friends; playing music together; locking gazes however briefly with an attractive stranger; playing chess or team sports; even watching a movie or play in a theatre, surrounded by strangers. If you like evolutionary modes of thinking, treat consciousness (especially higher-order consciousness) as a way of coordinating purposes or intentions across organisms. Is there such a thing as truly private, isolated awareness? Possibly, in defective or pathological cases. But even as I write this, sitting alone at my desk (overhearing those cheerful human voices), I am in implicit conversation with a community of scholars who share with me a set of ideas, interpretations, and values. You and I share a thought-sphere which is not localized in space or time. Hello, my friends. Nice to be here with you.

In order to get behind this illusion of isolated consciousness, I would like to discuss an alternate form of analysis based on the Buddhist text tradition called Abhidharma. Now, anyone interested in the philosophy of idealism should be at least familiar with the availability of resources in Buddhist philosophy. Buddhists were, so to speak, first on the scene with respect to the relevant insights. And they have developed over the course of millennia some powerful tools and strategies around the analysis of mind, language, truth, and metaphysics. In the last generation, there has been a powerful resurgence of interest in these approaches among Western-trained analytic philosophers. Here, I want to focus on just one: the idea that the whole world can be described in terms of individual ‘units’ of consciousness, called dharmas.

What are the dharmas? They are sort of the phenomenological equivalent of the periodic table of elements. The idea is that any manifestation of consciousness can be understood as some combination of discrete, indivisible mental factors. And since the whole world is understood to be consciousness only, the discrete modes of consciousness are also—modes of being. Like the atomic elements of physics, these mental factors can be organized into functional groups for heuristic and pedagogical purposes. Over the centuries, a number of lists of the Dharmas have been compiled, usually comprising around 50 to 100 mental factors. Generally, the strategy is to come up with the smallest list possible that accounts for all aspects of consciousness, including the various forms of higher-order, reflective consciousness and meta-cognition. Thus, the basic units of consciousness are these mental factors, not persons. From the Buddhist standpoint, the subjective self is not an ultimate or really existing ‘thing.’ It is simply, if you like, a localized cluster of momentary factors. The factors are enough to explain why we experience ourselves as selves, discrete and enduring in time, even though being a self is more akin to a wave or eddy in the ocean of consciousness.

Likewise, what we call consciousness is not just one thing, or place, or container, within which various kinds of content occur. Instead, we should understand it as a tightly interwoven bundle of different conscious elements. What are those elements? They include sense-factors, more or less wholesome desires, what we call moral or personality factors, and so on. The list is quite heterogenous and not at all easy to organize in a clear logical schematic. Many of the factors appear ‘simple’ or atomic (colors and other elements of vision; hot and cold; pain, itch and tickle, etc.). Others may seem higher order, even constructed, such as the way the mind synthesizes discrete objects, and moral perceptions such as shame. Thus, mental factors are modular in some cases and to some extent, but in other cases hierarchical. A given factor may simultaneously act independently and also as a subcomponent for one or more other factors. The traditional methodology for developing the list, the sub-categories, and the typical interactions between elements, involved both contemplative introspection and interpretation of the Buddhist scriptures. Nowadays, we can add another set of powerful tools from the neurosciences.

To summarize briefly, the list we would generate today would look something like this:

  1. The four external senses (sight, sound, smell, taste).
  2. The four internal/projective senses (touch, proprioception, balance, and visceral interoception).
  3. The various perceptual ‘parts’ of those senses, if they have parts. For instance, taste has five parts (sweet, sour, etc.), balance has three parts (up/down, forward/back, left/right), smell has no parts. Interoception doesn’t quite have parts—it may be better to think of it as its own category, comprising hunger, thirst, sexual desire, and so on.
  4. A number of specialized modules that build upon the foregoing factors. They include the perception of language, number, human faces, intention, time, and perhaps a few others.
  5. The factors of judgment (personality dimensions, moral intuitions).
  6. Three overarching forms of synthesis: the synthesis of self, which neuroscientists describe as the ‘body schema’; the synthesis of world, conjoining the four external senses in the context of number, time, and the other specialized modules; and the synthesis of judgment, which combines our various desires and judgment factors to produce our sense of freely determined will.
  7. The traditional lists of Abhidharma also include one ‘unconditioned’ element: nirvana. I see no reason not to include it here, though we may want to quibble about the proper name for it. It could be called nothingness or emptiness in English, but I actually prefer to call it Kenosis,** both as a way to invite conversation with the Christian mystical traditions, and also because Kenosis has the sense of an activity or process, rather than a state: ‘Emptying’ (Perhaps in German, it would be called ‘Dasein’).

This list is not final: it is an ongoing and still-shifting product of empirical research and interpretation. Generally speaking, the purpose of this kind of list is to understand the structure of phenomenal experience. In the Buddhist framework, suffering is caused by an ignorance of the true nature of the self and the world, and attachment to a certain misconstrual of the same. Abhidharma is the attempt to explain both the true nature of experience, and the reasons why we come to the incorrect conclusions that we typically do. We believe that we are selves, and that our experience is something that happens in and for that self. The Buddhist (and Idealist) reply is that experience is all there is.

No one would be surprised if, looking out the same window, he consistently saw the same things, day in and day out. Or if, working in the same office, she had the same experience of job-satisfaction. Just so, the sum of subjective experience is very consistent over time simply because the modes of consciousness are taking place in the same location, namely our body. Indeed, many of the modes of consciousness we enjoy not only are structured from the perspective of the body (vision, orientation in space) but are really about bodily states (hunger, pain, proprioception). Of course, perception of self takes place within the synthesis of physiological modes (the body schema) and also, perhaps more importantly, social modes of consciousness. Much of what we call self-consciousness is really the awareness of our rank or status in relation to the other people we regularly encounter, resulting in a pattern of awareness commonly referred to as ‘self-esteem.’ This is one of the nine modes of judgment mentioned above. There is also the unconditioned element of nirvana, which is a kind of background hum which, here as elsewhere, we misconstrue as something private and internal. This mental factor is, I suspect, the one that gives rise to the irreducible suchness of the first-person perspective, which many people think cognitive science will simply never be able to ‘explain.’ The point is that the self can be exhaustively accounted for as a momentary aggregate of mental factors, without any need to appeal to some additional thing that stands outside the mind-stream.

Similarly, we believe that our perceptual experience is about independently existing external objects. But the Buddhists have a host of skeptical arguments against this notion (I won’t try to summarize those arguments here). Instead, the physical objects we perceive have no depth nature, essence or glue to play the role of cause or source or substrate of those cognizable qualities that are the content of our awareness of them. Things are just functional unities of qualities: both the qualities we are able to perceive directly, and any other qualities which we do not. This does not mean, or require, that at any given time some sentient being is or must be in the act of actually perceiving them. It just means that everything there is to know or say about a thing is the sort of thing that can be, as we normally say, within consciousness.

The overall upshot of the deconstruction of the independent self and the complementary deconstruction of enduring objects is a ‘flipped’ understanding of experience. We normally think of experience as some kind of relation between two independent real things: a subject and an object. But the truth is that there is just experience—experience is the real thing. It just happens to be the case that experience has this bipolar structure for us, constrained and extended between the synthesis of self and the synthesis of world, with the synthesis of judgment determining our actions and reactions from the one toward the other. These things are mental factors, factors of consciousness. In other words, they are qualities or dimensions of consciousness, misconstrued as the foundation of consciousness itself. Consciousness has no foundation. It is the foundation.

Finally, the Abhidharmic analysis of consciousness in terms of dharmas or mental factors paves the way for an understanding of consciousness as something that is intrinsically shared, public. The perception of a color or a note is not something internal and private at all. It is a reality that any of us who are looking at the same thing or listening to the same music can share in. Just as we normally think of physical bodies standing near to one another, in the same room, we should think of ourselves as occupying or participating in the same consciousness, in phenomenal proximity to one another. A person experiences similar (though not identical) things over time: what this really means is that, at two points in time, the content of experience is represented by two largely overlapping sets of dharmas. Just so, two people, at the same time, in the same place, are constituted by two overlapping sets of dharmas. The closer they are in space and in mutual understanding, the greater the overlap in dharmas will be. This point must be emphasized as much as possible: it is not that they have different experiences of the same things; rather, it is the same experience happening along two different vectors, as if a tree had two branches that diverged and then grew back together, or like a steam that divides around an island and then rejoins itself.

Philosophy and religion share, at their core, the problem of living together. How do we do it? What are the costs? What, impossibly, would the alternative be? Religion gives us the forms; the rituals and institutions and creeds, by which humans harmonize their experience, values and goals. Philosophy is reflection on the preconditions for the possibility that such forms are successful. Living together—this is all that matters.

What they call solipsism represents a real and legitimate fear, for creatures such as ourselves. Much of the time, communication and cooperation are so smooth and seamless that we take it for granted that we share a common ground, common experience. But when things break down, in families and in politics, the walls go up, and the community splinters. Then we wonder: how could those others possibly know how we feel? How could they possibly be so misguided? Do they even live in the same world as us? And sometimes, the problem is not with them, but with me: why is it so hard to reach out? Why don’t I feel included? Am I really as alone as I seem to be? When philosophers ask about how we gain knowledge of the world, they are implicitly asking about something we do together. They are asking how we all end up with the same knowledge, about the same world. How is such knowledge possible? How do I know that what I experience is not a kind of hallucination?

The philosophy of idealism addresses these questions by defending, in the most consistent and tenacious way, the reality of common experience. Rather than individual beings, with more or less similar experiences, the world is constituted by common experience, structured in the shape of more or less overlapping and interdependent selves.

 

* Editor’s note: Idealism is the notion that all nature is mental in essence.

** Editor’s note: kenosis means an emptying out of one’s own individual self and will.

 

Selected References:

Baron-Cohen, Simon. Mindblindness: An essay on autism and theory of mind. The MIT Press, 1995.

Bodhi, Bhikkhu, ed., Mahathera Narada, trans. & ed. A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: the Abhidammatha sangaha of Acariya Anuruddha. Buddhist Publication Society, 1993.

Chan, Wing-Tsit, ed. and trans. A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton University Press, 1969.

Chadha, Monima. No-Self and the phenomenology of agency. Phenom Cogn Sci 16187–205 (2017).

Cook, Francis K., trans. Three texts on Consciousness Only. BDK America, 2006.

Garfield, Jay. Empty Words: Buddhist philosophy and cross-cultural interpretation. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage Books, 2012.

Nettle, Daniel. Personality: What makes you the way you are. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Nyanaponika Thera. Bhikkhu Bodhi, ed. Abhidhamma Studies: Buddhist Explorations of Consciousness and Time. Wisdom Publications, 2010.

Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works. W.W. Norton & Co., 1999.

Siderits, Mark, Evan Thompson, and Dan Zahavi, eds. Self, no self?: Perspectives from analytical, phenomenological, and Indian traditions. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. G.E.M. Anscombe, trans. Wiley-Blackwell, 1973.

Wood, Thomas E. Mind Only: A philosophical and doctrinal analysis of the Vijnanavada. University of Hawaii Press, 1991.