Metaphysical Reality vs Communicative Device


  • Anil Kumar Tewari Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University


Ātman, Buddhism, Jīva, Indian Philosophy, Nyāya, Śarīra, Self, Vedānta, Puggala


The objective of this article is to juxtapose the nonBuddhist and the Buddhist viewpoints of Indian philosophy on the notion of the self in order to see the rationality behind their conceptions. To pursue this objective, the paper is divided into four sections. The introductory section points to various usages of the expression ‘self’ in common parlance, which tends to encompass everything that matters to an individual. The second section describes various approaches adopted by the major systems of Indian philosophy towards the self. It is shown that the conception of the self as a metaphysical substance is more amenable to those Indian philosophical systems that believe in the plurality of individual selves. The third section is mainly concerned with the Buddhist counter-narrative to the notion of substantive metaphysical self. Since the parsimony of the Buddhist proposal lies in its metaphysical non-proliferation, the linguistic entities such as the self (jīva) or soul (ātman) purportedly referring to a substantive entity are declared metaphysically vacuous, but the convention of language enables us to pick out the intended referent which is nothing but individual person. Thus the above metaphysical concepts of the non-Buddhist systems of Indian philosophy turn out to be a 'communicative device' in Buddhism, without any metaphysical bearing.

Author Biography

Anil Kumar Tewari, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University

Dr Anil Kumar Tewari, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Head of the School of Philosophy & Culture at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, Katra (Jammu & Kashmir), obtained his PhD from IIT Kanpur in 2010 and worked on the Concept of Personal Identity in Buddhist Philosophy. His publications include more than 20 articles in various journals and conference proceedings. A recipient of three awards from All India Philosophy Association for his research contributions, Dr. Tewari is also an Associate Fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla.


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How to Cite

Tewari, A. K. (2018). THE SELF: Metaphysical Reality vs Communicative Device. Journal of Dharma, 43(3), 343–362. Retrieved from