March 02, 2006

We have multiple selves

"Gandhi or Gramsci? The Use of Authoritative Sources in Anthropology"
Murphy Halliburton
Anthropological Quarterly - Volume 77, Number 4, Fall 2004, pp. 793-817
I became interested in the many Indian philosophers and philosophies that focused on the nature of the self, consciousness, emotion and related issues well before entering graduate school in anthropology. My attraction was partly due to what I felt to be the inadequacy of western philosophy and psychology—with which I was more familiar—to help me understand issues of the self's relationship to the mind, body and emotion and even to comprehend my own sense of self. Some Indian philosophers, such as those who identified with a school of thought called Advaita Vedānta, explored the self and related issues with great subtlety seeming to capture at times what I considered to be the complexity of existence and the fleeting, changing nature of the self.
Western philosophical and psychological perspectives were intriguing yet felt fixed and mechanical, unable to reflect the elusiveness and multiplicity of the mind, emotion and human nature (though psychoanalysis seemed more reflective and better able than others to account for subtlety, change and context). Basic insights of some of the Indian thinkers, such as that we have multiple selves coexisting with one stable or enduring self, which doesn't have fixed characteristics, or the belief that the self is distinct from the mind, I found original and at times even therapeutic... Project MUSE

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