Non-Reductive Supervenience of Self or Persons - A Critique of Buddhist Reductionist Stance

10 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2020 Last revised: 27 Jan 2020

See all articles by Aakash Guglani

Aakash Guglani

Ashoka University, Liberal Studies, Students

Date Written: December 10, 2019


Whenever someone asks me, “What is your name?” I’m confused. The reason for this conundrum is the fundamental frameworks of Buddhist philosophy. The ‘conventional’ answer to this question is: I’m abc. Buddhists, in fact, agree with this answer. They accept that conventionally I’m abc and it is due to successful practice of answering this question multiple times in my life that it has become conventional truth. Ultimately, we’re aggregates of fundamental elements who have intrinsic nature of their own. In the Buddhist framework, the answer to the question what is your name is: conventionally, I’m abc but ultimately I don’t exist because I’m dependent upon lower level phenomenon to exist. Anything that has an independent existence has intrinsic nature. In this case, abc is dependent upon aggregates, therefore it is not independent and hence not an ultimately real entity. The question that arises: what is ultimately real. The aggregates? Yes, since they’re not dependent upon anything. Nāgārjuna complicates this. He says there is nothing in the world that has an independent existence. These ‘ultimately’ real entities also depend upon other entities to exist. Hence, all entities are empty of svabhāva or intrinsic nature (Garfield 318). The homogenous entity abc is a mental construction but since it has utility, one can use it. In this way, Buddhists believe in ontological reductionism. In the paper, I question Buddhist reductionist stance in the case of Self or persons with non-reductive supervenience using Nāgārjuna’s arguments and Hillary Putnam’s views on causal pluralism.

Keywords: Nāgārjuna, Non-Reductionism, Self, Buddhist Reductionism

Suggested Citation

Guglani, Aakash, Non-Reductive Supervenience of Self or Persons - A Critique of Buddhist Reductionist Stance (December 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Aakash Guglani (Contact Author)

Ashoka University, Liberal Studies, Students ( email )


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