A comprehensive study of anatta and its relative truth within Buddhism
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Often-times we question how two rational, logical, and intelligent people can observe a scenario or argument and come away with varying degrees of belief. The question of personal identity is no different, the self maintains its critics and followers, it is well documented through argumentation, defense, and theory, but though these arguments exist on three sides as rational and passionate defenses, debate continues between the three unique and well-founded sides of this issue. Whether it's the reductionist, the non-reductionist, or the no-self theorist, debate and disagreement exists over the consistency of doctrine and the viability of the theories presented by each group. To understand and decipher the elements of the debate, I propose a relative understanding of the question of personal identity, one consistent with the doctrine of Philosophical Relativity advocated by Peter Unger. Through careful study of the critiques, counter-theories, and counter-arguments of the doctrine of anatta, I seek to provide compelling reasons to doubt that an absolute answer to the question of the self is possible but also that a relative understanding of the no-self doctrine is plausible. Moreover, I focus on a new and distinct interpretation of the teachings of the Buddha, one of the central proponents of the no-self theory, whereby we consider a connection between the doctrine of Philosophical Relativity and one of the core metaphysical doctrines of Buddhism. Thus, I seek to accomplish two important tasks: I seek to cast doubt upon the absolute assumptions which drive the debate within personal identity, and I further hope to argue for a new interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings that is both consistent with the possible relative nature of the question of personal identity and true to the doctrine of anatta itself.