Consciousness and Causal Emergence: Śāntarakṣita Against Physicalism

In Jonardon Ganeri (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Indian Philosophy. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 360–378 (2017)
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In challenging the physicalist conception of consciousness advanced by Cārvāka materialists such as Bṛhaspati, the Buddhist philosopher Śāntarakṣita addresses a series of key issues about the nature of causality and the basis of cognition. This chapter considers whether causal accounts of generation for material bodies are adequate in explaining how conscious awareness comes to have the structural features and phenomenal properties that it does. Arguments against reductive physicalism, it is claimed, can benefit from an understanding of the structure of phenomenal consciousness that does not eschew causal-explanatory reasoning. Against causal models that rely on the concept of potentiality, the Buddhist principle of “dependent arising” underscores a dynamic conception of efficient causality, which allows for elements defined primarily in terms of their capacity for sentience and agency to be causally efficacious.
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