Buddhaghosa, James, and Thompson on Conscious Flow

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 7 (4):569-581 (2021)
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This paper is about whether consciousness flows. Evan Thompson (2014) has recently claimed that the study of binocular rivalry shows that there are some moments where consciousness does not flow, contra William James (1890). Moreover, he’s claimed that Abhidharma philosophers reject James’s claim that consciousness flows. I argue that binocular rivalry poses no special challenge to James. Second, I argue that because Thompson did not take up the question of how James and Abhidharma philosophers analyse or define flow, he under-described their disagreement in a way that obscures an important conceptual contribution that Abhidharma philosophers make to the study of flow. They reject James’s claim that there are only two conceivable ways for consciousness to fail to flow, and suggest that there is a third way for consciousness to fail to flow – a way that James’s imagination did not reveal to be possible.

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Mark Fortney
Dalhousie University


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