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The politics of emptiness : alterity, autonomy, and the radical subjectivity of no-self

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Item Summary

Title: The politics of emptiness : alterity, autonomy, and the radical subjectivity of no-self
Authors: Kalmanson, Leah Ellen
Keywords: emptiness
alterity
autonomy
no-self
Issue Date: Dec 2010
Publisher: [Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2010]
Abstract: Conventional portrayals of the subject hold that a person is a rational, selfdetermining agent, whose agency lodges in a single entity that persists for the duration of a lifespan--the entity called the "self." Legal and governmental institutions rely on this portrayal of the self qua agent when describing the nature of, and assigning rights and duties to, the political subject. This dissertation holds that a person's immediate lived experience, when exposed to scrutiny, fails to resemble a "self" as commonly understood.
As a result, legal and governmental definitions of the political subject fail to address the realities of subjective experience.
The dissertation turns to the resources of Asian philosophy, specifically the Buddhist doctrine of no-self as articulated by Dōgen in the Japanese tradition, to ground an alternative model of the political subject that better reflects the concerns of living persons. The doctrine of no-self denies that the self is a singular entity persisting coherently across time. Instead, this doctrine helps to show the self as (1) relationally constituted, or composed and sustained within a web of interpersonal interdependence; (2) protean, or capable of radical change; and (3) diverse, that is, tolerant of various and even contradictory identities.
As is shown, the doctrine of no-self is capable of addressing dilemmas faced by those twentieth-century continental and postmodern philosophers who also criticize conventional accounts of the self. The first two chapters focus on two ethical dilemmas relevant to postmodernist critiques of subjectivity. The first chapter establishes conceptual links between radical otherness and self-emptiness, and the second chapter constructs a sense of autonomy upon the experience of self-loss (as opposed to self determination).
The final two chapters use these ethical insights to explore possibilities for the political subjectivity of no-self, both in terms of the relation between persons and institutions and in terms of developing a radicalized political consciousness.
With appeal to Buddhist teachings on non-attachment and compassion, and with appeal to aesthetics as the appropriate source of standards for judging the creativity of the protean and diverse self, the doctrine of no-self produces an exciting alternative to existing accounts of the political subject.
Description: Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2010.
Includes bibliographical references.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/101917
Appears in Collections:Ph.D. - Philosophy



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