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The concept of self is important in social psychology: self-concept, self-esteem, self-control, self-awareness, etc. As a science, these concepts are measured under scientific methods, and there are interesting results. For example, a positive self-esteem does not mean people only have positive self-evaluations, but about balancing positive and negative thoughts.

I think these results don't necessarily refute the central idea of Buddhism that clinging on the self concept will lead to sufferings, but on the other hand, Buddhism also advocates scientific methods to evaluate itself. As there are strong evidences that the self exists, I think it's better to say "there is self, but we shouldn't think about it to avoid sufferings" rather than say "the self is an illusion".

  • What is the Buddhist view on this?


FYI: • Buddhism and psychology: Perception and the self – Wikipedia
Social psychology: Self-concept – Wikipedia
Mindfulness is used to develop self-knowledge
How is the Concept of Consciousness in Psychology Related to the parallel Buddhism concepts?
What is the relation between measures, constructs and concepts?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Sep 12 '18 at 11:44
  • The Buddhist view, or discovery, is that the self does not exist. There is no evidence to the contrary. Science is welcome to go looking for the self but it seems rather obvious that it does not have the necessary tools or methods. – PeterJ Sep 18 '18 at 14:30
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"If the self is scientifically measured, what is the Buddhist view on this?"

Let's be very clear: the self has not been scientifically measured. It has not been measured by any scientific discipline let alone social psychology which is about as soft a science as you can find. Set aside the replication crisis that is most profoundly visible in social psychology and look at your assertion on the merits. Please cite even one study or result in a peer reviewed scientific journal - regardless whether it has been replicated - that shows the objective measurement of "the self" itself.

No, you cannot do this because there exists no such study or result. Why? Because all that has been "measured" by social psychology are ideas or subjective feelings, impressions, or perceptions about the self. But ideas, feelings, impressions and perceptions are not the same as the self.

Do you stipulate this is true? I hope so, because otherwise it will be hard to go further. If not, then again please cite one study or result in a peer reviewed scientific journal that even suggests otherwise.

Assuming you do stipulate, then let's correct your assertion above to:

"If feelings, impressions, perceptions or ideas about the self are scientifically measured, what is the Buddhist view on this?"

The Buddhist view on this is that these feelings, impressions, perceptions and ideas about the self are not in dispute. Indeed, the only remarkable thing would be if social psychology found that these ideas, impressions, perceptions or feelings about the self did not exist. But of course they do. The Buddhist view stipulates that all these exist and befuddle sentient beings into believing that the self exists in a real, essential, inherent way when in fact no such real, essential, inherent self can be found.

"As there are strong evidences that the self exists, I think it's better to say "there is self, but we shouldn't think about it to avoid sufferings" rather than say "the self is an illusion"

Again, if you think there is strong evidence from social psychology that the self exists in a real, inherent, essential way then please cite even one study or result in a peer reviewed scientific journal saying so. I don't think you can. No, what you'll find is numerous findings indicating people talking about their subjective impressions, feelings, perceptions or ideas about the self. That is not scientific evidence that the self exists in a real, essential, inherent way.

BTW, I never said that the self is an illusion. Rather, it is like an illusion just as all phenomena exist in an illusory-like way. Let me say that again for emphasis: far more than just the self, all phenomena exist in an illusory-like way completely void of real, essential or inherent existence. What's more, there is not one valid empirical scientific study or result that conclusively shows otherwise. Proffer even one scientific study or result that conclusively shows otherwise and like His Holiness the Dalai Lama ... I would be more than happy to investigate and change my mind if something, anything, can be shown to exist under ultimate analysis.

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    I think philosophy has been questioning whether a phenomenon is real or not, not just Buddhism. I agree that saying "strong evidence" that the self is scientifically measured is a bold claim, but given that it is the core concept in a science, I think we are safe to say it's real? I mean "real" in the scientific sense, not philosophical sense. – Ooker Sep 13 '18 at 3:09
  • Perhaps "measurable" is more accurate than "real". Money is measurable, but is also just a shared delusion. – OyaMist Sep 13 '18 at 11:36
  • I don’t know how you would define “real” in scientific terms vs philosophical terms. Can you give the two different definitions? – Yeshe Tenley Sep 13 '18 at 13:26
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    Yes, naive realism is a view that believes things exist inherently. Buddhism - generally speaking - disagrees. – Yeshe Tenley Sep 14 '18 at 17:03
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    Naive realism is just a priori view of some scientists and is not required for doing science or accepting scientific conclusions. In fact, many scientists working on fundamental physics - the hardest of hard sciences - say that naive realism has been refuted by QM. See the answer about Relational QM for more. – Yeshe Tenley Sep 16 '18 at 18:12
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We are fortunate to live in a time where science had made impressive progress and has confirmed many aspects of the Buddha’s world view, but to think and believe that the only way to confirm what the Buddha taught is to see whether those teachings are compatible with science, is the wrong way to go.

There are many, many things that have not been “discovered” by science (or philosophy) yet, and the depth that the Buddha Dhamma had gone in understanding the MIND has not even been touched by science yet. Therefore, trying to gauge the validity of Buddha Dhamma using only the known facts from science is like a blind man trying to figure out what an elephant looks like by touching a leg of the elephant. Science can accept only those phenomena that can be observed and measured with scientific instruments. Such scientific instruments are basically “extensions” for our six senses.

Buddha Dhamma is self consistent. There is self-consistency within the foundational concepts, such as Tilakkhana, Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, Paticca Samuppada, etc. Unlike Budda Dhamma, scientific explanations can change with time. Buddha has said that there is no “permanent” or “unchanging” self (which is called “soul” or “athma”) that remains the same throughout different births. Hence Buddha rejected both “permanent self” and “no self” concepts.

In current English translations, Sakkaya ditthi is translated as “self view” or “personality view” or “identity view”, etc. However all these translations have now come under scrutiny. As per the new interpretation given, Sakkaya = Sath + kaya (Sathkaya). “Sath” means – extremely valuable or useful or fruitful (the word “sath” has been derived from “atta” or “artha” which means meaningful or useful). And here the word “kaya” means the six pairs – the eye and the external sights, the ear and the external sounds, the nose and the external smells, the tongue and the external tastes, the body and the external contacts, the mind and the external dhammas. In other words here “kaya” means all the six internal rupa (sense faculties) together with all the external rupa. Hence Sakkaya ditthi is a wrong view that- all these “kaya” (all the internal as well as external rupa) are “sath” i.e., highly valuable or useful or fruitful or beneficial.

As stated in the OP, there is connotation of a “self”. Since we use names to label a person, that automatically gives the impression of a non-changing “self”. Thus it is a bit hard to remove this “sense of a self” from our minds. The Buddha said it is wrong to believe that there is a “self” and it is also wrong to believe that “there is no-self”. This is a bit difficult to comprehend first; that is why the Buddha said, “My Dhamma has never been known to the world…”.

  • The scientific method is one of direct observation/measurement, which is exactly the method of Majjhima Nikaya 27. That observation of what appears external, and observation of what appears internal, lead to different results is not possible, since the internal and external are dependent on each other. – Ilya Grushevskiy Sep 12 '18 at 13:07
  • Scientific findings are not inconsistent with Dhamma as given in the Tipitaka. However, there are many things in Dhamma that have not been confirmed by science. More are being confirmed as new findings emerge. Buddha Dhamma is self consistent. If you find any inconsistency, then the problem is in the interpretation of the Dhamma. The Buddhas use a method that is totally different from the “scientific method” used. Answers to ultimate questions on the existence of living beings who have complex minds is found only by PURIFYING a human mind to the ultimate level; that is what a Buddha does. – Saptha Visuddhi Sep 12 '18 at 13:26
  • The Dalai Lama was stating no more than no less than what the Buddha himself stated: that the Dharma he taught was open to investigation and analysis. What's more, he encouraged all beings to see for themselves and conduct such analysis to investigate the truth of his claims. Any honest analysis can only be conducted with an open mind ready to accept the conclusions of such analysis. Without an open mind the analysis is flawed from the start. This is the Buddha's teaching. – Yeshe Tenley Sep 12 '18 at 13:32
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    I believe the method is the same but the purposes are different. The Buddha's method is an observationally grounded method to escape suffering. The scientific method is a method that has no aim, other than to poke at the unknown, using direct observation. In this sense the two methods are different - the Buddha's has a clear goal, science lacks any goal. Hence the Dhamma purifies - as intended, whilst the scientific method random walks - both averting (short term) suffering, and causing it. The eventual acceptance of Dhamma by the scientific method will improve science! – Ilya Grushevskiy Sep 12 '18 at 13:33
  • The Buddha Dharma is absolutely chock full of seeming or apparent contradictions. Of course, these contradictions are merely apparent and not actual contradictions. Nevertheless, many ignorant beings experience the appearance of contradiction in the Buddha Dharma. In this sense, both the Buddha Dharma and scientific explanations can change with time and with the audience. – Yeshe Tenley Sep 12 '18 at 13:38
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Relational QM

I suggest that the common unease with taking quantum mechanics as a fundamental description of nature (the measurement problem) could derive from the use of an incorrect notion, as the unease with the Lorentz transformations before Einstein derived from the notion of observer-independent time. I suggest that this incorrect notion that generates the unease with quantum mechanics is the notion of observer-independent state of a system, or observer-independent values of physical quantities.

Dependent origination says exactly this, if only with different language, especially Nagarjuna's. Rovelli's QM is said to be (it is one of many interpretations, but the only which has no EPR paradox issue) a complete description of physical systems, same as dependent origination is a complete description of all conditioned phenomena. The Buddha in addition described the unconditioned element, which still eludes science entirely (as it must, as the scientific method is dualistic, requiring both observer and observed).

The theory of Self is a classical, even Newtonian concept. It is not 'wrong', simply less explicative and more prone to error than not-Self.

As for the direct question as to what the Buddha would say, this is a nice parallel to MN22:

“Bhikkhus, you may well acquire that possession that is permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and that might endure as long as eternity. But do you see any such possession, bhikkhus?”—“No, venerable sir.”—“Good, bhikkhus. I too do not see any possession that is permanent, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and that might endure as long as eternity.

“Bhikkhus, you may well cling to that doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who clings to it. But do you see any such doctrine of self, bhikkhus?”—“No, venerable sir.”—“Good, bhikkhus. I too do not see any doctrine of self that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who clings to it.

“Bhikkhus, you may well take as a support that view that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who takes it as a support. But do you see any such support of views, bhikkhus?”—“No, venerable sir.”—“Good, bhikkhus. I too do not see any support of views that would not arouse sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair in one who takes it as a support.

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