chapter  13
10 Pages

Shifting coalitions, free will, and the responsibility of persons

Endorsing the extreme claim would make one an eliminativist, not a reductionist, about persons. The eliminativist agrees with the reductionist that there is no ‘self ’ separate from a body and brain and no similarly independent further fact about persons beyond facts about the person’s psychophysical constituents and their relations. However, unlike the reductionist, the eliminativist insists that the denial of such a self or further fact entails that many of our common-sense attitudes about persons, those targeted by the extreme claim, are irrational. Another way to say that reductionism implies the extreme claim is to say that a reductionism that is not also eliminativist is internally inconsistent-that reductionism necessarily slides into eliminativism, because one cannot consistently deny the existence of a separate self while adhering to the rationality of our normal attitudes concerning persons. My aim here is to evaluate the objection that the ID thesis implies the extreme claim regarding the third of the four features listed above, concerning responsibility. I consider Siderits’ account of Galen Strawson’s (1986) version of the objection and Siderits’ proposed answer to it on the part of the Buddhist Reductionist, which appeals to the concept of ‘shifting coalitions’ of self-revision in an individual. I argue that the shifting coalitions idea successfully disarms part of Strawson’s version of the objection, and so can account for a modest kind of responsibility (though not quite the robust sort Siderits has in mind) that is compatible with both Buddhist Reductionism and causal determinism (and so does not require a separate self or libertarian-indeterminism-requiring-free will). Nevertheless, while Siderits succeeds in reconciling a compatibilist notion of responsibility with the metaphysics of Buddhist Reductionism, it (and any account of responsibility whatsoever) will still be in tension with the soteriological aspect of the Buddha’s teachings because it requires the appropriation and identification of one’s mental states as one’s own, which is for the Buddha a source of suffering and an impediment to the only sort of freedom he explicitly recognizes: liberation from attachment.