Culture and Self: Philosophical and Religious Perspectives, East and West

Culture and Self: Philosophical and Religious Perspectives, East and West

Culture and Self: Philosophical and Religious Perspectives, East and West

Culture and Self: Philosophical and Religious Perspectives, East and West


Traditional scholars of philosophy & religion, both East & West, often place a major emphasis on analyzing the nature of "the self." In recent decades, there has been a renewed interest in analyzing self, but most scholars have not claimed knowledge of an ahistorical, objective, essential self free from all cultural determinants. The contributors to this volume recognize the need to contextualize specific views of self & to analyze such views in terms of the dynamic, dialectical relations between self & culture.


A major reason for publishing this book arose from the recognition that contemporary scholars are investigating the nature of "the self" in radically new ways. Indeed, they now usually approach their subject matter from nontraditional scholarly perspectives, cognizant that they must do justice to the specific cultural and historical contexts within which specific concepts of self are formulated. Investigation of "the self" has, of course, been a major philosophical and religious concern throughout both the East and the West. But traditional Eastern and Western philosophies and religions have generally been concerned with establishing the true, objective self, free from all cultural determinants. By way of contrast, the contributors to this book assume that views of self must be historically and culturally situated. Yet because they also want to avoid the sort of facile relativism and subjectivism whereby "anything goes," their studies are replete with value judgments.

An unusual feature of this book is that all of its chapters focus on traditions and individuals, East and West, yet also emphasize comparative philosophy, religion, and culture. Unlike collections that include sections on Chinese concepts of self, Indian concepts of self, and so forth, the present volume brings specific Eastern and Western perspectives into a dynamic comparative relation.

This comparative orientation emphasizes the sense of interrelatedness and interdependency increasingly being felt throughout the world. Not only must we attempt to do justice to the other as other, but it is only in relation to that which is other that we can truly understand ourselves. In addition, this comparative approach emphasizes a view of individual and cultural creativity. It is through the encounter with the other that we are provided with the means for overcoming our self-imposed isolation and cultural provincialism and for realizing our potential as self-transcending creative beings.

This volume is intended to appeal not just to specialists but to general readers across a variety of disciplines. Among such disciplines are Eastern philosophy and religion in particular and Asian studies in general; comparative philosophy, religion, and cultural studies; and investigations of "the self" and "the person." Indeed, the audience for the book potentially extends far beyond the disciplinary boundaries of philosophy and religion.

So that nonspecialists can more easily read and pronounce the Sanskrit and other Asian terms used throughout, the editor has spelled them out and eliminated their diacritical marks.

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