Grounding Individuality in Illusion: A Philosophical Exploration of Advaita Vedānta in light of Contemporary Panpsychism
Keywords:Advaita Vedānta, Adi Śaṅkara, Panpsychism, Brahman-Ātman, combination problem.
The metaphysical vision of Advaita Vedānta has been making its way into some corners of Western analytic philosophy, and has especially garnered attention among those philosophers who are seeking to develop metaphysical systems in opposition to both reductionist materialism and dualism. Given Vedānta’s monistic view of consciousness, it might seem natural to put Vedānta in dialogue with the growing position of panpsychism which, although not fully monistic, similarly takes mind to be a fundamental feature of reality. This paper will evaluate to what extent Śaṅkara’s monism can bypass the most pressing issues facing panpsychism, namely combination and individuation problems. As will be seen in this paper, while Advaita Vedānta is able to avoid some of the panpsychist problems, it struggles ultimately to ontologically ground illusion (māyā/avidyā) in a coherent manner. As a result, a conclusion of this paper is that although Śaṅkara’s vision offers a promising route for those philosophers who take consciousness to be fundamental – including panpsychists – it cannot be uncritically adopted due to the problem of grounding Illusion.
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