Experiential Unity without a Self: The Case of Synchronic Synthesis

Monima Chadha, Shaun Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The manifest fact of experiential unity—namely, that a single experience often seems to be composed of multiple features and multiple objects—was lodged as a key objection to the Buddhist no-self view by Nyāya philosophers in the classical Indian tradition. We revisit the Nyāya-Buddhist debate on this issue. The early Nyāya experiential unity arguments depend on diachronic unification of experiences in memory, but later Nyāya philosophers explicitly widened the scope to incorporate new unity arguments that invoke synchronic unification in experiences. We argue that classical responses to this objection in the Buddhist traditions are not satisfactory. We offer a new solution on behalf of the Buddhists, with some help from cognitive sciences. We argue that there are different kinds of experiential unity and that, once we distinguish between these kinds, the Nyāya argument becomes difficult to sustain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-647
Number of pages17
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021


  • Buddhist no-self view
  • nyāya
  • synchronic unity
  • unity of experiences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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