Losing Ourselves: Learning to Live Without a Self

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2022.11.10 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews

Jay L. Garfield, Losing Ourselves: Learning to Live Without a Self, Princeton University Press, 2022, 224pp., $29.95 (hbk) ISBN 978069122084.

Reviewed by Evan Thompson, University of British Columbia

The principal claims of Losing Ourselves are deceptively easy to state: We are not selves, nor do we have selves; instead, we are persons. Believing we are selves leads to moral egoism, and undermines ethics and moral cultivation; freeing ourselves from the belief in the self and realizing we are just persons facilitates ethics and moral cultivation. Jay Garfield tells us that these claims, and his arguments for them, are inspired by two philosophers: the Indian Buddhist scholiast Candrakīrti (c. 600–650 CE) and the Scottish Enlightenment thinker David Hume (1711–1776 CE).

The book’s catchy title is potentially misleading. We cannot, strictly speaking, lose our selves, since, according to Garfield, we never were or had selves in the first place. Instead, it…

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