This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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Re-conceptualizing ‘Self’: Exploring the possibilities of an East - West synthesis …

Preeti Mishra — Department of Education, University of Delhi.

The East -West dichotomy was never as profound as it appears in addressing the issue of Self. At the same time, however, never were the prospects of a fruitful complementarity of the two systems of thought, as intellectually stimulating, as in re-conceptualization of a more holistic psychology of Self. Self as an experiential or ‘emic’ concept in contemporary social sciences as well as ancient eastern perspectives is to be distinguished from the ‘ego’ as used in an ‘etic’ or externally analytic approach to personality in Western psychology. The west with its scientific- reductionist orientations has long avoided discussions on Self and consciousness as metaphysical-ontological issues. The reasons are twofold: Firstly, these issues by their very nature are not open to investigations by usual scientific methods. Secondly, a reductionist explanation of these concepts, in essence is impossible. On the other hand, the eastern theorists, in their quest for spirituality and transcendence, have invariably ignored the essentially phenomenal nature of human experiences, as a starting point. In establishing the supremacy of the ‘higher Self’ over the ‘lower self’, most eastern systems of thought have trivialized the lower self, as a consequence of which it has been relegated to the background in all discourses on self and consciousness. The problem of ‘Self’ lies uneasily at the border of science and philosophy. The present paper, thus, argues that to comprehensively address the issue of Self as an integral factor in personality studies, an eclectic approach becomes indispensable.

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