The Proceedings of the Twenty-First World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 9, 2006

Philosophical Anthropology

William F. Vallicella
Pages 29-33

Can the Chariot Take Us to the Land of No Self?

This paper examines a famous argument for the Buddhist doctrine of anatta ("no self) according to which nothing possesses self-nature or substantial reality. The argument unfolds during a debate between the monk Nagasena and King Milinda (Menandros). Nagasena's challenge to the King is that he demonstrate the substantial reality of the chariot in which he arrived at their meeting when said chariot is (i) not identical to any one of its proper parts, (ii) not identical to the mereological sum of its proper parts, and (iii) not identical to anything wholly distinct from its parts. After presenting the argument and defending it against a plausible objection, I argue that it cannot be taken to show that persons lack self-nature.