Abstract of “Auto-reflexivity as the defining feature of consciousness: a preliminary case for ‘self-luminosity’ from Advaita” By C. Ram-Prasad, PhD, Director of Graduate Research Department of Religious Studies, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YG, U.K.
Advaita Vedanta famously maintains that consciousness is ‘self-luminous’, against the view of Nyaya that it is ‘other-luminous’. Most Indian schools take one or the other position, albeit with significant variations. First, I will suggest a way of looking at the classical debate on ‘luminosity’ that I hope will do the following:
- (i) Help clarify the importance of this concept to any contemporary understanding of what should count as consciousness (let us call this the ‘not easy problem’…);
- (ii) Suggest that the core consideration of luminosity is best understood as the ‘self-luminosity’ of Advaita.
Then, I will explore some definitions of self-luminosity as given in that locus classicus on the topic, Citsukha’s Tatvapradipika. This will provide the opportunity to present my understanding of the Advaitic requirement for consciousness as ‘auto-reflexivity’: non-recursive, intrinsic constitutionality of access to content. This requirement turns on a combination of non-objectivity and non-mediatedness with characterisability, which both blocks obvious physicalist constructionist models and leaves open the possibility of further, primarily phenomenological study. The immediate conclusion is not anything as grand as an answer to what consciousness is as a criterion for what any candidate for consciousness should possess.