Abstract for the Kant in Asia International Conference
at Hong Kong Baptist University
20-23 May 2009
Ellen Zhang, “What Is Personhood? Kant and Huayan Buddhism”
Personhood is a polyvalent concept that is ethically directed and philosophically embedded, yet notoriously difficult to define. In the Kantian theoretic framework, person or personhood is intimately connected to his conception of self that entails the notions of identity, individuality, autonomy, and freewill, all of which seems irrelevant to Buddhism, since the Buddhist doctrine of anatman suggests a kind of “voidness of personhood” that would disrupt the Kantian idea of self. In this presentation, I shall discuss two different yet interrelated accounts of personhood in terms of self in Kant: a transcendent conception of personhood and a transcendental conception of personhood, both of which speak of a rationally unified consciousness. Then I shall employ Huayan Buddhism as an example to explicate the Buddhist conception of personhood and discuss how the Huayan doctrine of Dharmadhatu-pratityasumtpada would embrace a transcendental conception of personhood in terms of one’s individual’s relationship to a larger existence.