The experience of the Self that is given in the existence of a personality comprises five conditioned attributes, namely, corporeal form (rûpa), sensations (vedanâ), perceptions (saññâ), emotions (sankhâra) and consciousness (viññâna). These five clusters (pañca khandha) determine all the body and mental phenomena of our contingent and finite experience. The North–American Buddhist philosopher Robert Thurman gives us vivid images of each of the mentioned elements:

We begin by looking at the body. We can […] thump our chests and say, ‘I’m me’, but surely we are not just a bunch of ribs. We look in the mirror and say, ‘There I am’, but we say the same thing when we see old snapshots of ourselves […] We can explore cells, axons, and dendrites; molecules, DNA, and RNA; atoms, subatomic quantum particles, unnameable forces and energies. Nowhere we can find anything still, static, independent. […]

We can move on to our minds and begin by sifting through our feelings, sensations, pleasures, pains, or numbnesses. […] I investigate my sensory surfaces and, after some time, give up finding any stable, self–sufficient ‘I’ anywhere along them.

Then we can move into images, words, symbols, ideas, concepts, mental pictures. This at first seems promising. ‘I’ is a word, after all. The names ‘Alice’, ‘Joe’, ‘Carol’, and ‘Shakyamuni’ all are nouns. When I pronounce my own name, ‘Bob’, does an image of myself arise in my mind? Is it a recent snapshot of my face? […] A curriculum vitae? A biography? Is it a favorite logo? A trademark? A symbol? […] None touches the essence of ‘me’. […]

We can move deeper into the motions of the mind, into emotions. When ‘I’ love or am in love, I feel powerfully present, even in the moment of feeling that solidity melting. When ‘I’ hate, I am carried away by destructive impulses […] – all these energies seem to take hold of ‘me’, or seem to emanate from ‘I’. But as I think them through, observe them in actuality or in memory, they seem fully bound in relationships. […]

At last we come to awareness itself, to look at our very consciousness […] But to turn toward my center of awareness, I have to tell my awareness to turn back on itself.

Thurman, Robert, Inner Revolution: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Real Happiness, New York: Riverhead Books, 1998 (pp.74–79)

What we can say is that our personality is but the result of a combination of those five elements – to the point that the belief in its autonomy and permanence ends up being a suffering–causing illusion. In none of the mentioned clusters would we be able to detect the presence of an autonomous and unconditioned subject; therefore, the insistence in any of them will necessarily lead to suffering.

Correia, Carlos João, Personal Identity and Eastern Thought”, Filozofija i Društvo, vol 20 no 3, Belgrade: University of Belgrade, 2009 (pp.74–75)


I came across Prof. Correia’s paper when doing a bit of research on western vs. eastern perspectives on identity and the self. Side note: I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a strong profile photo as the one on Bob Thurman’s site.

“Moreish” is a word that doesn’t exist in American English, but it should.

We were discussing moreish-ness in relation to oatmeal cookies the other day. What makes a food moreish, something that hits the spot but also leaves a void, leaves you wanting a little more?

At the time, I felt that it requires multi-dimensionality, just enough contrast. When something is too on-the-nose, it isn’t moreish. Cookies without a pinch of salt, tomato sauce without a little sweetness.

Since then I’ve been thinking about moreish-ness a lot outside of the context of food, and the contrast idea stands up.

Outfits, websites, books, relationships. Requires more exploration.

‘Science explains the world, but only Art can reconcile us to it. What do we really know about the origin of the Universe? A blank so wide can be filled with myths and legends. I wished, in my mythologizing, to reach the limits of improbability, and I believe that I came close. You know this already, therefore what you really wanted to ask was if the Universe is indeed ludicrous. But that question each must answer for himself’.

From “King Globares and the Sages” by Stanisław Lem

“King Globares and the Sages” is one in a collection of short stories by Stanisław Lem titled Mortal Engines. It was published by The Seabury Press in 1977 and by Penguin Classics in 2016. All of the stories in the collection were chosen, translated, and introduced by Michael Kandel.

I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say to them is this.

When you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only “what are the facts?” and “what is the truth that the facts bear out?”

Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts.

That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say. The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very simple.

I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish.

In this world which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. And if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.

From Bertrand Russell interview with John Freeman for the BBC’s “Face to Face”, originally aired 4 March 1959 (source).

Bertrand Russell’s response when asked what lessons from his life may be worth imparting to future generations. Russell was 86 years old when the interview aired.

Separate but related: “A Little History of Philosophy” by Nigel Warburton. Very digestible and enjoyable. Must be noted that the author omits a few big names and focuses entirely on Western philosophy. Fair enough, would probably be 300% longer otherwise.