Philosophy ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 6-30-2018


In this dissertation I study the analogy of reflection in a mirror as a device used frequently in Indian philosophical traditions to solve the problem of the interaction between consciousness and matter. This problem, discussed both in Indian and Western philosophy, concerns the nature of the interaction between the seemingly incompatible dimensions of subjective experience and objective matter. In Indian philosophy, the essential idea is that, just as a face and its properties are reflected in a mirror and appear to belong to it, so are consciousness and its properties, such as the sense of self, subjectivity, and the experience of qualia, reflected in the mind-body complex and appear to belong to the latter.

Theories of reflection also explain the emergence of the “ego,” the function of one’s individual identity as a certain thing (I am this body; I belong to this family, etc). The self is reflected in the mind and leaves its trace in the form of a mental representation, the “I-notion.” The mind superimposes upon the “I-notion” other mental representations (of one’s body, one’s family, the things one possesses or desires), thus forming a complex, but ultimately false notion of oneself as intrinsically determined by a host of identities.

I analyze theories of reflection in key Sāṃkhya, Yoga, and Advaita-Vedānta texts, which show a clear historical and conceptual continuity. The historical textual study of various theories of reflection is the basis for my own philosophical interpretation of these theories. My main thesis is that reflection serves as a special relational category that accounts for the interaction between entities with different ontological statuses. I also argue that theories of reflection are explanatory of the process through which consciousness appears in our mind in the form of mental representation.

My study involves a cross-cultural perspective. I compare the Indian theories with a modern theory of reflection: Lacan’s psychoanalytical theory of the mirror stage, which describes the formation of the ego as a result of the infant’s self-recognition in the mirror.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

John Taber

Second Committee Member

Adrian Johnston

Third Committee Member

John Bussanich

Fourth Committee Member

Sthaneshwar Timalsina




pratibimbavāda, pratibimba, mirror stage, Yoga, Sāṃkhya, Advaita-Vedānta, Indra and Virocana, the problem of consciousness and matter

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