James Giles was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, grew up in West Point Grey, and graduated from Point Grey Secondary School in Vancouver. He studied at the University of British Columbia and the University of Edinburgh, where he gained a PhD in philosophy. In addition to teaching at UBC and Edinburgh, he has also held appointments at other universities in the UK, Denmark, Australia, Guam, and Hawaii. He is a part-time tutor in Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education.
The purpose of Giles' work is to create a philosophical psychology that explains the core features of the human condition. The unifying theme in his work is the fundamental role that human awareness plays in that condition. Giles' research ranges over metaphysics, ethics, the philosophy of perception, personal identity, the self, human relationships, evolutionary theory, and non-Western philosophy. He has argued for an experiential account of the material world and the non-existence of a persisting self, describing self-awareness as the awareness of a constructed self-image.
Giles is the originator of the vulnerability and care theory of love and the view of sexual desire as an existential need. He is also the author of the naked love theory of human hairlessness, a view that locates the evolutionary origin of human hairlessness in the ancestral mother-infant relationship and maternal selection for hairless infants.
In addition, Giles is well-known as a scholar of Asian and comparative philosophy. His account of the Buddhist doctrine of No-Self as an eliminativist rather than a reductionist view, along with its relation to David Hume's rejection of personal identity, has been widely cited and discussed. He further argues for an interpretation of Kierkegaard's philosophy that draws from Japanese thought and Yogacara Buddhist philosophy. Giles offers a new understanding of Daoist philosophy as an account of the metaphysics of awareness and its relation to ethics, arguing that the ancient Daoists have much to offer contemporary Western philosophy.
Author of several works, Giles is typically interdisciplinary and intercultural in his research, drawing on such areas as psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and biology, while exploring their expression in different cultures. Only through such an approach, argues Giles, can we hope to understand the human condition.
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