I am certainly no expert in Buddhist thought and so others more qualified will hopefully be able to provide some greater input. You mentioned with this Buddhist philosophy, that they would say that the idea of the self is only conceptual and not real. I still am unsure how they would argue the validity of this claim? The example of the person losing an arm in a woodchipper accident does nothing, from what I can gather, to show that we are not a distinct self. The reason “I” know that I have lost a body part is because I have lost an individual component of what helps to make me, me. However, from a Christian perspective, if I lose an arm, I have only lost a contingent part of myself, not a necessary part. If I lose a finger or a strand of hair, I don’t cease being the self or person, Brian. If I lose my life, a necessary component of being the person, Brian, then somebody talking to my corpse is no longer talking to “who” I was. In Christianity, many believe that we have dual natures, that we are both physical and spiritual. If our bodies die, then our spirits, our essential self’s, continue to exist as distinct personal entities.
A couple of quotes from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Vasubandhu that might help with this discussion read:
“The majority of the argument assumes a Buddhist interlocutor, and is intended to prove that no Buddhist ought to accept the reality of a so-called “self” ( ātman ) or “person” ( pudgala ) over and above the five aggregates ( skandhas ) in which, the Buddha said, the person consists. (The aggregates, as their name suggests, are themselves constantly-changing collections of entities of five categories: the physical, feelings, ideas, dispositions, and consciousness.)” https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/vasubandhu/#DisSel
“Vasubandhu does not attempt, here, to prove the karmic causality that justifies his soteriological exclusivism. Instead, he moves directly to prove the non-existence of the self. What is real, he says, is known by one of two means: perception or inference . Seven things are known directly, by perception. They include the five objects of the senses (visual forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and touchables), mental objects (mental images or ideas), and the mind itself. What is not known directly can only be known indirectly, by inference. As an example, Vasubandhu provides an argument that the five sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin) can each be inferred from the awareness of their respective sensory objects. But, he says, there is no such inference for the self.” https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/vasubandhu/#DisSel
So hearing a sound infers an organ that can hear the sound. My direct experience of sound can only be known by inference through indirect means. My struggle with much of this Eastern thought is, “who” is perceiving the sound and “who” is inferring a sense organ for hearing sound? If what is real can only be determined by perception or inference, and ultimately, the 5 senses, mental images and the mind, are known directly by indirect interpretation, then why can’t my direct perception of my “self” mean that I can’t infer that the person, Brian, is also real? The philosophy appears “self”-contradictory .
Having a body does not disprove the self, neither does it prove it. Likewise, just because I hear a sound does not prove that I did not imagine the sound. A sense organ is inferred because it makes rational sense that such an organ exists. My sense that I am a distinct person with feelings, ideas and a consciousness that is unique and distinct from others, would seem to lead to the rational conclusion that my “self” also is more likely real than not. The argument from Buddhism would, therefore, not appear to be constructed on a strong logical basis, but more so the outworking of a chosen religious foundation.
I hope that may give some assistance as you reflect on trying to find answers to the implications of such a worldview. Sounds like some interesting study that you are doing but can be quite difficult to get your head around .