Consciousness in Western Science and Philosophy Part I

Consciousness in Western Science and Philosophy Part I


The topic of consciousness is one that humans have wrestled with for centuries. How is consciousness related to material substrates, such as the brain and body? Christof Koch argued that the interactions of neuronal and sub-neuronal processes give rise not only to animal and human behavior but also to conscious experience. He discussed information theory, which assumes that any physical system that is sufficiently rich in information will have conscious experiences, and the content of those experiences depends on the exact nature of the causal interactions of the underlying components (e.g., neurons). Such theories can be empirically tested in animals, healthy people and brain-injured patients. Matthieu Ricard offered a Buddhist perspective, exploring consciousness as a primary phenomenon linked to matter, but also examining evidence that consciousness may not be contingent on matter. He also described how Buddhism transcends dualist views by suggesting that both material and non-material entities are devoid of intrinsic reality.

  • Dialogue 26
    27 sessions
  • January 20, 2013
    Drepung Monastery, Mundgod, India
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Christof Koch

Christof Koch, PhD, was born in the American Midwest, and grew up in Holland, Germany, Canada, and Morocco. He studied physics and philosophy at the University of Tübingen in Germany and was awarded his PhD in Biophysics in 1982. After 4 years at MIT, he joined the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, California, where he is the Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology. In 2011, he became the Chief Scientific Officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, Washington, where he leads Project MindScope, a ten year, large-scale, high through-put effort to understand the visual system of the mouse. His laboratory studies the biophysics of nerve cells, and the neuronal and computational basis of visual perception, attention, and consciousness and machine vision. He has authored more than three hundred and fifty scientific papers and journal articles, eight patents and five books. Together with his long-time collaborator, Francis Crick, Christof pioneered the scientific study of consciousness. His latest book, Consciousness – Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist deals with the philosophical, religious, scientific, technological and personal questions relating to his research into the physical basis of consciousness.