Consciousness in Western Science and Philosophy Part II

Consciousness in Western Science and Philosophy Part II


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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Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard, PhD, is a Buddhist monk at Schechen Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal. Born in France in 1946, he received a PhD in cellular genetics at the Institut Pasteur under Nobel Laureate FrancoisJacob. As a hobby, he wrote Animal Migrations (1969).He first traveled to the Himalayas in 1967 and has lived there since 1972, studying with Kangyur Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, two of the most eminent Tibetan teachers of our times. Since 1989, he has served as the French interpreter for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is the author of The Monk and the Philosopher (with his father, the French thinker Jean-Francois Revel); The Quantum and the Lotus (with the astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan); Happiness, A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Import-ant Skill; and Why Meditate?. He has translated several books from Tibetan into English and French, including The Life of Shabkar and The Heart of Compassion.As a photographer, Matthieu has published several albums, including The Spirit of Tibet, Buddhist Himalayas, Tibet, Motionless Journey, and Bhutan. He devotes all of the proceeds from his books and much of his time to 120 humanitarian projects in Tibet, Nepal, and India—and to the preservation of the Tibetan cultural heritage—through his charitable association, Karuna-Shechen. Ricard has been deeply involved in the work of the Mind & Life Institute for many years.