Buddhists hold that fear is a root of much suffering. It is also widely thought that fears can be either occurrent events in conscious awareness or have a ‘background’ causal influence on our experience and behavior of which we are not immediately aware but need meditation and reflection to uncover. What must the nature of fear be like to admit the possibility of serving both a foreground and background role in conscious awareness? And are Buddhist philosophies of mind adequate to admit this possibility? It might seem not. According to prominent Buddhist philosophies of mind, mental states are complexes of intentional objects with an essential phenomenal or feeling component (vedanā). However, some contemporary philosophers argue that mental states cannot play a background causal role if affect or feeling is considered to be an essential constituent. In this workshop we will closely examine Buddhist analyses of mental states and investigate whether it can allow fear to play a background causal role. We will also examine arguments that suggest that fear can and does play this role even if affect is considered to be an essential part of this kind of mental state.

Bronwyn Finnigan

Australian National University

Bronwyn Finnigan, PhD, is a continuing lecturer and Deputy Head of the School of Philosophy at the Australian National University (ANU). She works in philosophy of action, ethics, and epistemology … MORE