Science Day: Body, Mind, Consciousness: Perspectives from Scientists and Contemplatives
October 29 @ 10:00 am - 9:00 pm
After the success of our first three Science Days, we are now organising this fourth Science Day on the theme of Body, Mind, Consciousness: Perspectives from Scientists & Contemplatives.
About the Event:
The relation of the mind to the body has been a topic of debate in both the sciences and philosophy of the East and the West for over 2000 years. In Western philosophy, this topic became most famous through philosopher Rene Descartes in the early 17th century, who wrote in one of his most important works Discourse on Method (1637) the famous (Latin) phrase “Cogito, ergo sum”, translated as “I think, therefore I am”. Later on, in his work Meditations on First Philosophy (of 1641), Descartes began a thorough investigation of how the mind and the body exist together, while also trying to prove the distinct quality of a ‘soul’ and the existence of God. Getting himself moderately tangled up in this last phase of his writings, Descartes unknowingly laid the base for what we now call ‘Cartesian dualism’ as well as the so-called ‘mind-body problem’, which still holds many philosophers in its grip today (most famously illustrated by contemporary philosopher of mind Daniel Dennett).
However, there have been many new approaches since Descartes in the study of mind, body, and consciousness. Not only in the field of philosophy, neuroscience, and the more recent Consciousness Studies (an emerging interdisciplinary field that has it’s own professional membership organisation, the ASSC), but also as a result of influences from Eastern philosophies and non-Western systems of thinking, in which the mind and the body (and consciousness) were never so rigidly separated as in the West. Whereas in the West we often speak about ‘mind’ as something separated from the rest of our body, and more analogous to thoughts, Eastern philosophies like Buddhism often talk about the ‘Heart-Mind’, or ‘citta’, which is a mind that combines all aspects of compassion and love along with ‘thoughts’ and the ability of rational choices.
Moreover, the study of consciousness, which is often equalled to the study of awareness or self-awareness, has opened up an entirely new domain of research in the cognitive sciences as well as medicine studies these past decades. Emerging, new studies which show that also animals have consciousness, still regularly shock the more dogmatic scientists of our world. In neuroscience, too, great steps forward have been made by showing how consciousness might or might not depend on the brain, while the discipline has also generated an interest in the less materialistic aspects of the brain, such as studies on the effects of mindfulness and meditation.
Yet there is still much to investigate and talk about. Body, Mind, and Consciousness all seem to belong together, but we still can’t really seem to figure out how they are connected exactly. How does something immaterial (like consciousness) act on, and interact with, the material body and world around us? Therefore, it might be helpful to bring both scientists and contemplative practitioners together in dialogue, so as to better understand the different positions and experiences that relate to these topics.
During this fourth Science Day, 3 scientists will go into an open dialogue with 3 contemplative practitioners to discuss the relation of mind to body, and consciousness. They will touch upon the many questions around consciousness in our culture, share their knowledge about contemplative tools that might help us in making the connection between our body and our mind, and discuss the far-reaching debates about what (and if!) consciousness actually is.
How to Join
Join the conversation LIVE on Zoom!
You will receive a link via email after registering for the event. After each session, there will be plenty of time for questions and debate.