Advances in cognitive science enlarge and challenge traditional concepts of mind, will, and self. This seminar explores alternative frameworks that accept the reality of mind as embodied without sacrificing respect for the significance of immediate experience, personal agency, and individual responsibility. The core text for the seminar is The Embodied Mind (Varela, Thompson & Rosch, MIT Press, 1991.)
Working from their combined expertise in neuroscience, philosophy, and psychology, these authors provided a framework founded in principles of phenomenology and Mahayana Buddhism. Because the book is almost 20 years old, its technical presentations need to be brought forward. But the framework it established remains sturdy.
The seminar will allow students to comprehend this framework, contrast it with alternatives both traditional and novel, and evaluate what they learn in light of recent theories and controversies in cognitive science and philosophy. Authors whose work might be consulted include, for example, the Churchlands, Clark, Dennett, Flanagan, Freeman, Koch, Libet, Taylor, Thompson, Wegner, and Williams.