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Meditation Center Presents Great Courses series on Meditation and Consciousness

mind body

By Frank Simons

The Meditation Center will present the first installment in a 24-part educational series on philosophy and consciousness by The Great Courses. The course, entitled Mind-Body Philosophy: Part 1Mind, Body, and Questions of Consciousness, premieres on January 11 at the center.

How do our physical brains produce our subjective experience? How can three pounds of Jell-O-like matter produce not merely the objective phenomena of electro-chemical impulses across synapses but also the subjective phenomena of sights, sounds, touch, smell, and taste? The standard name for that central question is the mind-body problem. We will be exploring that problem throughout this course.

Philosophers have been dealing with this central issue for centuries, using the abstract tools of logic and argument. Brain scientists are newcomers to the mind-body problem. Only over the past few decades have they started to have the tools adequate to track experimentally the organizational structure and processes of the brain. What we’ve learned from empirical research is breathtaking. But we have so much more to learn.

The field studying the mind-body problem consists of three main groups: Materialists, who comprise most of the research domain, say we have just one universe—a physical universe. The problem for materialists is to figure out how things that aren’t objective, subjective touch, taste, vision, hearing and smell, can be part of that materialistic picture. Idealists say the only experience of the world we have is subjective. To the extent anything objective is real; it must somehow be a construct from the subjective. Idealists are few. Dualists say the world is not purely physical, nor essentially subjective. The world is comprised of two different realms, neither of which can be denied, mind and body, objective and subjective. The dualists try to cover both.[MA1]

In this course, we’ll draw on the resources of philosophical history, contemporary psychology, and neuroscience to explore the multifaceted relationships between minds and bodies—between consciousness and the brain. We will trace philosophical approaches from ancient Greece up through the 21st century. Alternative approaches will be included, such as meditation and yoga from the East, together with a history of the soul from the Orphic mysteries, through Judeo-Christian tradition.

Drawing on today’s neurosciences, we will explore the many ways that memory works, the nature of emotion, self-consciousness, our sense of self, the routes of perception, dreams, hallucinations and questions of free will. The course includes a tour of the brain through strange forms of consciousness: blind-sight, face blindness, motion blindness, Tourette’s, left-side neglect, split brains, locked-in syndrome, loss of ability to remember, and inability to forget.

The professor, Patrick Grim, a distinguished professor of philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has provided his students with invaluable insights into issues of philosophy, artificial intelligence, theoretical biology, and other fields. Professor Grim was awarded the university’s Presidential and Chancellor’s awards for teaching excellence and was elected to the Academy of Teachers and Scholars.

There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video.

Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


Video Presentation

Mind-Body Philosophy: Part 1—Mind, Body, and Questions of Consciousness

By Frank Simons

Thu, Jan 11, 5:30pm

Meditation Center

Callejon Blanco 4

Free, donations accepted

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