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Does all conscious experience involve some kind of self-awareness? Is consciousness fundamentally “egological” (being constituted by an ego, or sense of “I”)? Is it possible to reconcile a view of consciousness that takes the first-personal dimension seriously with a non-egological position?
A recent trend in Analytical philosophy of mind is to argue that consciousness essentially involves intransitive self-consciousness, in addition to transitive (object-directed) consciousness. In Continental phenomenology, this thesis derives from Brentano and is central to Husserl’s thought. Though this issue has prompted some discussion between these two traditions, very little attention has been paid to philosophical discourse in the Indo-Tibetan tradition in which issues of selfhood are of greatest concern.
The time has come for dialogue and debate.
As part of a year-long series of lectures focused on Personal Identity Across Traditions, the Columbia Society for Comparative Philosophy convened a panel discussion aimed at exploring egological and non-egological theories for consciousness in Buddhist and non-Buddhist thought.
This event was held on the campus of Columbia University (301 Philosophy Hall) on Saturday March 1, 2008. It was made possible through generous funding from Columbia University Seminars and also the Graduate Student Advisory Council.
(Special thanks to Robert Belknap and Alice Newton at University Seminars.)
Video clip 1 of 8: Mark Siderits (CSCP Chair)
In this video Mark Siderits (CSCP Chair) opens the panel discussion with a brief description of the topic — egological and non-egological approaches to consciousness. Professor Siderits also introduces each panelist and their respective fields of study.
Video clip 2 of 8: Evan Thompson (University of Toronto)
The philosopher Evan Thompson (University of Toronto) examines the viability of the Buddhist theory of no-self to the problem of consciousness. His approach contrasts Buddhists ideas with the those from western phenomenology (i.e. Edmund Husserl and Jean-Paul Sartre).
Video clip 3 of 8: Georges B.J. Dreyfus
Georges B. J. Dreyfus (Williams College) relates some of the Buddhist views of consciousness to contemporary philosophical discussions. His presentation traverses the Indian schools of Abhidharma and Yogācāra, as well the work of western thinkers such as Dan Zahavi, Miri Albahari, and Antonio Damasio. Dreyfus asserts that it is time to "rehabilitate the notion of experience and to avoid assuming that its use necessarily leads to a crypto-theological project mired in hopeless metaphysics." He maintains that this is equally important to both the study of Buddhism and western philosophy.
Video clip 4 of 8: John Dunne
The Buddhologist John Dunne (Emory University) sheds light on Buddhist epistemology and the ways in which it might help inform western conceptions of mind and consciousness. In his presentation he translates the ideas of ancient Indian thinkers like Dharmakīrti (7th CE) and Dignāga (5th CE).
Video clip 8 of 8: Question & Answer (part two)
In this session (Q&A part 2) the panelists Dan Zahavi (University of Copenhagen), Evan Thompson (University of Toronto), Georges B.J. Dreyfus (Williams College), and John Dunne (Emory University) continue their group-discussion and answer more questions from the general public and CSCP members.