University of Cambridge > > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term > Ancient Hints for a Modern Method of Studying Consciousness

Ancient Hints for a Modern Method of Studying Consciousness

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The study of “consciousness” has been of interest to scientists, philosophers, and laypeople alike for millennia. But the constant struggle to define consciousness has been due to its intangible nature. How can we describe something that we cannot perceive with our senses? We can know what it is like to perceive, and what it is like to have consciousness, but it has proven difficult over the millennia to actually pinpoint with a measure of certainty what consciousness actually is. Furthermore, when attempting to study consciousness, the method by which we can study it is elusive. Is it necessarily limited to the philosophical realm? Can there be a “science of consciousness”? By current empirical scientific standards, it is difficult to study consciousness objectively and holistically because either we do not know enough about the brain or there are seemingly nonphysical components to consciousness that are rendered totally subjective by the scientific method. But must the methods employed to study consciousness be borrowed from any of the natural scientific disciplines, like biology, chemistry, or physics, or can it indeed be studied by the psychological or philosophical disciplines, with an independent epistemology and methodology? Today we have many distinct and arguable philosophies of consciousness because the study of consciousness is one of the most fundamental studies of humankind, yet its object is highly elusive to systematic enquiry. It is an ancient study, but also a contemporary study. In this research, we take a look at the methods of studying consciousness according to a set of ancient Indian texts, namely the Upaniṣads, whose sole purpose seems to have been the understanding of consciousness. By looking at these ancient texts, we may gain some insight into developing a modern method of studying consciousness.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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