Waking, Dreaming, Being :Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy ~ Evan Thompson [updated Dec 21, 2014]


Pub Date Nov 11 2014

A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of the mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain.

Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander or daydream, we project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the “I” as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate — either in the waking state or in a lucid dream — we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as “me.” We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self.

Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness the dissolution of the self with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life’s profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives.
Evan Thompson is professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the author of Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind and Colour Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception; coauthor of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience; and co-editor of Self, No Self? Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, and Indian Traditions and The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness.

Evan Thompson was born in 1962 in Ithaca, NY, and grew up in Boston, New York, and Toronto. After 8 years as a Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Toronto, he moved in July 2013 to the Philosophy Department at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He writes about the mind, life, consciousness, and the self, from the perspectives of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, phenomenology, and cross-cultural philosophy (especially Buddhism and other Indian philosophical traditions). As a teenager, Evan was home-schooled in Southampton, NY and Manhattan at the Lindisfarne Association, an educational and contemplative community founded by his father, William Irwin Thompson. He received his A.B. in Asian Studies from Amherst College (1983), and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Toronto (1990).

Read an interview here

Evan Thompson – “Waking, Dreaming, Being” at CIIS

Dr. Evan Thompson is a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He is currently the Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies at UC Berkeley, where he is teaching a course on the dialogue between Buddhism, Phenomenology, and Cognitive Science. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including The Embodied Mind (1991), Mind in Life (2007) and Waking, Dreaming, Being: New Light on the Self and Consciousness from Neuroscience, Meditation and Philosophy (forthcoming).

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