Thursday, May 17, 2012

Broken Koans and other Zen debris

From Broken Koans and other Zen debris

One of my faves:
One afternoon a student said "Roshi, I don't really understand what's going on. I mean, we sit in zazen and we gassho to each other and everything, and Felicia got enlightened when the bottom fell out of her water-bucket, and Todd got enlightened when you popped him one with your staff, and people work on koans and get enlightened, but I've been doing this for two years now, and the koans don't make any sense, and I don't feel enlightened at all! Can you just tell me what's going on?"
"Well you see," Roshi replied, "for most people, and especially for most educated people like you and I, what we perceive and experience is heavily mediated, through language and concepts that are deeply ingrained in our ways of thinking and feeling. Our objective here is to induce in ourselves and in each other a psychological state that involves the unmediated experience of the world, because we believe that that state has certain desirable properties. It's impossible in general to reach that state through any particular form or method, since forms and methods are themselves examples of the mediators that we are trying to avoid. So we employ a variety of ad hoc means, some linguistic like koans and some non-linguistic like zazen, in hopes that for any given student one or more of our methods will, in whatever way, engender the condition of non-mediated experience that is our goal. And since even thinking in terms of mediators and goals tends to reinforce our undesirable dependency on concepts, we actively discourage exactly this kind of analytical discourse."
And the student was enlightened.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Role of Meditation in Brain Development Gains Scientific Support -

Role of Meditation in Brain Development Gains Scientific Support -
The role that meditation plays in brain development has been the subject of several theories and a number of studies. One of them, conducted at the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that long-term meditators like Ms. Splain had greater gyrification — a term that describes the folding of the cerebral cortex, the outermost part of the brain.
Published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience journal in February, the study is the latest effort from the U.C.L.A. lab to determine the extent to which meditation may affect neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to make physiological changes. Previous studies found that the brains of long-term meditators had increased amounts of so-called gray and white matter (the former is believed to be involved in processing information; the latter is thought of as the “wiring” of the brain’s communication system.)

Don't Think (Image by Tom Hingston Studio)

ht: Changethethought™

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mandik papers updates

Some updates on my philosophy papers webpage:

Conscious-state Anti-realism. (in press). In: Munoz-Suarez, C. and De Brigard, F. Content and Consciousness 2.0. Berlin: Springer.
Daniel Dennett's career-spanning work on consciousness culminates in a view that some critics see as denying the very existence of consciousness. While I think it correct to regard Dennett as an anti-realist of sorts about consciousness, his anti-realism is more akin to idealism than a version of consciousness nihilism or eliminativism. Dennett's anti-realism about consciousness is what Dennett calls "first-person operationalism," a thesis that "brusquely denies the possibility in principle of consciousness of a stimulus in the absence of the subject's belief in that consciousness" (Dennett, 1991, p. 132). One of Dennett's most famous arguments toward this conclusion appeals to the alleged empirical underdetermination of theory-choice between "Stalinesque" and "Orwellian" explanations of certain temporal anomalies of conscious experience (pp. 115-126). The explanations conflict over whether the anomalies are due to misrepresentations in memories of experiences (Orwellian) or misrepresentations in the experiences themselves (Stalinesque). David Rosenthal (1995, 2005a, 2005b) has offered that his Higher-order Thought theory of consciousness (hereafter, "HOT theory") can serve as a basis for distinguishing between Orwellian and Stalinesque hypotheses and thus as a basis for resisting first-person operationalism (hereafter, "FPO"). The gist of HOT theory is that one's having a conscious mental state consists in one having a higher-order thought (a HOT) about that mental state. (Such a HOT must also not be apparently arrived at via a conscious inference, but this further constriction on the HOTs that matter for consciousness is of little importance to the present paper.) I'll argue that HOT theory can defend against FPO only on a "relational reading" of HOT theory whereby consciousness consists in a relation between a HOT and an actually-existing mental state. I’ll argue further that this relational reading leaves HOT theory vulnerable to objections such as the Unicorn Argument (Mandik, 2009). To defend against such objections, HOT theory must instead admit of a "nonrelational reading" whereby a HOT alone suffices for a conscious state. Indeed, HOT theorists have been increasingly explicit in emphasizing this nonrelational reading(Rosenthal, 2011)(Weisberg, 2011)(Weisberg, 2010). However, I’ll argue, on this reading HOT theory collapses into a version of FPO.

Mental Colors, Conceptual Overlap, and Discriminating Knowledge of Particulars. (2012). Consciousness and Cognition.21(2), 641–643. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.06.007
I respond to the separate commentaries by Jacob Berger, Charlie Pelling, and David Pereplyotchik on my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism." I resist Berger's suggestion that mental colors ever enter consciousness without accompaniment by deployments of concepts of their extra-mental counterparts. I express concerns about Pelling's proposal that a more uniform conceptualist treatment of phenomenal sorites can be gained by a simple appeal to the partial overlap of the extensions of some concepts. I question the relevance to perceptual consciousness of the arguments for demonstrative concepts that Pereplyotchik attacks.

Color-Consciousness Conceptualism.(2012). Consciousness and Cognition, 21(2), 617–631. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.11.010
The goal of the present paper is to defend against a certain line of attack the view that conscious experience of color is no more fine-grained that the repertoire of non- demonstrative concepts that a perceiver is able to bring to bear in perception. The line of attack in question is an alleged empirical argument - the Diachronic Indistinguishability Argument (DIA) - based on pairs of colors so similar that they can be discriminated when simultaneously presented but not when presented across a memory delay. My aim here is to show that this argument fails.

Behaviorism, Philosophical Conceptions of. (in press) Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. In: Kaldis, B. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

zen music