A Non-dualistic Relational Model of Reality. Science and Buddhist Insights

by Prof Dr. Michael von Brück

It was Galileo Galilei who expressed the idea that the book of nature is written in the language of geometry and arithmetics. Einstein called it “the incomprehensible comprehensibility of nature”. This was not a completely new idea but drew on old intuitions of Platonic and Neo-Platonic philosophy. The success of the mathematical methods seemed to suggest that there are no areas of the world that would be resistant to analysis and that it would be only a matter of our scientific genius to find the formal patterns for describing those forms. However, many scientists developed doubts because of the structural and functional complexity of so many systems. How could it be explained that the mind (informed by so many sensory illusions and being a limited part of nature itself) could comprehend the very fabric of nature? Would there be a “prestabilized harmony” between mind and matter? If so, what would be the reason for it? Is there a mathematical structure innate in physical objects (things)? What are mathematical objects – are they nature, are they forms? The semantics of those questions suggests a duality between mind and matter. However, we should look for a non-dual relationality, if mind/consciousness should be understood as an emerging reality and not as something completely different from matter in a dualistic fashion. Some Buddhist insights might be useful to conceptualize such a non-dual relationality of reality.

Approaching lived subjective experience

by Univ.-Prof. Dr. Patrizia Giampieri-Deutsch

Current sciences successfully develop objective, so called “third-person” methodologies to account for general mechanisms of the mind. However, psychoanalysis - a “weak” science indeed - as well as nonreductive philosophy of mind, which among its major agenda also investigates science, both include subjective experience. Psychoanalysis and nonreductive philosophy of mind both consider “first-person” phenomena, i.e. subjective experience, as a distinctive component of the mind. Therefore, both are able to combine first- and third-person methods for investigating the mind.

However, since Freud, psychoanalysis has been not only a theory of mind and a scientific methodology for investigating mental processes. In its third dimension, psychoanalysis is also a psychotherapy which has been developing its own practices and techniques.

Here psychoanalysis could meet Buddhist tradition, but also possibly diverges from it. Psychoanalysis refers to its first-person practices not only as an investigative method but also as a worldly and curative therapy. Nevertheless, psychoanalysis as psychotherapy gives rise to a wide range of further effects, from self-knowledge to learning.

Buddhist tradition develops first-person procedures for exploring lived subjective experience with the transcendent aim to reach higher states of consciousness, or contact with the divine.
Therefore, it is worth addressing the respective main purpose of Western and Eastern approaches to subjective experience, because problems of mutual understanding could possibly arise.


Mind and Matter—Their Mutual Dependence and Emptiness

by Prof. Dr. Klaus-Dieter Mathes

Given the prominent role first person experience plays in systems that are based primarily on the observation and critical investigation of mind and its mental states, it is hardly surprising that not a single Buddhist model of reality has attempted to reduce mind to matter. Many erroneous views that could have followed from the resulting dualist views of mind and matter were effectively avoided by Nāgārjuna´s (fl. 200 CE) doctrine of dependent arising and emptiness. Although the notion of dependent origination is based on known relationships between identifiable events or facts, the latter lack any "own-being" (svabhāva). This leads some contemporary Buddhologists to the conclusion that Nāgārjuna denies the existence of all entities. In a similar vein, some modern physicists have questioned the continued existence of a single photon in the double-slit experiment, for it lacks a locally determined reality when it simultaneously passes through the two slits (the result of the experiment is counter intuitive for one cannot go through a left and right door at the same time). What I suggest here is to take as our primary frame of reference a type of existence or rather "co-existence" characterized by a dynamic system of mutual inter¬relationship called "mind-matter-field", whose parts, including mental events, cannot be separated. In keeping with Nāgārjuna’s philosophy, entities with an "own-being", would then be viewed as reified constructions of the mind that "simplify" phenomena at the cost of misrepresenting their irreducibly complex interconnectedness. This perspective would not only conform with the definition of the object of negation as "own-being" but also provide a model which can more readily accomodate the strange observations of quantum physics.  



By Prof. Dr. Wolf Singer

Progress in cognitive neuroscience made it possible to explore the neuronal substrate of phenomena that have traditionally been the subjects of the humanities, and in particular philosophy. Thus, neurobiological data are now available on the constructivist nature of perception, on linguistic competence, on attention and consciousness, on the theory of mind, on the distributed nature of brain processes, on empathy, on reward and value assigning systems, and on the dichotomy between conscious and subconscious processes. These new insights are relevant for philosophical considerations of epistemological questions, the mind-body-problem, the constitution of the self, the existence of free will and subjective guilt, and the evolution of morality. In some cases, the insights provided by neurobiological investigations are in conflict with traditional views that have been derived mainly from introspection and intuition. An attempt is made to explain the reason for this discrepancy between third and first person perspectives. Subsequently, examples will be given that illustrate the state of the art of cognitive neuroscience and specific consequences for selected philosophical problems will be discussed.

Information and Randomness in teh Quantum World

By Anton Zeilinger

Information plays a central role in quantum physics. By discussing explicit experiments it will be shown how b analyzing the role of information one can arrive at a deeper understanding of such phenomena as the two-slit experiment, quantum interference, quantum teleportation, and entanglement. Also, a basc interefrence experiment will be performed during the lecture.


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