Thread: Buddhism + Neuroscience?!

  1. #1
    Forums Member PhillyG's Avatar
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    Mar 2021

    Buddhism + Neuroscience?!

    Nowdays Buddhism and neuroscience seem to support each other in their essential viewpoints. They are “brothers in spirit” so to speak.

    But is that really the case?

    One of the most essential points of Buddhism is to argue against the self as an independent substance (atman). The self as a substance would be totally independent of the qualities it possesses. A righteous self would be like a red chair. The red is not an essential quality that makes the chair a chair.

    From a narrow perspective neuroscience doesn't support this view, but if you look closer that changes. The German philosopher Markus Gabriel writes:

    If you identify the self/I with the brain, you claim a version of the Substanztheorie [theory of the self as a substance] (other theories of the self as a substance identify the self with the soul or the whole body). If you think the self is a simulation, which is produced by one or various regions of the brain, it still maintains a substance. A substance that is not just identical with the whole but with parts of the brain. In conclusion neuroscience imposes a theory of substance rather that a theory of the self as a bundle. (p. 205)
    [my own translation] (1)

    The theory of the self as a bundle was proposed by David Hume. Here
    the mind itself, far from being an independent power, is simply 'a bundle of perceptions' without unity or cohesive quality. (2)
    In my opinion Hume’s view is much closer to the theory of the five aggregates.

    Any thoughts?


    (1) Markus Gabriel (2015) Geist is nicht Gehirn [Mind is not the brain]. Ullstein Verlag.
    (2) Maurer, The Reverend Armand (27 May 2013). Western philosophy. Basic Science of Human Nature in Hume. Encyclopædia Britannica.
    Last edited by PhillyG; 16 May 21 at 11:42.

  2. #2
    This isn't an area I've investigated deeply myself - but here's a conversation between Tibetan Buddhist monk Gelong Thubten and neuroscientist Ash Ranpuna:

    Who are we? A conversation between Buddhism and neuroscience

    Can ancient views about the mind be reconciled with modern neuroscience? Buddhist monk Gelong Thubten and neuroscientist Ash Ranpura discuss

  3. #3
    Here are a couple of articles from a few years ago:

    Neuroscience Learns What Buddhism Has Known for Ages: There Is No Constant Self

    ..and :

    Neuroscience backs up the Buddhist belief that “the self” isn’t constant, but ever-changing's%20so me,(and%20Thompson)%2C%20disagree.&text=%E2%80%9CI n%20neuroscience%2C%20you'll,illusion%20created%20 by%20the%20brain.

    ....and just for good luck, I'm going to pop in an extra link to Buddhadasa's "Annata and rebirth"!

    (Anatta means "not self" in Pali)


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