MLE Webcast: Track Philosophy

Series 2: 'Consciousness, East and West'

The first MLE webcast Track is a course on philosophy, curated by MLE Association Member Dr. Michel Bitbol. Series 2 is entitled: 'Consciousness, East and West' 

In this second series of Track Philosophy, Michel Bitbol will delve into the problem of consciousness and our various attempts, across different scientific and philosophical traditions, to provide an accurate idea of its significance. He will walk us through some of the major limitations of the contemporary Western approach of cognitive science, particularly as it concerns our understanding of “phenomenal consciousness” (the first-person approach to consciousness, or consciousness as understood from the ground up). Other approaches, such as phenomenology, the contemplative traditions, some schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and the Kyoto school of philosophy, provide rich alternatives and/or complementary perspectives to the standard (neuro)scientific view of consciousness, accounting for different levels of experience out of which a new science can be formed.

This series of seven short courses will be followed by a live Q&A with Michel Bitbol on April 13th at 18:00 CET, exclusive to MLE Friends subscribers. We look forward to having you join us for this cutting-edge exploration of a topic that has bedeviled philosophers and scientists for centuries.


This series will be exclusively available to MLE Friends until October 2022. 


Subscribe now to MLE Friends to access the course!

Course Outline

Part 1: "Consciousness, East and West"

In this introductory chapter, Michel Bitbol starts out by exploring two ostensibly divergent conceptions of consciousness, “Eastern” and “Western,” and considers the degree to which they can be compared or share a common ground. 

Part 2: "Is the Meaning of Buddhist Practice Compatible with Neuroscience?"

 In this second chapter, Michel Bitbol addresses one of the foundational questions of this series: is the meaning of Buddhist practice compatible with neuroscience? More specifically, is the existentialmeaning of Buddhist practice compatible with the materialist conclusions often associated with neuroscience? 

Part 3: "On the Contemporary Zombie-like Conception of Consciousness"

Here, Michel Bitbol explores some of the possible limitations of the materialist conception of consciousness according to cognitive scientists. Notably, he walks us through the example of a “zombie-like” conception of consciousness.

Part 4: "On the Prospect of 'Artificial Consciousness'"

In chapter 4, Michel Bitbol takes up the fascinating question of whether it is possible to generate artificial consciousness, and by extension, “artificial meditators” or “artificial Buddhas.” 

Part 5: "Addressing the Problem of Consciousness from the Midst of Consciousness: Phenomenology"

Here, Michel Bitbol presents an alternative path for understanding consciousness from within the experience of consciousness itself: namely, phenomenology. In this way, he shows us how the problem of consciousness can be turned upside-down, starting from the elements of first-person experience and drawing conclusions therefrom. 

Part 6: "'Perennial Idealism': An Indian Dissolution of the 'Hard Problem' of Consciousness"

In this penultimate chapter, Michel Bitbol delves into a non-standard solution to the hard problem of consciousness, “perennial idealism,” derived mainly from Indian culture.

Part 7: "Beyond the Self, Below the Level of (Reflective Consciousness)"

In this final chapter, Michel Bitbol prompts us to consider the ultimate question: what is left after dualism? Here, his exploration ventures beyond conceptions of the self, beyond perennial idealism, and beyond the level of reflective consciousness to offer yet further alternatives to the problem of consciousness – notably from the Kyoto School of philosophy, the Zen Buddhist tradition, and the American psychologist William James. 


Track Philosophy Series 2 Trailer

About the expert

Michel Bitbol, France

Michel Bitbol is researcher at CNRS/Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. He received a M.D., a Ph.D. in physics and a 'Habilitation' in philosophy. After a start in scientific research, he turned to philosophy of science, editing texts by Erwin Schrödinger and formulating a neo-kantian philosophy of quantum mechanics.

He then studied the relations between physics and the philosophy of mind, in collaboration with Francisco Varela, and drew a parallel between Buddhist dependent arising and non-supervenient relations in quantum physics. He also developed a first-person conception of consciousness expressed from the standpoint of an experience of meditation. More recently, he engaged a debate with the philosophical movement called 'speculative realism', from the same standpoint.