BSP 115: Eastern Philosophy and Western Neuroscience


Scientific interest in the Mind and Consciousness is relatively new, but both Western and Eastern Philosophy have a long tradition of exploring these topics. In his new book Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, Evan Thompson explores how these diverse traditions can inform and enrich one another.

Thompson goes beyond a narrow view of consciousness, which focuses only on the waking state. Instead he considers how dreaming, lucid dreaming, and even near death experiences can advance our understanding of how our brain's generate both consciousness and our sense of Self. 


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Related Episodes:

  • BSP 5: Very brief introduction to Philosophy of Mind.
  • BSP 55:  Patricia Churchland, PhD, discusses Neurophilosophy.
  • BSP 58: Alva Noë, PhD, discusses Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness.
  • BSP 67: Thomas Metzinger discusses The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self.
  • BSP 73: Embodied Cognition with Lawrence Shapiro, PhD.
  • BSP 81: Patricia Churchland discusses Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality.
  • BSP 89: Evan Thompson discusses Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind.
  • BSP 96: Robert Burton, MD discusses A Skeptic's Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves.


  • This month's Audible recommendation: The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults byFrances E. Jensen, MD
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"Mind in Life" with Evan Thompson (BSP 89)


Evan Thompson, PhD


Embodied Cognition is a movement within cognitive science that argues that the mind is inseparable from the fact that the brain is embedded in a physical body. This means that everything that the brain does, from the simplest perception to complex decision-making, relies on the interaction of the body with its environment.  Evan Thompson's book, Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind, is an in-depth look at what he calls the "enactive" approach to embodied cognition. The enactive approach was pioneered by Thompson's mentor Francisco Varela, and it emphasizes the importance of the body's active engagement with its environment.

In a recent interview (BSP 89) I talked with Thompson about some of the key ideas in Mind in Life. Unlike most episodes of the Brain Science Podcast, this is not really a stand-alone episode. It is part of my ongoing exploration of both embodied cognition and the controversial topic of emergence. It is also intended as a follow-up to my recent interview with Terrence Deacon.

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Related Episodes: 

  • BSP 5: A bried introduction to philosphy of mind
  • BSP 25: Embodied Intelligence with Rolf Pfeifer
  • BSP 36: Art Glenberg on Embodied Cognition
  • BSP 53: Discussion of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It? (emergence and free will)
  • BSP 62: Warren Brown, co-author of Did My Neurons Make Me Do It?
  • BSP 73: Lawrence Shapiro, author of Embodied Cognition.
  • Books and Ideas #47: Terrence Deacon, author of Incomplete Nature.


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