This paper was presented at the
National Seminar on
Indian Psychology: Theories and Models

SVYASA, Bangalore,
December 26 - 28, 2007

 

Epistemology of experience: challenges for consciousness and neuropsychiatric studies

Sangeetha Menon — National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

  

It is evident that neuroscience is a discipline that will influence our understanding of other minds and our own in a substantial manner in the years to come. The contributions from brain studies have today changed the way we address many a problem that required complex and challenging answers a decade or two back. Consciousness has inarguably become the most charming contender to walk the ramp for not just one but many allied disciplines that border neuroscience, cognitive psychology, neuropsychiatry, neurophilosophy and even biogenetics. Some say that the one area that will emerge in the coming years as the most important in the history of humankind is ‘neuronomics’, the nexus between neuroscience and genetics. The meanings of human identity are certainly going to be debated in a manner that occurred never before. The evading character of consciousness makes it more appealing to almost all disciplines including the good old philosophy. But the fact of the matter is that even to have some minimalistic idea of what consciousness is, a whole set of parameters have to be factored in. Two major challenges are the ways by which personal experience and the impersonal brain are connected. Another area where the issue of agency is central, but not discussed enough, is that of spiritual experiences. This lecture would discuss some of the most interesting questions in current discussions on consciousness and neuropsychiatry, and some of the insights from Indian philosophical and spiritual traditions on health.

Email the author, Dr. Sangeetha Menon, at prajnana@yahoo.com