We have a thread for Varela in this sub-forum so I figured his cohort from The Embodied Mind would be worthy. I've provided some of his recent material elsewhere that I'll move over here. For now this is his homepage. Therein is a link to some of his selected articles, one of which is a condensed version of what will be in his forthcoming book, Waking, Dreaming, Being: New Light on the Self and Consciousness from Neuroscience, Meditation and Philosophy (link). The article is "Dreamless sleep, the embodied mind and consciousness: The relevance of a classical Indian debate to cognitive science" (link). (Kela in times past would have loved this one. Wonder if he's still around out there?) Abstract from the article:

"One of the issues debated between the Advaita Vedānta and Nyāya schools in classical Indian philosophy is whether consciousness is present in dreamless sleep. Advaita Vedānta argues that the waking report 'I slept well' is a memory report and hence requires previous experience, whereas Nyāya argues that the report expresses a retrospective inference. Consideration of this debate, especially the reasoning Advaita Vedānta uses to try to rebut the Nyāya view, calls into question the standard neuroscience way of operationally defining consciousness as that which disappears in dreamless sleep and reappears when we wake up or dream. The Indian debate also offers new resources for contemporary philosophical concern with the relationship between phenomenal consciousness (subjective experience) and access consciousness (accessibility to working memory and verbal report). At the same time, findings from cognitive neuroscience have important implications for the Indian debates about cognition during sleep, as well as for Indian and Western philosophical discussions of the nature of the self and its relation to the body. Finally, considerations about sleep drawn from Advaita Vedānta, as well as the Yoga school and Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, suggest new experimental questions and protocols for the cognitive neuroscience of sleep and consciousness."

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I just purchased his new book, on the first day it's available.  I'm not done with several other books I'm currently reading, but I didn't want to wait for this.  Bonnie will be having a 'book study' on it through her Magellan group, and Thompson will make himself available at the end of it to answer questions.

As a new release neither the Denver Public Library nor the CU Denver library have a copy. I'm hoping either gets one soon so I can read it and participate in the discussion.

Thompson's recent lecture on consciousness in dreamless sleep.

Around 37:00 he describes what that consciousness is like as reported by both advanced meditators and non-meditators. The former see it as a luminous, non-dual awareness; the latter as a dark, non-dual awareness. Which reminds me of this meditation.

At around 43:00 he thinks this state, in contradistinction with Vedanta, is "the sentient aliveness with the body," "a basal biological phenomenon." Vedanta sees it as the transcendental witness. See earlier in this thread, with links to the "states" thread.

In the Introduction of his new book (WDB), discussing chapter 3 he said on the issue of whether pure awareness transcends the brain: "[T]here is no scientific evidence to support this view. All the evidence available to us indicates that consciousness, including pure awareness, is contingent on the brain" (xxxv).

Compare with this and the following post on Excerpt G.

Yes, t, this is an ongoing conversation and controversy that I am interested in. I am less clear about how to take the consciousness issue because it may depend on definition of "consciousness." But the related question of does mind arise independent of brain, or, how much and in what ways can it be said that mind exists beyond brain feels a little clearer to me. Not the answer, but the territory of the question. Though quite related, eh?

Thompson's first blog post at Psychology Today here.

t, god and surprising to see this potential profundity introduced to Psychology Today. (Confession - I haven't paid attention to the pop-psych [my impression] magazine.) Under comments, one of them linked to a quite deep going questioning of neuroscience. Good on PT - not so good on my presumptive bias of PT.

Bringing in Emily Dickinson - how cool is that.

theurj said:

Thompson's first blog post at Psychology Today here.

Non-Freudian typo - good, not God.
But what the hey - maybe I know not what I do.



Ambo Suno said:

t, god and surprising to see this potential profundity introduced to Psychology Today. (Confession - I haven't paid attention to the pop-psych [my impression] magazine.) Under comments, one of them linked to a quite deep going questioning of neuroscience. Good on PT - not so good on my presumptive bias of PT.

Bringing in Emily Dickinson - how cool is that.

theurj said:

Thompson's first blog post at Psychology Today here.

God is great, god is good, and we thank him for this food. Amen.

See his recent blog post here. A few excerpts consistent with themes in this forum.

"Asking how the brain generates the mind may not be the right question. [...] Instead, we should ask how the brain facilitates the mind. [...] Part of the problem, however, comes from thinking of the mind or meaning as being generated in the head. [...] You need a brain to think, but thinking isn’t in the brain, and the brain doesn’t generate it; it facilitates it. The brain generates many things—neurons and their synaptic connections, ongoing rhythmic activity patterns, the constant dynamic coordination of sensory and motor activity—but none of these should be identified with thinking, though all of them crucially facilitate it. Thinking is an action of the whole person in its environment."

"Science already provides a wider view in the form of 'embodied' cognitive science. To say that cognition is embodied means that it directly depends on the whole body and not just the brain. To put it another way, bodily activity and not just brain activity is part of cognition. Take perception. From the embodied cognitive science perspective, to perceive isn’t to be in a particular internal brain state; it’s to be in an interactive relationship with the world, one in which bodily movements and not just neuronal states are part of perception."

"To say that cognition is embodied also means that it’s 'embedded' in the environment. The brain, the rest of the body, and the environment form a system, in which cognitive behavior, such as visual recognition or gesture and speech, happens as a systemic process. In the words of cognitive scientist, Randall Beeral: 'Behavior is a property of the entire coupled brain-body-environment system and cannot in general be attributed to any one subsystem in isolation from the others.'”

"For human beings, the brain-body-environment system is the one of symbolic culture. Psychologist Merlin Donald) argues that we’re able to think in the ways we do because over millennia we’ve constructed symbolic cultures in which we’re thoroughly embedded. Technological devices, such as writing and computers, provide a new kind of 'external memory.' How much mathematical thinking could you accomplish without this kind of memory? Biological memory and external memory together make up a hybrid cognitive system. Much of what we think and do would be impossible without this kind of system."

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