Buddhism and Neuroscience: a problematic dialogue

26 March 2012

"Neuroscience is everywhere," says Professor Bernard Faure from Columbia University, "its concepts have penetrated the discourse of the media, and its rapid progress has made it the most often quoted model of scientific progress.

"As a metaphor for scientific progress neuroscience has replaced biology, which held the primary place during the second half of the 20th century," he says, "from the discovery of ADN [DNA] to the human genome".

Professor Faure will deliver a Sydney Ideas Talk on Tuesday night on this emerging dialogue between neuroscience and Buddhism.

With the dominance of neuroscience as a paradigm, the human sciences, most notably psychoanalysis, have had to redefine their claims in response to developments in the area, and other fields such as religious studies, have also had opportunity for redefinition.

"Researchers in neuroscience have become intrigued by the claims of Buddhist meditation, and advocates of Tibetan Buddhism have argued that meditation is an experimental approach to the mind."

The premises upon which this dialogue has been built have not been sufficiently examined and this has hindered the progress of discussion in the area, he says.

Professor Faure says difficult problems such as the nature of reality, meaning, or awakening must be tackled if such a dialogue is to move forward.

"For most Buddhist thinkers, the nature of reality is fundamentally spiritual, whereas for most scientists it is fundamentally material."

Professor Faure holds the Kao Chair in Japanese Religion and is also Director of the Columbia Center for Japanese Religion. He is currently a visiting Professor in the Buddhist Studies Program in the School of Languages and Culture at the University of Sydney.

Professor Faure was educated at Kyoto University and the University of Paris, where he received his doctorate in 1984. He has taught at Cornell University and was for many years Professor of Chinese Religions at Stanford University. He has lived for long periods in Japan and has travelled extensively in Asia, and is one of the few Asian studies scholars to have published groundbreaking work on both Chinese and Japanese topics, writing in English and French.

Event details

What: Buddhism and Neuroscience: a problematic dialogue, a Sydney Ideas lecture

When: 6 to 7.30pm, Tuesday 27 March

Where: Foyer, New Law Building, Camperdown Campus. See map and directions

Cost: This event is free and open to all, with no ticket or booking required. Seating is unreserved and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

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Contact: Jacqueline Chowns

Phone: 02 9036 5404, 0434 605 018

Email: 5358353f2c2c38031604491b2d15321617031914163416165a4a3321672046