What is the self? Does the collection of neurons in our brains define the entirety of who we are? Modern day neuroscience attempts to explain who we are through understanding how the brain works, sometimes even trying to find a single entity that can be labeled as the “self”. Yet, for thousands of years, thinkers of Hindu and Buddhist traditions have sought to understand the philosophy of the self through different means – that of meditation and contemplation. Can these two schools of thought actually compliment one another?
Today, our guest is Dr. Evan Thompson. Evan is a professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy, which explores the philosophy of the self. We discuss how Eastern traditions and modern day neuroscience interpret the idea of the self. Is the self an entity or a process? Is it part of the brain, or does the brain play a role in constructing the self? How does the self evolve with time? Does our sense of self change when we are meditating, sleeping, dreaming, or deeply engaged in a task? We also explore what happens within the brains of meditators or those skilled in lucid dreaming. From mindfulness to brain waves to quantized thought, we delve deep into our own minds to understand how both science and spirituality grapple with the idea behind the philosophy of the self.
You can follow Evan on Twitter at @evantthompson.