About This Lecture:
Presented on January 18, 2008 at the conference Religion
and Cognitive Science co-sponsored by the Graduate
Theological Union and the University of California, Berkeley.
For audio downloads of the rest of the conference--including
a panel discussion with Christine Skarda, Walter Freeman, and
Perception is a form of life that creates the subject/object
structure in which perceivers experience themselves and the objects
they perceive as separate, independent entities. Based on this
model, philosophers, psychologists and perceptual scientists
have tried to explain how a "copy" or "internal
representation" (psychological or physiological) of the
external world is created within the perceiver. Unfortunately,
this model repeatedly encountered problems from the infinite
regress problem of internal representations in philosophical
and psychological theories of perception to the unresolved binding
problem in contemporary neuroscience.
Although it is undoubtedly true that we experience ourselves
as substantially independent entities from the objects we perceive,
no one has been able to explain how perception works in terms
of such independence. Why? Is it that no one has been clever
enough yet to find the processes responsible, or is it that the
whole picture is a distortion?
I would like to present a model that explains perceptual
activity without the assumption of substantial independence and
at the same time explains how the "illusion" of independence
is generated. Then I would like to integrate this discussion
into the wider philosophical context of the search for "the
good life," and in particular into the Buddhist view that
the root of all suffering is the superimposition by sensory and
mental consciousness of an independent mode of existence upon
persons and their objects. I hope to develop a modern perspective
on the question of why suffering is so difficult to eliminate.