Three Lectures by Mark Siderits (Professor of Philosophy emeritus, Seoul National University)

Thursday, 30 November 2023, 2pm-3:30pm: "Confronting the Obstacles to a Buddhist Physicalism"

While some claim that the Buddhism is one of the few religious traditions that could be ‘naturalized’ or made consistent with the findings of the natural sciences, others dismiss this claim as the result of a variety of confusions about the Buddhist tradition. One frequently cited roadblock is that naturalizing Buddhism would require adopting a physicalist metaphysics, something allegedly incompatible with key elements of Buddhist thought and practice. I explore several of the purported obstacles and examine what might be lost, and perhaps gained, by trying to develop a physicalist Buddhism.

Friday, 1 December 2023, 10.30am-12pm: "The Problem of Ownerless Consciousness"

One reason classical Buddhist philosophers rejected physicalism is that it would mean that consciousness is not strictly speaking real. A difficulty for those philosophers, though, is that it is not clear what an ultimately real consciousness might be like if, as all Buddhists claim, there is no such thing as a self or subject of consciousness. I examine this difficulty as a possible source of support for a Buddhist physicalism.

Friday, 1 December 2023, 2pm-3:30pm: "A Buddhist Physicalist Dissolution of the ‘Hard Problem’?"

Physicalists claim that all the facts about the mind and its states can in principle be explained in purely physical (including neurophysiological) terms. The alleged difficulty known as the hard problem is that it seems one could know all the purely physical facts and still not know what it is like to have the experience of seeing blue. Buddhist physicalists would respond by claiming that the conscious mental state of seeing blue is no more than a useful fiction. What would such a response look like, and could it succeed?


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mark siderits
buddhism as philosophy