Track “Philosophy”


    Series 1: “Quantum Mechanics: A Theory with no View of the World”

    Course Outline

    Part 1: How can we compare quantum mechanics and Buddhism?

    It is widely held that there is a similarity between the Buddhist and the quantum views of the world. But, actually, the only similarity between the two disciplines is that they tend to challenge any view of the world whatsoever.

    Part 2: Critique of views of the world in Buddhism & Quantum mechanics

    From Niels Bohr (1927) to Chris Fuchs (2019), many physicists have challenged the idea that quantum mechanics is meant to give a picture of the world. Their arguments are compared with Buddhism.

    Part 3: Relativity of properties: The defeat of own-being

    In quantum physics, there are no intrinsic properties, but relational observables. Phenomena are co-arising with the process of their detection. This feature is compared with the Buddhist emptiness of own-being.

    Part 4: Dispelling ‘quantum paradoxes’ (1) – Schrödinger’s cat without own-being

    The defeat of own-being makes it easy to dispel quantum paradoxes. We start with dispelling the famous paradoxes of the collapse of the wave function and Schrödinger’s cat paradox.

    Part 5: Dispelling ‘quantum paradoxes’ (2) – Wave and corpuscles without own-being

    Neither intrinsic waves nor intrinsic particles: the behavior of quantum objects is relative to one’s experimental approach.

    Part 6: Dispelling ‘quantum paradoxes’ (3) – Indeterminism

    There are no intrinsic causes to individual events, but only relative causes. We compare this with Nagarjuna’s critique of causality.

    Part 7: Dependent arising, entanglement, and ‘non-locality’

    Quantum entanglement is remarkably similar to Buddhist dependent arising. The meaning of this similarity is that even relations are relative, even emptiness is empty.

    Series 2: “Consciousness East and West”

    In this second series of Track Philosophy, Michel Bitbol will delve into the problem of consciousness and our various attempts, across different scientific and philosophical traditions, to provide an accurate idea of its significance. He will walk us through some of the major limitations of the contemporary Western approach of cognitive science, particularly as it concerns our understanding of “phenomenal consciousness” (the first-person approach to consciousness, or consciousness as understood from the ground up). Other approaches, such as phenomenology, the contemplative traditions, some schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and the Kyoto school of philosophy, provide rich alternatives and/or complementary perspectives to the standard (neuro)scientific view of consciousness, accounting for different levels of experience out of which a new science can be formed.

    Course Outline

    Part 1: “Consciousness, East and West”

    In this introductory chapter, Michel Bitbol starts out by exploring two ostensibly divergent conceptions of consciousness, “Eastern” and “Western,” and considers the degree to which they can be compared or share a common ground. 

    Part 2: “Is the Meaning of Buddhist Practice Compatible with Neuroscience?”

     In this second chapter, Michel Bitbol addresses one of the foundational questions of this series: is the meaning of Buddhist practice compatible with neuroscience? More specifically, is the existential meaning of Buddhist practice compatible with the materialist conclusions often associated with neuroscience? 

    Part 3: “On the Contemporary Zombie-like Conception of Consciousness”

    Here, Michel Bitbol explores some of the possible limitations of the materialist conception of consciousness according to cognitive scientists. Notably, he walks us through the example of a “zombie-like” conception of consciousness.

    Part 4: “On the Prospect of ‘Artificial Consciousness”

    In chapter 4, Michel Bitbol takes up the fascinating question of whether it is possible to generate artificial consciousness, and by extension, “artificial meditators” or “artificial Buddhas.” 

    Part 5: “Addressing the Problem of Consciousness from the Midst of Consciousness: Phenomenology”

    Here, Michel Bitbol presents an alternative path for understanding consciousness from within the experience of consciousness itself: namely, phenomenology. In this way, he shows us how the problem of consciousness can be turned upside-down, starting from the elements of first-person experience and drawing conclusions therefrom. 

    Part 6: “‘Perennial Idealism’: An Indian Dissolution of the ‘Hard Problem’ of Consciousness”

    In this penultimate chapter, Michel Bitbol delves into a non-standard solution to the hard problem of consciousness, “perennial idealism,” derived mainly from Indian culture.

    Part 7: “Beyond the Self, Below the Level of (Reflective Consciousness)”

    In this final chapter, Michel Bitbol prompts us to consider the ultimate question: what is left after dualism? Here, his exploration ventures beyond conceptions of the self, beyond perennial idealism, and beyond the level of reflective consciousness to offer yet further alternatives to the problem of consciousness – notably from the Kyoto School of philosophy, the Zen Buddhist tradition, and the American psychologist William James. 

    About the Expert

    Michel Bitbol, France

    Michel Bitbol is researcher at CNRS/Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. He received a M.D., a Ph.D. in physics and a ‘Habilitation’ in philosophy. After a start in scientific research, he turned to philosophy of science, editing texts by Erwin Schrödinger and formulating a neo-kantian philosophy of quantum mechanics.

    He then studied the relations between physics and the philosophy of mind, in collaboration with Francisco Varela, and drew a parallel between Buddhist dependent arising and non-supervenient relations in quantum physics. He also developed a first-person conception of consciousness expressed from the standpoint of an experience of meditation. More recently, he engaged a debate with the philosophical movement called ‘speculative realism’, from the same standpoint.


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