Mind and Attention in Indian Philosophy

September 21, 2013 - September 22, 2013
Philosophy, Harvard University

Thompson Room
12 Quincy St, Barker Center
Cambridge 02137
United States


  • Center for the Study of Mind and Nature, Oslo
  • Harvard University, South Asian Studies
  • Harvard University, Philosophy
  • Network for Sensory Research


David Nowakowski
Princeton University
Alex Byrne
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nilanjan Das
University College London
Jake H. Davis
City University of New York
Imogen Dickie
University of Toronto
Laura Guerrero
Utah Valley University
Keya Maitra
UNC Asheville
Farid Masrour
Harvard University
Catharine Prueitt
Emory University
Katia Samoilova
Brown University
Kranti Saran
Ashoka University
Harvard University
Nico Silins
Cornell University
Declan Smithies
Ohio State University
Sharon Street
New York University
Evan Thompson
University of British Columbia
Joerg Tuske
Salisbury University
Alex Watson
University of Oslo
Zhihua Yao
Chinese University of Hong Kong


Parimal G. Patil
Harvard University
Harvard University
University of Oslo

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Mind and Attention in Indian Philosophy  * Harvard University, Sept 21-22, 2013.

The goal of the workshop is to bring into focus philosophical work in Indian traditions that address the role of attention of all kinds in mental life. Papers should address any of the following questions in the context of Indian philosophy.

What factors determine how the stream of consciousness unfolds?

 By what processes do we bring a subject-matter (an external item, or an idea) into focus? 

What factors can determine what the mind is focused on?

 What kinds of things can be attended to?

What is the role of attention in mediating between sensation and cognition?

How are capacities for attention related to other capacities such as perception or skills?

What is the role of considerations about attention or the directing or redirection of the mind in arguments for or against the permanence of inanimate objects?

 What kinds of methods can be used to redirect attention or mental focus?

What are the practical, epistemic, and ethical benefits or drawbacks of redirecting attention?

What is the role of attention in mediating between sensation and cognition?

Can attention or focusing capacities be trained? If so, how? What are the upshots and the significance of such training?

Are subjects necessarily aware of how their attention is directed? Can they become aware of it? If so, what is the nature of this form of awareness? What role does it play in redirecting attention or the development of the capacity for attention?  


9:15 Introduction

9:30-10:40 Laura Guerrero “The Role of Vāsanā in Determining Perceptual Content in the Work of Dharmakīrti”

            Commentator: Alex Byrne, MIT

10:45-11:55 Nilanjan Das 'Nyaya on Cognitive Penetrability'.

            Commentator: Susanna Siegel, Harvard

noon-1:10 Cat Prueitt “The Joint Emergence of Subject and Object as Concepts According to Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta."

            Commentator: Declan Smithies, OSU/MIT

Lunch – Barker Center

2:15-3:25 David Nowakowski “Persistence and Cognitive Attention in Udayana's Ātmatattvaviveka”

            Commentator: Farid Masrour, Harvard

3:30-4:40 Alex Watson  "Shifts of Attention, Competition for Attention and the Subject of Attention; Contrasting Indian Perspectives"

            Commentator: Sebastian Watzl/Oslo-CSMN

4:45-5:55 Jake Davis "What Feels Right, for All of Us: A Buddhist Response to Moral Relativism"

            Commentator: Sharon Street, NYU

Dinner and Party


9:30-10:40 Zhihua Yao, Taiwan Beyond Self-Representationalism: “A New-Dignāgian Theory of Consciousness”

            Commentator: Katia Samoilova, Brown

10:45-11:55 Kranti Saran "Meditative Attention to Bodily Sensations: Conscious Attention without Selection?"

            Commentator: Evan Thompson

Lunch – Barker Center

1pm-2:10 Joerg Tuske "Free will and attention in Indian Philosophy"

            Commentator: Imogen Dickie, Toronto

2:15-3:25 Keya Maitra  “Consciousness & Attention in the Bhagavad-Gita”

            Commentator: Nico Silins, Yale/NUS 


Kati Balog, Rutgers

Clare Batty, Kentucky

Ned Block, NYU

David Chalmers, NYU

Christian Coseru, Charleston

Carolyn Dicey Jennings, UC-Merced 

Benj Hellie, Toronto

Sheridan Hough, Charleston

Fiona Macpherson, Glasgow

Mohan Matthen, Toronto

Matt McKenzie, Colorado

Jen McWeeny, Worcester Polytechnic

Laurie Paul, UNC-Chapel Hill

Mark Siderits, Paris

John Taber, UNM

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