I just received my copy of the newest edition of the Journal of Consciousness Studies in the mail. It contains an article on contemplative science that I wrote back in 2014, when I was a junior visiting scholar at the Mind and Life Institute.
The central idea is that contemplative science needs to be based in what people experience in meditation today, but also that we need to learn as much as possible from the contemplative traditions.
I use a recent theory from the philosophy of science to justify this. Here is the abstract:
“Contemplative science is usually conceived either as an introspective investigation of the meditative mind or as following methods of other scientific disciplines to study the mind in meditation. Here, I suggest a conception of a comprehensive contemplative science that includes both. Drawing on Paul Hoyningen-Huene’s work in the philosophy of science, I develop an understanding of contemplative science based on the idea that science consists of systematicity in nine dimensions of scientific activity. Hoyningen-Huene uses everyday knowledge as the main contrast to scientific knowledge, claiming that the latter is more systematic than the former. Since the contemplative traditions already exhibit a high degree of systematicity, these traditions are used as an additional contrast. This results in a description of the nature and current state of contemplative science and an indication of how it should develop in the future in order to become more systematic and thereby more scientific.”
The article originally ended with a passage that puts a more human and less theoretical spin on the whole idea of contemplative science. I removed the passage in order to reduce the size of the article. Here is it is:
“In a sense, modern science has a split personality. On the one hand, it is a commonplace belief that science is and end in itself. This is a high ideal that goes back to Antiquity, where contemplating truth was seen as a good in itself. On the other hand, scientific knowledge is often put to use based on very limited and even egotistic aims. Furthermore, the scientific picture that emerges from natural science can lead to the human being feeling estranged and disconnected from its environment. A natural reaction to this is to only regard nature in the light of narrow, human ends. The contemplative traditions contain perspectives where knowledge of the cosmos is not disconnected from the highest of human ideals. In other words, the contemplative traditions may be seen to contain forms of knowledge of its own that could help unite the split personality of modern science. This is an issue that I have left mostly untreated here, but which still is essential when conceiving of a future contemplative science that draws on the best of the ancient traditions and the modern mind.”
This last statement contains, in a nutshell, the whole idea behind this blog and what I will be spending the coming decades working on.
The final draft of the article is available here for those of you that do not have access.
Also, I highly recommend the article “What is it Like to Meditate?: Methods and Issues for a Micro-phenomenological Description of Meditative Experience” by Petitmengin, van Beek, Bitbol, Nissou, and Roepstorff in the same issue.