Universiteit Leiden

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LUCIP Lecture: Radically ecological minds

Tuesday 16 April 2024
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

The Leiden University Centre for Intercultural Philosophy is pleased to announce a talk by Bryce Huebner, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor at the Georgetown University Department of Philosophy.

Prof. Bryce Huebner


Analytic philosophers often defend physicalisms, idealisms, and panpsychisms. They also ask if minds are extended, or merely scaffolded by the world. In this talk, I will explore a different kind of ontology, which is inspired by the work of a 4th or 5th Century Buddhist philosopher named Vasubandhu. Vasubandhu argued that only the present moment exists; he rejected the metaphysical distinction between subjects and their worlds, claiming that both are effects of the maturation of past actions; and he claimed that we fail to notice these things because we are ignorant of the fact that experience is nothing but the presentation of content. Put bluntly, Vasubandhu argues that each experience has been enacted by causal forces that no longer exist; so there is no world for experience to track, and no phenomena to serve as the referent for an experience. I will begin with a brief sketch of this strange ontology, but my aim is not to defend it. I will treat it as a tool for imagination management; and I will suggest that it opens up imaginative space for considering the intriguing possibility that each experience is an  effect, which is enacted by a dynamic and interdependent ecological system. I will then make a case for a radically ecological conception of mind. Along the way, I will explore cases where squirrels fight with rattlesnakes and win, cases where people successfully negotiate with djinn, and a case where an incredible analytic philosopher survived an attack by a saltwater crocodile. If there is time, I will also discuss a way of listening to music that offers a pathway into a richer subjective awareness of this ecological conception of mind. 


Bryce Huebner is a philosopher of the biological, social, and cognitive sciences, who draws inspiration from Yogācāra Buddhism, as well as contemporary perspectives on allostatic regulation. In his recent work, he has been exploring the biological basis of cognition, and considering the ways that social and material phenomena can shape experience. He is currently writing a book about the aesthetics of horror and extreme music, with the aim of deepening our shared understanding of how people engage with diverse challenges and opportunities. 

All are welcome!

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