A study of ignorance: suffering and freedom in early Buddhist teachings and parallels in modern neuroscience

Dissertation, University of Glasgow (2016)
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What might early Buddhist teachings offer neuroscience and how might neuroscience inform contemporary Buddhism? Both early Buddhist teachings and cognitive neuroscience suggest that the conditioning of our cognitive apparatus and brain plays a role in agency that may be either efficacious or non-efficacious. Both consider internal time to play a central role in the efficacy of agency. Buddhism offers an approach that promises to increase the efficacy of agency. This approach is found in five early Buddhist teachings that are re-interpreted here with a view to explaining how they might be understood as a dynamic basis for ‘participatory will’ in the context of existing free will debates and the neuroscientific work of Patrick Haggard. These perspectives offer Buddhism and neuroscience a basis for informing each other as the shared themes of: cognition is dynamic and complex/aggregate based, being dynamic, cognition lacks a fixed basis of efficacy, and efficacy of cognition may be achieved by an understanding of the concept of dynamic: as harmony and efficiency and by means of Buddha-warranted processes that involve internal time.
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Epicurus.Konstan, David
Buddha.Siderits, Mark
Abhidharma.Ronkin, Noa

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