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Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience Meditation and Philosophy

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A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain.

Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander or daydream, we project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the "I" as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate—either in the waking state or in a lucid dream—we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as "me." We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self.

Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness its dissolution with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life's profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives.

Author: Thompson Evan
Pages: 496
ISBN: 9780231137096
Cover: Hardback
Edition Number: 1
Release Year: 2014

Foreword by Stephen Batchelor
Prologue: The Dalai Lama's Conjecture
1. Seeing: What Is Consciousness?
2. Waking: How Do We Perceive?
3. Being: What Is Pure Awareness?
4. Dreaming: Who Am I?
5. Witnessing: Is This a Dream?
6. Imagining: Are We Real?
7. Floating: Where Am I?
8. Sleeping: Are We Conscious in Deep Sleep?
9. Dying: What Happens When We Die?
10. Knowing: Is the Self an Illusion?

Evan Thompson is professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the author ofColour Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Perception (1995) and Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind (2007) and coauthor of The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (1991, revised edition, 2017).

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