A student contacted me with the following query:
I recently finished an MA in philosophy at the University of New mexico, USA. […] I’m writing you because it has been difficult to find a place where I can pursue the project I’m most interested in. I would like to develop scientific and philosophical methods for evaluating the experiential claims made in the meditative traditions of India, and apply whatever data emerges to philosophy of mind/consciousness studies. Do you have any suggestions about where such a project might be done?
When I asked for further details, he added:
I studied Vedānta, Mīmāṃsā, and the Indian debates about consciousness and self, with John Taber, and I studied Nāgārjuna with Richard Hayes. My MA research was on representationalist theories of consciousness and how they do not seem to be able to account for purportedly contentless experiences such asamprajñāta samādhi. I have already started on several facets of the project I suggested in my first message. For instance, I have a paper briefly sketching the project coming out in the Fall APA Newsletter on Asian and Asian American Philosophy, a co-authored paper in the revise and resubmit phase with the Journal of Consciousness Studies, using phenomenological reports of specific meditative experiences to illuminate a poorly understood aspect of Kurt Gödel’s proof of his Incompleteness Theorem(s), a co-authored paper in development on third-person scientific approaches to meditation research for The Oxford Handbook on Meditation, and a co-edited book on objectless experience under contract with the publisher Imprint Academic.
Financial support would be a must, although moving to some areas would be easier than others.
Do readers have useful suggestions? As I see it, the student would need both financial and research support (it would not make much sense to work on his own on such a challenging project).
University of Wisconsin – Madison. I don’t know what specific program auspices to apply under, but that’s where John Dunne is now bringing his serious knowledge of Buddhism to all the people like Richard Davidson who’ve been doing experimental work on meditation for a decade or two. As far as I know, that is THE place where this kind of work is being done. I have no idea about their financial aid, but the cost of living should be relatively affordable (at least compared to the likes of Boston).
Many thanks, Amod. I was thinking also of Evan Thompson at British Columbia. What would you say?
NYU and Brown, as well? Jake Davis (https://wp.nyu.edu/attention/jake-h-davis/) works on this and related topics–he’s currently a postdoc with the Virtues of Attention project at New York University. He did his studies at University of Hawai’i Mānoa (Interdisciplinary Concentration in Cognitive Science) and Brown. Brown has a a Contemplative Studies Concentration (https://www.brown.edu/academics/contemplative-studies/contemplative-studies-courses) which might be another possibility–it looks like they have a scholarly graduate studies track.
(I should add that of course Jonarden Ganeri is at NYU and part of that project, and but I mention Jake in particular because of the empirical aspect to his work and his educational background, which fits the student’s inquiry.)