Date: June 29 (Thursday) 2017
Venue: Large conference room in the basement, Faculty of Letters Main Building, Yoshida Campus, Kyoto University.
Prof. Piet Hut (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)
YHouse: a research and outreach center in Manhattan for the study of consciousness.
I will give a brief review of our plans to establish a new center in Manhattan, which will combine academic studies broady with philosophy, art, design and technology. The main focus is on consciousness, in all its forms, from intelligence to self-awareness to cognition in general. To capture all of those we like to use the umbrella term “awareness”.
In the next ten years we will learn more about the mind-body problem, on a factual technical level, than humanity has learned ever since we developed language and rational thought. This poses two urgent problems: first, to synthesize all this new knowledge, and second, to let that integrated knowledge ripen into new forms of wisdom, sorely needed for our survival.
Our solution to the first problem is to take a long view, in three parts: past, present and future. We will trace awareness from its biological roots, four billion years ago; through its cultural roots, the origins of human civilization and its ongoing transformations; to its technological roots, in AI and robots, that are being developed right now, in the present and near future.
Our solution to the second problem is to reflect on this long view, using philosophy, in a broad sense of the word. Our aim is to reconceptualize the whole field of awareness or cognition, by reflecting on its various manifestations in nature, culture, and technology.
Dr. Yuko Ishihara (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Earth-Life Science Institute)
Consciousness is absolutely no-thing: On Nishida’s transformation of transcendental philosophy
Consciousness or awareness is a subject that is studied in various disciplines today including psychology, neuroscience and cognitive science. What all these empirical studies have in common is that it takes consciousness to be another thing in the world that can be observed and measured objectively. While such approach undoubtedly sheds light on certain aspects of consciousness, it cannot provide the whole picture. This is because consciousness is not just an object in the world but a subject for the world. One of the philosophical traditions that takes this idea seriously is called transcendental philosophy. Put in the language of transcendental philosophy, consciousness is the ultimate condition of possibility for our experience of the world. In this talk, I want to explore what the nature of such consciousness might look like by drawing on the philosophy of Nishida Kitaro. I will first present my interpretation of Nishida as a transcendental philosopher and then expand on the ways in which Nishida’s philosophy transforms certain aspects of traditional transcendental philosophy since Kant. In particular, I will focus on how Nishida’s notion of “the place of absolute nothingness” provides an understanding of consciousness neither as an object nor a subject, but rather, as absolutely no-thing.