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Buddhism and Modern Psychology

The Dalai Lama has said that Buddhism and science are deeply compatible and has encouraged Western scholars to critically examine both the meditative practic...
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Platform: Coursera
Video: 11h 51m
Language: English

Table of contents


The Dalai Lama has said that Buddhism and science are deeply compatible and has encouraged Western scholars to critically examine both the meditative practice and Buddhist ideas about the human mind. A number of scientists and philosophers have taken up this challenge. There have been brain scans of meditators and philosophical examinations of Buddhist doctrines. There have even been discussions of Darwin and the Buddha: Do early Buddhist descriptions of the mind, and of the human condition, make particular sense in light of evolutionary psychology?

This course will examine how Buddhism is faring under this scrutiny. Are neuroscientists starting to understand how meditation “works”? Would such an understanding validate meditation—or might physical explanations of meditation undermine the spiritual significance attributed to it? And how are some of the basic Buddhist claims about the human mind holding up? We’ll pay special attention to some highly counterintuitive doctrines: that the self doesn’t exist, and that much of perceived reality is in some sense illusory. Do these claims, radical as they sound, make a certain kind of sense in light of modern psychology? And what are the implications of all this for how we should live our lives? Can meditation make us not just happier, but better people?

All the features of this course are available for free. It does not offer a certificate upon completion.

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Religion Department and the Center for Human Values
Princeton University
Robert Wright is the author, most recently, of
Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment (2017). His other books include
The Evolution of God, which was a New York Times bestseller and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize,
The Moral Animal, which The New York Times Book Review named one of the ten best books of 1994, and
Nonzero,which Bill Clinton called “astonishing” and instructed White House staff members to read. In 2009 Wright was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the top 100 global thinkers. Wright has written for The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Foreign Policy, and the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Financial Times. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and his awards include the National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism. Wright, a visiting lecturer at Princeton University, has also taught in the psychology department at Penn. He is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and editor-in-chief of the website Bloggingheads.tv.

Platform: Coursera
Video: 11h 51m
Language: English

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