Finding wisdom in distress: meditation and horror as tools for changing the mind - Bryce Huebner (Georgetown University)

Speaker: Bryce Huebner

I have recently defended the view that minds are composed of complex collections of analog and digital effects, which manipulate and transform the flow of information to generate the ‘music’ of experience; and I have argued that these effects are not centrally controlled, but regulated by heterarchical networks of chemical signaling systems, which boost, suppress, or transform potentially salient sources of information (Huebner forthcoming; Huebner & Schulkin forthcoming; Shine et al submitted). My aim in this talk is not to defend this view—though I will provide an overview of it. Instead, I want to explore the implications of this approach to cognition, by considering the ways that some forms of Buddhist meditation mess with the levels on these analog and digital effects to change the music of experience. Specifically, I will focus on meditations on foulness, and meditations in charnel grounds, which aim to transform a practitioner’s understandings of their embodiment and mortality. With this background in mind, I will then turn to the possibility that contemporary horror films can be used in a similar way; and I will argue that the mindful consumption of such films can reveal quite a bit about how minds are organized, how they are shaped by history, and how various anticipations can prevent us from encountering things as they really are.

Huebner, B. (Forthcoming). A neuroyogācāra manifesto. Res Philosophica.

Huebner, B. & Schulkin, J. (Forthcoming). Biological cognition. Cambridge Elements in the philosophy of mind.

Shine, JM. et al (Submitted). Understanding the effects of serotonin in the brain through its role in the gastrointestinal tract.

Date & time

Thu 30 Jun 2022, 2:00pm to 3:30pm


Auditorium, Level 1, RSSS building, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601


Bryce Huebner (Georgetown University)


Sarita Rosenstock


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