CONS ZG572: Matter in Bhagavata Sankhya

Contemporary physics is clear on one point: making progress in our understanding of physical reality described by quantum theory requires going past the Cartesian notion of matter as extended substance. Yet physicists do not have an alternative conception of matter in hand. For example, Lockwood in Mind, Brain and the Quantum has argued:

"in reflecting on the relation of consciousness to the matter of the brain, philosophers have been apt to take matter for granted, assuming that it is mind rather matter that is philosophically problematic . . . . [our present conception of] matter is deeply problematic and philosophically ill-understood."

The Indian Sankhya system is well known for its ideas about multiple levels of matter; however, in the scholarly circle only Iswara Krishna’s Sankhya is well known. The relatively less known Bhagavata Sankhya, however, brings extra resources for considering the interrelationship between matter and consciousness. This course will make a detailed study of the Bhagavata Sankhya School and its conception of twenty four levels of matter. At various stages of this study, connections will be made to a variety of contemporary problems in different fields of science, such as quantum physics, cognitive science, neuroscience, and biology. In each instance, the revision to our current conception of matter entailed by these connections will form the backdrop for classroom discussions.