Consciousness and Cognition

Menon, Sangeetha (2016) Consciousness and Cognition. In: Oxford Bibliographies in Hinduism. Oxford University Press, New York.

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Abstract: The concepts of consciousness and cognition are central to Hindu philosophy. The major concepts that are related to the discussion on consciousness and cognition in Hindu philosophy are epistemological aspects such as the process of knowing and perceiving; means of knowledge; emotions; self and personal identity; the mind-body problem; the body; linguistic and phenomenological inputs; and health and well-being. A major sub-discipline that represents the discussions on consciousness and cognition based on Hindu philosophy is called Indian psychology. In Hindu metaphysics, epistemology, and psychology, there are detailed discussions on the process of knowledge, means of knowledge, and, most importantly, knowledge about the person who knows. One of the central topics of discussion for all schools of Hindu philosophy is the mind. While the discussions about the mind lead to ways of knowing and the nature of cognition, consciousness is often considered as an entity that relates to the nature of the self, indicating a continuity of identity. What is significant is that often the Hindu schools distinguish between the concepts of mind and consciousness, and also the processes of knowing and being. On one side, the philosophical discussions in the classical systems are connected with mechanisms involved in perceptual knowledge, and determining the veracity of what is known. And on the other, there is in-depth analysis of the mind of the knower that involves different states of consciousness. What is noteworthy about Hindu philosophical systems is that mostly the distinction of consciousness is made from what is material and what is mental. The dominant approach is to consider consciousness as a distinct entity that plays a role in determining the function and content of consciousness. The realist schools like Nyaya consider consciousness in the light of analyzing substance but, unlike Cartesian dualism, accord only substantiality and extension but not physicality. Schools such as Visistadvaita regard consciousness as a property of the self, and postulate non-identity between the self and consciousness. Many schools of the Hindu darsana systems are founded on the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahmasutra, which are together called Prasthanatreyi. All these three foundational texts delve into nuanced analysis of consciousness, at the same time distinguishing it from the process of cognizing. An important concept that is present in these texts of Hindu philosophy is the self. Discussions about consciousness and cognition are incomplete without understanding the self and personal identity. Such a scenario, which is prevalent in the current discussions in consciousness studies, can be cited in the several-centuries-old classical systems of Hindu philosophy as well. Because of the primacy of the concept of the self in understanding the processes of knowing and being, the philosophy that emerges also has implications for understanding mental health and well-being of the person. Thus Indian psychology is an important offshoot of consciousness studies within Indian philosophy. Another central contribution of Hindu philosophy, in the context of its theories on consciousness and cognition, is to the current interest in cognitive neuroscience. Concepts underlying Yoga and meditation can shed light on understanding the nature of brain functioning during waking and sleep states, and also contribute to theorizing healing and better life quality.
Item Type: Book Chapter
Subjects: School of Humanities > Consciousness Studies
Divisions: Schools > Humanities
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2017 10:40
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2017 10:40
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