Tuesday, December 02, 2008
It’s odd that there should be so much philosophical talk about qualia, sense-datum, raw feels and other names for the contents of our subjective experience and so little time spent examining them subjectively. Philosophers generally respect the methods of the natural sciences yet ignore a mode of examination of subjective experience which can afford a better examination of it. The method amounts to looking more closely. This is the method of mindfulness meditation in Buddhism. One sits still, closes the eyes and “watches,” experiences consciously or examines the arising and passing of thoughts, emotions or feelings and sensations. It may be objected that mindful examination of subjective experience is not a transparent or simple examining, but the same could be said for the microscope. The method itself is quite simple. Sit still for a longish period of time – longer than we normally sit still – and examine the contents of experience as they arise. The experience is one of seeing what is already there but more closely. We already do this in small doses when we check in to know what we are feeling. So why not look more closely for a sustained amount of time? It’s odd that a field with a strong empiricist tradition wouldn’t think to examine their subject matter more closely.