Pisa, Italy

Consciousness and Cognition

when 27 August 2022 - 4 September 2022
language English
duration 2 weeks
credits 6 EC
fee EUR 500

The enigma of Consciousness is perhaps the most fascinating mystery in the Universe. There are many hypotheses, on the basis of which we try to give an answer to the most difficult problems but, wanting to schematize, all can be traced back to two broad categories: those who consider Consciousness entirely reducible to the electro-chemical-physical processes that take place in the brain, and those who acknowledge that Consciousness has an intrinsic existence, independent, at least in part, from its physical substratum.

Whereas the former fit well into the monistic vision of the so-called Scientific Materialism, the latter can lead either to a dualistic vision of Reality, in which the external world obeys the laws of Physics and the internal one requires a different level of analysis, or to a reconfiguration of the subject-object relation in a unitary picture of Reality. This unitary vision is compatible, for example, in Western culture with phenomenological approaches in philosophy and with Quantum Mechanics in physics, and in Eastern culture with Buddhist and Hindu traditions based on contemplative practices such as meditation and yoga.

The path in search of the solution winds between these alternatives and passes through the answer to two fundamental questions:
1) "Is Scientific Materialism capable of embracing the totality of Reality?"
2) "Is a unitary vision of Reality possible, in which Consciousness is not completely reducible to its neuronal correlates?"

In the absence of definitive and widely shared answers to these two questions, the study of consciousness and of the process through which we have cognition of Reality must be fronted with a multidisciplinary approach that includes not only neurosciences, but also biology, artificial intelligence, philosophy of science and epistemology.
A space has to be reserved to two domains that are apparently very different, but that on the contrary show, very surprisingly, some convergences: the one of Quantum Physics, and the one of Contemplative Practices. While the first constitutes the most advanced approach to the study of the physical world, which also extends to phenomena that take place at the nanoscopic level in biological tissues, the latter allows to explore in a profound and accurate way aspects of the problem that are not accessible with objective methods and that concern the first-person experience.

For these reasons, the School will be organized in order to explore the enigma of Consciousness from different points of view, with the participation of teachers who are experts in all these disciplines.

The School will take place in a residential form, thanks to a Convention between the University of Pisa and the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, 35 Km from Pisa, renowned for the excellent quality of its study programs of Buddhist philosophy and psychology.

A specific space will be reserved for the experiential aspect in order to integrate the lessons with familiarization sessions with contemplative practices (Yoga and Meditation). The sessions will be conducted by highly qualified teachers with specific experience and will also be usable by the students who will attend the school online.

The 2022 edition of the Summer School Consciouseness and Cognition is organized by University of Pisa in collaboration with the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, with the patronage of the Italian Buddhist Union.

The program will be activated both on campus and online.

Course leader

Prof. Bruno Neri

Target group

University students of Philosophy, Psychology, Neuroscience, Bioengineering, Artificial Intelligence, Physics.
Scholars interested in the unsolved problem of Consciousness.
Psychologists, Psychotherapists and Psychiatrists.

Course aim

(Philosophy): acquire a sensitiveness to the existence of a dimension of consciousness that overcomes the distinction between subject and object and understand its role in the current quest to explain consciousness, through a progression into insights drawn from Western philosophical approaches (especially phenomenology) and Eastern traditions and practices;

(Quantum Mechanics) understand the basic principles of quantum mechanics to comprehend the subtler issues connected with the interpretation of the theory and their possible relevance for a discussion of consciousness, of the mind-body problem and of the nature of reality itself;

(Artificial Intelligence): learn the basic concepts and models of nature-inspired computational techniques, and to know how to apply them to a wide range of application areas. Students will be exposed to the advantages and challenges of using computationally intelligent systems with human-like capabilities in terms of reasoning, learning and adaptation;

(Biosemiotics): learn the basic of Biosemiotics and become acquainted with the semiotic nature of sign relationships both in biological and human-made systems, understand how cells act as semiotic units capable of interpreting their own environment through signs exchange, and eventually comprehend how sign perception and epigenetic regulation are causally linked through differential gene expression;

(Contemplative Practices): comprehend the vision of Eastern tradition (Induism and Buddhism) concerning Consciousness and its different levels and manifestations; learn the foundations, the characteristics and the aspects of the different types of meditation;

(Neurosciences and not Ordinary state of Consciousness): after a description of the neural networks, acting in the brain, and a survey on the main investigation techniques of the brain activity (Electroencephalography, FMRI), understand how self induced not ordinary states of consciousness by natural drugs, hypnosis, dream, deep meditation, affect this activity;

(Practice) become familiar with the experiential aspects of contemplative practices, through Meditation and Yoga sessions led by highly qualified teachers. The session will be usable also by student online.

Fee info

EUR 500: Tuition fees


Available. Write to the coordinator for further details.

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