EPOCH Project

The EPOCH Project is committed to the advancement of research and scholarship in contemporary philosophy of mind, utilizing the rich analytical and phenomenological resources from Indian and Buddhist philosophies. The name EPOCH is an acronym for “Eastern Philosophy of Consciousness and the Humanities.” The project’s director is Prof. Arindam Chakrabarti.

The project that has now come to be called EPOCH got its start in the Fall of 2011 on the basis a generous grant from Ruth Kleinfeld to the UH Foundation intended to enhance and benefit the research being done in the Department by Prof. Chakrabarti. The funds were used to finance a Research Assistantship in Indian Philosophy of Mind in order to lay the foundations for the current project.

In the Fall 2013, thanks to another generous contribution from Ruth Kleinfeld, the EPOCH Project has launched. The Project will use the bulk of its new funds to sponsor a graduate student in the Department with a half-time Graduate Assistantship. The remainder of the funds will sponsor an annual, one-week visit to the Department by a scholar in Indian and Buddhist philosophy of mind. The latter will be hosted with travel, lodging, and an honorarium to give a departmental colloquium talk, a distinguished campus lecture, and a session with the Department’s EPOCH-involved students.

The Project’s long-term goal is to advance and establish more firmly the importance of scholarly contributions that have been emerging at the intersection of Indian and Buddhist philosophies of mind, on the one hand, and contemporary western philosophy of mind, on the other. Philosophy of mind is one of most thriving fields in contemporary philosophy. Indian and Buddhist philosophy, independently, are known to be rich in debates concerning such hot topics in philosophy of mind and cognitive science as concepts of self or no-self, concepts of a concept, nature of consciousness, relationship between emotion and cognition, non-conceptual perception, etc. The overlap of these two has been well-traversed in the scholarly work of the Department for some time. The Indian and Buddhist solutions to and explorations of problems and issues in what is called philosophy of mind are, in anthologies on the subject, often completely omitted. The project is, against this long-standing tradition of insular erasure, devoted to doing rigorous philosophy of mind in a different cross-cultural voice.

The research goals of the EPOCH Project for first three years (2013-2016) are topical. The first year is to be dedicated to promoting research within the Department on the topic of the imagination. The second year will take up the topic of concepts. The third year is to be devoted to research on emotions and affective states. The Project aims to provoke and promote readings of each of these themes in contemporary philosophy of mind through the lens of classical Indian and Buddhist philosophy. In doing so, the project aims to promote more graduate and faculty research, (and eventually, publication) in this burgeoning new field.

Several of the department’s PhD students are already doing work in this area, and hoping to contribute to the goals of this project:

Ana Funes is writing a dissertation—tentatively titled “Philosophy of Mind as Philosophy of Body”—on the notion of “subtle body” as it is found in the philosophical schools of Vedānta, Sāmkhya-Yoga and Kashmir Śaivism in comparison to some contemporary theories of the body (cognitive and phenomenological). Her purpose in this project is to examine and discuss a particular type of bodily awareness that arises in experiences where there is a direct and immediate attention to the inner felt living body in order to see how the articulation of those experiences influence or can influence the way we interpret the world and interact with it. This is to be considered not only on the sensori-motor level, but on the cognitive-emotional and ontological levels as well.

Joshua Stoll does work which focuses on the epistemological and conceptual (or metaphysical) problems of other minds, problematizing these two issues. He argues that there has been an apparent neglect, in previous scholarship, of the role value plays in both the knowing of others and the extension of the concept of mind to others. This demands a new, value-oriented approach to these problems as well as a new set of value-laden problems, dealing with ethico-moral and aesthetic concerns. Each of these latter concerns might be called the axiological problems of other minds. 

Joel LeBel has a two-fold research aim regarding the imagination. First, he hopes to undertake an advanced study of varied conceptions of the imagination through the perspectives of both European and Chinese philosophy and their connection to human creativity, consciousness, and intelligibility. Secondly, in an attempt to trace an unbroken path from metaphysics to ethics, he hopes to situate the imagination as that faculty which mediates the infinite and finite modes of conscious reality thus leading to a richer notion of human freedom.  

For more information regarding the EPOCH Project, please contact Prof. Arindam Chakrabarti at uharindam@gmail.com.