Mind and Emptiness: Perspectives on the Nature of Consciousness

Friday, April 28 – Saturday, April 29, 2017
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH

* The conference is free and open to the public

Presented by Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth and Upper Valley Zen Center, Dartmouth Zen Practice


What is consciousness? For all the accomplishments of Western science and philosophy, it seems that explanation of conscious awareness itself remains elusive. Thomas Nagel, in his 2012 book Mind and Cosmos, writes, “Consciousness is the most conspicuous obstacle to a comprehensive naturalism that relies only on the resources of physical science.”

While in the West reality was explored by careful study of the natural world, in the Buddhist traditions of Asia reality was explored with no less rigor as a matter of consciousness. We propose a conference to bring together three perspectives on consciousness: the scientist, the philosopher, and the Buddhist. 

Our aim is to facilitate a dialogue across distinct areas of study, and between science and “religion,” in a changing world where openness and acceptance of different views often contend with anger and fear. Consciousness is not merely an academic concern, but one that demands a ‘meeting of minds’ across all that divides us.


Shinge Sherry Chayat

Shinge Sherry Chayat
Abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo Monastery

Adam Frank

Adam Frank 
Professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester

Evan Thompson

Evan Thompson 
Professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia

Peter Ulric Tse

Peter Ulric Tse
Professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College


Friday, April 28, 2017

➣ 3:00-4:00 p.m.
Meditation (Dartmouth Zen Practice)
Location: Congregational Church gathering room

➣ 4:00-5:30 p.m.
Keynote Address

  • Evan Thompson, University of British Columbia
    “The Nature of Consciousness: A Neurophenomenological Approach”

Location: Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall

Saturday, April 29, 2017

➣ 8:00-9:00 a.m.
Meditation (Shinge Roshi)
Location: Congregational Church gathering room

➣ 9:00-9:40 a.m.

  • Peter Tse, Dartmouth College
    “Attention in the Brain: Where Volition and Consciousness Come Together to Create our Subjective Reality”

Location: Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall

➣ 9:40-10:00 a.m

➣ 10:00-10:40 a.m.

  • Adam Frank, University of Rochester
    “Physics, Philosophy and Mind: A New Path to the Waterfall”

Location: Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall

➣ 10:40-11:20 a.m.

  • Shinge Roshi, Dai Bosatsu Zendo Monastery
    “Consciousness: A Buddhist Perspective”

➣ 11:20-12:20 p.m.

  • Panel Discussion

Location: Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall 

After the panel concludes, we invite all guests to continue the conversation informally at The Class of 53 Commons, where we have reserved the upstairs seating area. The cost for the luncheon is $10.50 per person. Please be aware that per DDS, any attendees will be required to purchase a meal in order to attend.