Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 7, pp 1779–1798 | Cite as

Meditation and self-control

  • Noa LathamEmail author


This paper seeks to analyse an under-discussed kind of self-control, namely the control of thoughts and sensations. I distinguish first-order control from second-order control and argue that their central forms are intentional concentration and intentional mindfulness respectively. These correspond to two forms of meditation, concentration meditation and mindfulness meditation, which have been regarded as central both in the traditions in which the practices arose and in the scientific literature on meditation. I analyse them in terms of their characteristic intentions, distinguish them from concentration and mindfulness in general, and examine the relations between them. Concentration involves keeping the mind focused on a single object, while mindfulness requires noticing whatever mental states occupy the focus of one’s consciousness. In the course of the investigation I examine the role of phenomenology and volition in the activity of meditating, and how they change as meditative capacities develop.


Meditation Self-control Concentration Mindfulness Consciousness Attention Intention Volition Phenomenology Effort Higher-order thought 



For helpful comments on drafts of this paper I’d like to thank Miri Albahari, Christopher Framarin, Dave Liebesman, Bruce Mangan, Mark Migotti, Tony Scott, Evan Thompson, the fellow panelists at a meeting of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy, and numerous audiences at colloquia and conferences.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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