Advertisement

Philosophical Studies

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

Meditation and self-control

  • Noa LathamEmail author
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgments

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.

References

  1. Bratman, M. (1987). Intention, plans, and practical reason. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Brefczynski-Lewis, J. A., Lutz, A., Schaefer, H. S., Levinson, D. B., & Davidson, R. J. (2007). Neural correlates of attentional expertise in long-term meditation practitioners. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0606552104.
  3. Davidson, D. (1980). Essays on actions and events. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Davidson, R. J., & Lutz, A. (2008). Buddha’s brain: Neuroplasticity and meditation. IEEE Signal Processing Magazine.Google Scholar
  5. Davis, J., & Thompson, E. (2014). From the five aggregates to phenomenal consciousness: Toward a cross-cultural cognitive science. In S. Emmanuel (Ed.). A companion to Buddhist philosophy (pp. 585–597). Wiley.Google Scholar
  6. Dreyfus, G. (2011). Is Mindfulness present-centred and non-judgmental? A discussion of the cognitive dimensions of mindfulness. Contemporary Buddhism 12(1), 41–54.Google Scholar
  7. Dunn, B. R., Hartigan, J. A., & Mikulas, W. L. (1999). Concentration and mindfulness meditations: Unique forms of consciousness? Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 24(3), 147–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: H. Holt and Company.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living. New York: Dell.Google Scholar
  10. Li, F., van Rullen, R., Koch, C., & Perona, P. (2002). Rapid natural scene categorization in the near absence of attention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 99, 9596–9601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lutz, A., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2007). Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness: An introduction. In P. D. Zelazo, M. Moscovitch, & E. Thompson (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Lutz, A., Jha, A. P., Dunne, J. P., & Saron, C. D. (2013). Investigating the phenomenal and neurocognitive matrix of mindfulness-related practices. (unpublished).Google Scholar
  13. Lutz, A., Slagter, H., Dunne, J., & Davidson, R. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(4), 163–169.Google Scholar
  14. Mele, A. (2009). Mental action: A case study. In L. O’Brien & M. Soteriou (Eds.), Mental actions and agency (pp. 17–37). Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mole, C., Smithies, D., & Wu, W. (2011). Attention: Philosophical and psychological essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Nash, J., & Newberg, A. (2013). Toward a unifying taxonomy and definition for meditation. Frontiers in Psychology. 4, 806. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Parvizi, J., & Damasio, A. R. (2001). Consciousness and the brainstem. Cognition, 79, 135–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Searle, J. (1983). Intentionality: An essay in the philosophy of mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Shear, J., & Jevning, R. (1999). Pure consciousness: Scientific exploration of meditation techniques. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6(2–3), 189–209.Google Scholar
  20. Slagter, H. A., Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Francis, A. D., Nieuwenhuis, S., Davis, J. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2007). Mental training affects distribution of limited brain resources. PLoS Biology, 5(6), 1228–1235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Strawson, G. (2003). Mental ballistics or the involuntariness of spontaneity. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 103, 227–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Thompson, E. (2014). Waking, dreaming, being: Self and consciousness in neuroscience, meditation and philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

Personalised recommendations