All events are free and open to the public

Spring Term 2014

Friday–Saturday, April 25–26, 2014
Buddhism, Mind, and Cognitive Science
Toll Room, Alumni House, University of California, Berkeley

This conference is made possible by a grant from The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation.

This conference is dedicated to the exploration of the methodological underpinnings of the current encounter between Buddhism and cognitive science. Recently, this encounter has been criticized for failing to take account of the historical and cultural complexities of Buddhist thought and practice, failing to reflect the most recent developments in cognitive science, neglecting the hermeneutic issues that complicate attempts to relate traditional Buddhist psychology to contemporary scientific theories, and neglecting traditional Buddhist epistemologies that are incompatible with the "neurophysicalism" that motivates some of the scientific research. Given such critiques, how might one proceed? Is there some way to mitigate the methodological (historical, hermeneutic, philosophical) quandaries that threaten to unravel the Buddhism-cognitive science dialogue? Is there a way to bring these disparate traditions into conversation without sacrificing the intellectual depth and sophistication of each? Or is such an endeavor misguided in principle? Is it merely another in a long history of attempts to legitimize Buddhism by claiming its compatibility with science? Our interest lies not in rehearsing the critique, but instead in exploring how, if at all, the encounter might move forward.

Friday, April 25, 2014
Toll Room, Alumni House
Session 1: 4:00 – 7:00 pm

Welcome and introduction to the conference:
•  Robert Sharf (Buddhist Studies), University of California, Berkeley

Plenary talks:
•  Evan Thompson (Philosophy), University of British Columbia
•  Clifford Saron (Neuroscience), University of California, Davis

Open discussion


Saturday, April 26, 2014
Toll Room, Alumni House
Session 2: 9:00 am – 12:30 pm

Chair: Robert Sharf (Buddhist Studies), University of California, Berkeley

•  John Dunne (Buddhist Studies), Emory University Antoine Lutz
•  Lawrence Barsalou (Psychology), Emory University
•  Antoine Lutz (Neuroscience), Neuroscience Research Center, Lyon
•  Rebecca Todd (Psychology), University of British Columbia
•  Laurence Kirmayer (Psychiatry), McGill University
•  Carol Worthman (Anthropology), Emory University


Saturday, April 26, 2014
Toll Room, Alumni House
Session 3: 2:00 – 6:30 pm

Chair: Evan Thompson (Philosophy), University of British Columbia

•  Christian Coseru (Philosophy), College of Charleston
•  Thomas Metzinger (Philosophy), Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz
•  Dan Arnold (Philosophy of Religion), University of Chicago
•  Georges Dreyfus (Buddhist Studies), Williams College
•  Robert Sharf (Buddhist Studies), University of California, Berkeley
•  John Tresch (History and Sociology of Science), University of Pennsylvania

Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 4 pm
New Discoveries in Sogdian Art and Culture from Central Asia to China
Matteo Compareti, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
Conference Room, Institute of East Asian Studies, 2223 Fulton Street, 6 floor

Talk followed by a panel discussion.

In the last fifteen years, knowledge about the Sogdians along the so-called "Silk Road" has expanded thanks to archaeological discoveries in Central Asia and China. The discovery of "cemeteries for foreigners" in the outskirts of the ancient Chinese capital Xi'an and other sites of present-day China revealed also some tombs that belonged to Sogdian immigrants who were active during the sixth century. Despite the adoption of Chinese cultural traits, these burials displayed some typical Iranian elements which indicated the Sogdians complex religious and cultural traditions.

Greco-Roman, Chinese, Indian and even Mesopotamian elements can be traced among the Sogdians both in their homeland and in the colonies abroad, not to mention Hunnic and Turkic ones. Monumental mural paintings discovered at the three main Sogdian sites of Varakhsha, Afrasyab and Penjikent still present several interpretative problems that can now be compared to visual narratives on Sino-Sogdian funerary monuments, especially, those ones from Xi'an. Moreover, eighth-century Sogdian paintings display elements found commonly in Islamic book illustrations of the late thirteenth-early fourteenth centuries onwards.

This talk will present some of the most recent discoveries and interpretations in this fascinating field of study, with particular attention to Sogdian secular and religious visual production.

Matteo Compareti completed his M.A. at Venice University "Ca' Foscari" in 1999 and his PhD at Naples University "L'Orientale" in 2005. His main field is Silk Road studies, in particular the relationships between Iranian peoples such as the Persians and the Sogdians and neighboring cultures and civilizations. At present, his investigations focus mainly on the iconography of Zoroastrian divinities in both pre-Islamic Persia and Central Asia. Some of his most recent publications include the following articles and books:

Samarcanda Centro del Mondo. Proposte di lettura del ciclo pittorico di Afrāsyāb, Milano-Udine, 2009 (forthcoming English edition : Samarkand the center of the world, Mazda, 2014).

The Painted Vase of Merv in the Context of Central Asian Pre-Islamic Funerary Tradition, The Silk Road, 9, 2011, pp. 26-41.

The So-Called Senmurv in Iranian Art: A Reconsideration of an Old Theory, in: Loquentes linguis. Linguistic and Oriental Studies in Honour of Fabrizio A. Pennacchietti, eds. P. G. Borbone, A. Mengozzi, M. Tosco, Wiesbaden, 2006, pp. 185-200.