Héctor Leos
BASc Cognitive Science
BLUE Fellow
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Winter
2023
Understanding the Self beyond Cartesian cognitive science
BLUE Fellow
Winter
2023

Background

What fascinates me the most about the cognitive sciences is that they involve the use of our intellectual faculties to capture the human intellect itself. A species endowed with self-awareness, we have made ourselves our own subject of study. How did we get here? Picture this: these apelike hands, moving close by... they feel like something; through them, there is touch; similarly, there is sight and there is hearing, and the object of these senses is a world out there which is envisioned as reality; just as whatever out there is real, whatever is inside must also be real; thus, there must be such a thing as myself. Before, there was just a feeling; now, this feeling has an owner who can be studied scientifically.

A majority of scholars trace the philosophical root of the cognitive sciences to Descartes, who is commonly known for his statement: "I think therefore I am." And although we have moved on from the philosopher's worldview, it is still silently present in the ways we think of and study ourselves.

What if, like Descartes stated, self-identity is a direct outcome of rationality? Would dispensing with this rationality give us an egoless experience of reality, and if so, what insight on human existence could  we gain out of this experience? My goal at Building 21 is to attempt to  answer these questions by combining the methods of Western science and Eastern thought, and by expanding on ideas coming from phenomenology, existentialism, and process philosophy.

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