Descartes’ famous dictum—I think, therefore I am—gave rise to the modern distinction between mind and matter. But “the inside story” is more complex and thrilling—possibly uniting mind and matter, meaning and mysticism.
Can we speak of an interior at the basis of all things, indeed within Being itself? Can we draw a connecting line from the irreducibly “inside” experience of human consciousness, to the self-individuating “interiority” of living beings, to the “intrinsic” dimension of matter, perhaps even to the most elementary constituents of Being? Are these related interiors, possibly one complex unfolding and evolution of an “inside story” linking matter, life, and mind?
How might this “inside story” open up new avenues for understanding the origin of life, and the evolution of the biosphere? In what ways does the emergence of consciousness in living systems recapitulate, or expand upon, the emergence of living systems from lifeless matter? Is there a “deep continuity” between mind and life, based on shared metaphysical, existential, and organizational principles? Does this interplay help explain the “nature of nature” more generally?
What is the relationship between matter and consciousness? In particular, what is the relationship between what David Chalmers has called the “hard problem of consciousness” and what Galen Strawson has called the “hard problem of matter”? How deeply are the two connected? Is it preferable to treat them as conceptually separate phenomena, or must they be considered in tandem for a riper understanding? And what view of nature might we embrace that would help us address these problems?
The mystical tradition of the world’s religions has long posited a connection between cosmos, biosphere, consciousness, and the divine—what Raimondo Panikkar summarized with the phrase “cosmotheandric solidarity.” What resources do we find in world religious traditions to expand our understanding of “the inside story”? Might this interior dimension reflect an ontological mystery to matter—a depth of matter that is depthless—that is advantageously considered through the unique insights of religious methodologies and perspectives? What new approaches in scientific research and philosophical analysis might arise from taking the claims of these traditions seriously?
Join us for an in-depth exploration of consciousness, nature, and transcendence, as scientists, philosophers, and theologians ask “What’s on the inside?”
The Inside Story Conference is sponsored by Villanova University, Department of Theology & Religious Studies, Connelly Chair in Christian Theology, the Augustinian Institute, Department of Philosophy, Augustinian Chair, and Halloran Philanthropies.