On this view, it follows that perception is grounded in the actions of the person; it is a skill of combining the manifold of sensibility into the semantically hued diorama of meaningful experience that all people experience as they navigate the world. As a skill of perception, experience can be said to consist in various levels of detail and nuance; it is shot through with skillful means at the ground level, means trainable and plastic in nature. Indeed, if one takes the position that philosophy is an activity that intervenes upon the initial order of skilled perception, then it becomes clear that philosophy is a means for acting upon action. Philosophical practice on this view is itself something like a somatic or practical activity, one that makes contemplation—in the sense of marking out a space for observation—its own kind of skilled action, executed in an environment.
Mindfulness, whether distinguished as a state, trait, or training, is central to a growing wave of interest in meditation. Theoretical development has been called for in order to clarify confusion about mindfulness from a scientific perspective. Ideally, such development will allow ingress for more traditional perspectives and guide inclusive research on the wider range of meditation practices. To address this call, we outline a new approach for understanding mindfulness and related meditative experience that accommodates diverse perspectives. In accord with other integrative approaches, we employ foundational psychological constructs (namely, attention, intention, and awareness) to understand mindfulness. In contrast to other theoretical perspectives, however, we utilize this foundation to derive novel psychological constructs needed to better explain mindfulness and important features of meditative experience more widely. The contemplative cognition framework integrates three attention-related processes entailed by a variety of contemplative practices: intended attention, attention to intention, and awareness of transient information. After delineating this set of three processes, we explain how they can cooperate to promote a contemplative range of metacognition about attention, intention, and awareness, as well as enhanced regulation of cognition, emotion, and behavior. The contemplative cognition framework (a) overcomes discrepancies in mindfulness research; (b) accounts for contextual and motivational aspects of training; (c) supports investigation from phenomenological, information processing, neurophysiological, and clinical perspectives; and (d) enables investigations on various contemplative states, traits, and practices to inform one another. This new approach has potential for advancing a more inclusive, productive, and theory-driven science of mindfulness and meditation.
For any materialist vision of consciousness, the crucial stumbling block is the question of free will. A modern, enlightened person tends to feel that he or she has rejected a mystical, immaterial conception of the eternal soul in exchange for a strictly scientific understanding of consciousness and selfhood—as something created by the billions of neurons in our brains with their trillions of synapses and complex chemical and electrical processes. But the fact of our being entirely material, hence subject to the laws of cause and effect, introduces the concern that our lives might be altogether determined. Is it possible that our experience of decision-making—the impression we have of making choices, indeed of having choices to make, sometimes hard ones—is entirely illusory? Is it possible that a chain of physical events in our bodies and brains must cause us to act in the way we do, whatever our experience of the process may be?
In my conversations with the philosopher Riccardo Manzotti, we have explored his Mind-Object Identity Theory, a hypothesis that shifts the physical location of consciousness away from the brain and its neurons. Rather than representations in the head, Riccardo suggests that our experience is made up of the very world we perceive. But if this is the case, if subject and object are one in experience, does this not make it all the more difficult to explain our impression of free will? Isn’t it precisely our moment-by-moment awareness of making decisions that proves that we are separate and sovereign subjects moving in a world of objects that remain quite distinct from us and over which we have an obvious mastery?
Nomadic thought allows us to find “lines of escape” out of the current malaise of official thought based as it is in State and Corporate controlled academic universities, sciences, corporate and commercial worlds. Nomadic thought is singular and mobile, it falls outside the acceptable perimeters of the elite thought police who would bind us to their oppressive regimes of figural and representative theory and praxis. It gives us heuristical devices, pragmatic machines, workable tools that through intensification of those potentials that are our desires we can liberate into the world, an opening toward a future where singularity and togetherness become our real hope of a livable co-existence with each other and the natural world that is our home and habitat.