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Contemplative Studies

The concentration in Contemplative Studies investigates the underlying philosophical, psychological, and scientific bases of human contemplative experience. Students pursue a "third person" academic approach drawn from the humanities and sciences to analyze the cultural, historical, and scientific underpinnings of contemplative experiences in religion, art, music, and literature. This is developed in combination with a "critical first-person" approach based in practical experience of contemplative techniques and methods to provide an integrated understanding of the role of contemplative thought and experience in societies and on the individuals who constitute them.

Concentration Core (6 courses total including Senior Capstone Seminar)

COST 0100Introduction to Contemplative Studies1
Two science courses that focus on the cognitive neurological functioning of the human brain and how contemplative practices affect it
Select one from the following list:1
Mind and Brain: Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience
Human Cognition
Perception and Mind
The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience
Select one from following list:1
Meditation and the Brain: Applications in Basic and Clinical Science
Cognitive Neuroscience of Meditation
Two humanities courses that introduce students to contemplative religious traditions and to the philosophical analysis of the key questions of human existence from following list:2
Religion and Culture
The Idea of Self
Classical Philosophy of India
The Place of Persons
Mind and Matter
Ancient Philosophy
Great Contemplative Traditions of Asia
On Being Human: Religious and Philosophical Conceptions of Self
The Classical Chinese Philosophy of Life
Religions of Classical India
Senior Capstone Seminar (UNIV 1010) 1

Track Requirements (6 additional courses)

Students must complete either a Science or Humanities track in addition to the concentration core.

Science Track

The Science track in Contemplative Studies gives concentrators in-depth understanding of the scientific methods used to investigate the cognitive neuroscience of contemplative practice. Students will be taught how to critique current research as well as how to develop, operationalize, and test hypotheses related to contemplative practice. Students will become well-versed in how to study first-person reports related to the phenomenology of contemplative experience as a foundation for formulating third-person tests of the effects of practice on brain function and behavior. The Contemplative Studies Science Track trains students to investigate these types of questions not only for academic scholarship, but also to provide a method of self-inquiry that can be used to augment any area of life. 

Three thematic science courses drawn primarily from NEUR and CLPS, at least two of which must be 1000-level3
Mathematical Methods in the Brain Sciences
Cognitive Neuroscience
Computational Methods for Mind, Brain and Behavior
The Neural Bases of Cognition
Computational Cognitive Neuroscience
Principles of Neurobiology
Neural Systems
One statistics course (others with approval)1
Statistical Inference I
Statistical Methods
Experimental Design
Two semesters of laboratory research in an established lab (e.g. BIOL 1950/1960)2

Humanities Track

The Humanities track explores the origin and development of contemplative practices within specific religious, cultural, and historical contexts and gives students a foundation in the Philosophy of Mind relevant to the scientific study of contemplative practice. Students will choose a concentration program that includes three intermediate and three advanced seminars drawn from the two areas below. While it is recommended that students focus primarily on one of these two areas, the precise balance of the individual concentration program for each student will be established with the concentration advisor when the student applies to enter the concentration, normally in their fourth semester of study. 

Six Courses total from across the two areas below:6
Contemplative Religious Traditions
Mythology of India
The Bhagavad Gītā
The Confucian Mind
Early Daoist Syncretism: Zhuang Zi and Huainan Zi
Spiritual But Not Religious: Making Spirituality in America
Laozi and the Daodejing
Buddhism in India
Philosophy of Mysticism
Zen Meditation in China, Korea, and Japan
The Philosophy of Mind
Valuing Persons
Philosophy of Science
Moral Theories
Kant: The Critique of Pure Reason
Philosophy of Mind
The Shaping of World Views

Honors Requirement

 Students with a minimum GPA of 3.5 in the concentration may apply for entrance into the Honors program in the middle of their sixth semester. To apply, students submit a proposal for a senior thesis project describing the work to be undertaken and its relevance to the field of Contemplative Studies, along with a copy of their academic transcript. Students accepted into Honors must complete the required Capstone seminar, UNIV 1010, and enroll in an additional semester of independent study in their advisor’s department. Students must complete an Honors Thesis to the satisfaction of their advisor and present the results of their studies in formal talks or poster sessions open to all interested faculty and students.