Back to Mind and Consciousness: Various Approaches
Sharing My Experience About the MiCon-2002 Conference at IIT Kharagpur,
India on Mind and Consciousness: Various Approaches January 9-11, 2002
By Sangeetha Menon, PhD, Associate Fellow: Consciousness Studies, Philosophy of Science Unit, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bangalore, India 560 012
1. Organisation: The program was quite packed with invited lectures and parallel technical sessions. The program throughout maintained an air of formality with each session having two Chairpersons. But the evenings were different which gave a flavour of regional folk music and dance. Needless to say, we were properly fed and looked after wonderfully. Many thanks to Dr. Chhanda Chakrabarthy, Dr. Manas Mandal and all others for everything.
2. Nature: Once again it was proved, by this conference too on consciousness, that 'consciousness' serves more as an umbrella term for many different complex events-philosophical, psychological, neurobiological, cognitive, literary etc. and combinations of all these. And, may be this is a challenge for us, that inspite of the differences even in our definition of problem, we have shared concerns. The question which comes up here is whether it is imperative at all to have a working definition for 'consciousness' enroute to the conference/discussions. There seems to be many viewpoints and strong positions about the details involved in particular perspectives and methodologies which are independent worlds/islands by themselves. But there seems to be less attention on the basic and primary question the answer for which is important in having to initiate dialogue and exchange, which is the working definition of consciousness. May be a panel or two on basic questions/issues would have helped. And also if the role given to the two Chairpersons were more specific, each session could have ended with a summary of the main issues and concerns raised. In most of the sessions the role assigned to the second Chairperson seemed to be ambiguous.
3. What was missing: One of the striking features (to me) was the lack of specific
presentations from Indian/Indic theories and approaches to consciousness, other
than the Infinity Foundation Session and another couple or so individual presentations.
It would have been more at a balance if the conference had equal space for presentations
on specific themes relating to Indian psychology, philosophy etc. Also this
would have been an opportunity to start afresh a dialogue between what are popularly
described as 'western multidisciplinary third-person' and 'eastern first-person'
approaches. Another feature absent was a facility to bring together ideas expressed
at individual sessions, and a panel discussion/ a small round table meet, looking
at the basic issues. Also, I thought, there could have been better student participation
(many thanks for all the trouble they took behind the stage to make the conference
4. Experience: The conference over and above helped for a community of people of shared concerns to come together. The informal discussions and dialogues over the cup of tea, lunches and dinners were rewarding. The 'Dept. of Humanities and Social Sciences' of the oldest IIT organising such a conference also indicated the growing interest in initiating dialogues across disciplines and institutions.
5. Publication: The compendium of abstracts, circulated at the conference, of all the presentations helped to read each other in advance. The organisers also announced their plan to bring out the proceedings of the conference in the near future.
6. Infinity Foundation Session: Steven Philips, Ram-prasad Chakravarthy, Sanjay Chandrasekharan and myself were at this afternoon session on 11th, Chaired by Prof. P.K.Mukhopadhyay and Prof. S.C.Malik. Steven made the whole event have an auspicious start by chanting the 'mangala vacana', which I thought gave the session a unique color representing its identity. Ram introduced the 'Infinity Foundation' to the audience. What I wished to happen at this session also especially, was a last few minutes discussion amongst the panelists ( and the audience) and a summary of the main issues raised.
The web link to the papers presented is at
7. What I have shared here is purely from my personal perspective, and hence I am sure there could be alternative views, experiences and suggestions.