Authors
Jennifer M. Windt
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Abstract
Contentless experience involves an absence of mental content such as thought, perception, and mental imagery. In academic work it has been classically treated as including states like those aimed for in Shamatha, Transcendental, and Stillness Meditation. We have used evidence synthesis to select and review 135 expert texts from within the three traditions. In this paper we identify the features of contentless experience referred to in the expert texts and determine whether the experiences are the same or different across the practices with respect to each feature. We identify 65 features reported or implied in one or more practices, with most being reported or implied in all three. While there are broad similarities in the experiences across the traditions, we find that there are differences with respect to four features and possibly many others. The main difference identified is that Shamatha involves substantially greater attentional stability and vividness. Another key finding is that numerous forms of content are present in the experiences, including wakefulness, naturalness, calm, bliss/joy, and freedom. The findings indicate that meditation experiences described as contentless in the academic literature can in fact involve considerable variation, and that in many and perhaps most cases these experiences are not truly contentless. This challenges classical understandings in academic research that in these so-called contentless experiences all content is absent, and that the experiences are therefore an identical state of pure consciousness or consciousness itself. Our assessment is that it remains an open question whether the experiences aimed for in the three practices should be classed as pure consciousness. Implications of our analysis for neuroscientific and clinical studies and for basic understandings of the practices are discussed.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11097-022-09811-z
Options
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 72,541
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

What is It Like to Be a Bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
What is It Like to Be a Bat?Thomas Nagel - 2004 - In Tim Crane & Katalin Farkas (eds.), Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology. Oxford University Press.
The Unreliability of Naive Introspection.Eric Schwitzgebel - 2006 - Philosophical Review 117 (2):245-273.
Minimal Phenomenal Experience.Thomas Metzinger - 2020 - Philosophy and the Mind Sciences 1 (I):1-44.

View all 61 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Commentary on Contentless Consciousness.Peter Binns - 1995 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 2 (1):61-63.
Contentless Consciousness and Information-Processing Theories of Mind.Philip R. Sullivan - 1995 - Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 2 (1):51-59.
Poetics of Emptiness.R. Johnson - 2002 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 9 (7):32-41.

Analytics

Added to PP index
2022-05-24

Total views
1 ( #1,558,302 of 2,533,478 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #391,480 of 2,533,478 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads

Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

My notes