Public Lecture

Mindfulness, Meditation and the Meaning of Life

Speaker: Prof. Oren Hanner

Oren Hanner is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at New York University in Abu Dhabi and Research Fellow at the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, University of Hamburg. He works on the history of Indian and Buddhist philosophy, ethics and action theory, and cross-cultural philosophy. His edited volume Buddhism and Scepticism: Historical, Philosophical, and Comparative Perspectives (Hamburg Buddhist Studies Series 13, Projekt Verlag, 2020) explores the place and role of skeptical thinking in Buddhist philosophy within the tradition and from a cross-cultural point of view. His current research interests concern the meaning of life, collective agency, and justice in Buddhism.

Time: 7-9 pm | 11 Mar 2024 (Mon)

Venue: CBA, Chow Yei Ching Building, Main Campus, HKU

Conducted in English | Free admission | All are welcome | 
Online registration required

Lecture Abstract

The question of the meaning of life is in many respects a modern concern, related to growing individuality and secularity. In this talk, I wish to link this question to classical Buddhist thought by exploring the role of mindfulness, specifically mindfulness meditation, in providing meaning to life. I will open by looking at the kinds of life-meanings that Buddhist doctrine makes available to its practitioners, considering the two alternatives of cosmic versus subjective meanings. After surveying current psychological theories that aim to explain the correlation between mindfulness and meaningfulness by seeing mindfulness as a mediating trait, I will propose a philosophical framework that can explain why mindfulness has a direct bearing on meaning in life. This will be based on the theory of meaningfulness that was developed by the American philosopher Susan Wolf. I will then show that mindfulness meditation, as understood in Buddhism, can respond to one philosophical worry that arises from Wolf’s theory; namely, the difficulty to explain what makes meaningful activities and projects objectively valuable.