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One of the greatest questions we face is the nature of consciousness. Currently, the most widely accepted scientific framework is materialism: the idea that the world around us and everything in it, including ourselves, arises from the interplay of underlying material substances. Within this framework, consciousness is the result of brain processes. Yet, materialist neuroscience has not yet been able to pinpoint consciousness in the brain. Furthermore, the materialist framework does not explain the phenomenon of subjective experience, and leaves no room for human values, including meaning, compassion, and humanity. At this conference, we will explore different meta-physical frameworks that include materialism, but also alternatives such as idealism, that may contradict or complement materialism. Speakers are renowned scientists from around the globe, representing neuroscience, philosophy, and even theoretical physics.

Event details of The Science of Consciousness (online)
Date 2 November 2021
Time 14:00 -17:00

The Conference will take place on two afternoons on Nov 2nd and 4th, online. Each session has three to four presentations and a panel session, with opportunity for questions from and debate with the audience. Sarah Durston is scientific chair.

Speakers and program


November 2nd

14:00 Does the evidence indicate that experience is (generated by) brain activity?
Dr. Bernardo Kastrup, author and director of Essentia Foundation
14:35 Consciousness: flexibility, risk factor, wisdom
Prof.dr. Henk Barendregt, emeritus professor of foundations of mathematics and computer science, Radboud University

The predictive mind
Prof.dr. Heleen Slagter, professor of brain, cognition and plasticity, Free University Amsterdam


An introduction to Panspiritism: How Fundamental Consciousness Becomes Individual Consciousness
Dr. Steve Taylor, author and lecturer at Leeds Beckett University

16:20 Panel Discussion
17:00 End

November 4th


Emergence in the Universe & the Human Mind
Prof.dr. Erik Verlinde, professor of theoretical physics, University of Amsterdam


Blobs of order: being in between below above
Dr. Esmee Geerken, Arts Science fellow, UvA Institute for Advanced Study


Higher Dimensions of Consciousness?
Dr. Jacob Jolij, author and lecturer at Groningen University


Consciousness as relational
Dr. Iain McGilchrist, author, psychiatrist and former Oxford literary scholar


Panel Discussion

17:00 End

The organizers

The Essentia Foundation was founded in 2020 and aims to communicate recent evidence, both analytic and scientific, that materialism is a flawed metaphysics, and that metaphysical idealism or nondualism — the notion that nature is essentially mental — are models better suited to the current state of our science.

The Sentience and Science Foundation was also founded in 2020. It aims to connect first- and third-person perspectives in understanding consciousness. It supports and performs consciousness research and promotes the acceptance of a role for consciousness in science.

The University of Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Study offers outstanding researchers a haven - free from constraints of disciplinary boundaries - to work collaboratively on complex scientific and societal challenges. It brings together a collaborative research community that nurtures creative, transdisciplinary thought in pursuit of new knowledge, and creates a place for slow science. System's thinking and
complexity science methods are the 'common language' used to explore challenging interdisciplinary research topics.