Paper: Contemplative Higher Education: Diverse Epistemological Foundations East and West

Abstract of a paper delivered by Margaret Benefiel, Ph.D., at a meeting of the
Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, September 2012, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts

“Objectivism,” the deeply flawed ruling paradigm in academic teaching, learning, and research, has been roundly criticized by leading contemplative thinkers. Arthur Zajonc, Jorge Ferrer, Stephanie Paulsell, Mary Frohlich, Mirabai Bush, Harold Roth, Alan Wallace, Parker Palmer, to name but a few, lay bare its shaky underpinnings.
This paper will trace the critique by these thinkers and examine the alternatives they propose. While the most developed alternatives are based on the new science and Eastern philosophy, this presentation will offer an alternative based on Western philosophy, complementing theirs. It will draw on the work of philosopher/methodologist/theologian Bernard Lonergan, who criticized the “already-out-there-now-real” philosophy of objectivism and developed an understanding of the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity based on the operations of human consciousness.
It will then suggest a direction for discussion on the complementarity of diverse Eastern and Western alternatives to objectivism and how further inroads can be made in the academy, both for teaching and research.

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