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The Elephant in the Room

International Conference "The Elephant in the Room. Investigating Consciousness Beyond Reductionism" - University of Padova (February 21-23, 2024)

This has come about through a joint venture between the University of Padova, the Italian Buddhist Union Research Center, and the India Foundation, in collaboration with the Mind and Life Europe, the University of Ottawa, and the Mind Care Foundation.

The conference will host international scholars from various fields of research (including neuroscience, physics, philosophy of mind, and contemplative research) with the goal of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration regarding the subject of consciousness – one of the great unresolved mysteries of our time.

Consciousness is a fundamental but elusive phenomenon that has long puzzled scholars across a range of disciplines. Despite significant developments in various related fields, a complete understanding of this subject is still lacking and the nature of consciousness and its relation to the brain represents a major blind spot in the landscape of our contemporary knowledge; it is “The Elephant in the Room” of our Enlightenment culture.

Rapid advancements in various scientific and technological fields, including artificial intelligence and biotechnology, are raising crucial philosophical questions about the conditions for consciousness to emerge in organisms and whether it could manifest through an artificial medium—questions that cannot be adequately addressed without a sound theoretical framework. The ethical implications raised by these questions will not be addressed directly in the conference but rather serve to frame the inquiry into consciousness during the challenging times we are moving into, highlighting its urgency.

The primary objective of the conference is to convene leading experts in consciousness research from diverse fields of knowledge, including physics, neuroscience, philosophy of mind, and contemplative research, under the idea that the nature of consciousness is a fundamental question that cannot be dismissed as a matter of personal beliefs. Rather, it demands a rigorous and collaborative scientific and philosophical inquiry whose aim is to shed increasing light on this mystery over time.

Building on these premises, each talk delivered at the conference is expected to answer the central question “what is consciousness?” by presenting evidence and arguments that support a specific perspective and outline the necessary steps to advance further research. Moreover, the conference will provide a conducive environment for interdisciplinary discussions, as participants are encouraged to share hypotheses and research proposals.

The event is aimed at scholars, researchers, students, and anyone passionate about the subject of consciousness, as well as research institutions, philanthropic organizations, and anyone wishing to contribute to the development of this significant field of research.

Free entry on a first-come-first-served basis. The event will be held exclusively in-person and in English; Italian translation services will be available.


February 21, 23: Sala delle Edicole, Palazzo del Capitanio.

February 22: Aula N, Palazzo Liviano.


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