This past week, Jeffrey presented an overview of the work of evolutionary psychologist Robert Wright, with a focus on Wright’s provocative book, Why Buddhism is True. His notes follow.
Wright claims that the Buddha’s path to become free from suffering actually addresses the inherent insatiable imperatives of our brain that developed through natural selection. The discussion will focus on the question of how emerging developments in neuroscience affect our practice, or whether they are ultimately, irrelevant.
Jeffrey presented the Modular Model of the Mind, as outlined in Robert Wright’s book, Why Buddhism is True. Wright’s argument is that our brains evolved bit by bit through natural selection, and as a consequence, we are prone to self-delusion and anxiety, leading to suffering. We are hard-wired to experience pleasure as fleeting, leading to constant cycle of craving, sating and dissatisfaction. Wright agrees with Buddha that there is no “CEO” style of self that is in control of our thoughts, feelings and actions. He contends that our minds are made up of “modules’, each with a specific evolutionarily-driven goal, such as satisfying hunger or spreading our genes. There is no overall self, instead, whichever module is most highly stimulated by information in the environment will tend to become dominant for a period of time. Because buddhism shares very similar notions about craving as the source of suffering, the buddhist prescription for relief from suffering makes sense to Wright.