Emotional Sentience & the Nature of Consciousness

May 19 2017
6:10 pm - 7:00 pm
Ash Auditorium

Emotional Sentience & the Nature of Consciousness

When examining phenomenal experience through the lens of physics, several conundrums emerge: Specificity of mind-body interactions, feelings of free will in a deterministic universe, and the relativity of subjective perception. The new biology of “emotion” can shed direct light upon these issues. It suggests that all organisms are endowed with an ancient “emotional sentience”, informative feelings that serve the crucial function of sensory-motor self-regulation – a profoundly misunderstood evaluative guidance system, one that offers an active role in evolution and still undergirds all human values. Careful examination of the biophysics involved, however, requires further investigation into the fundamental nature of “the self” (as the subjective observer in quantum mechanics), perhaps one with an ultimately creative “self-actualizing” role in a participatory universe. Profound implications flow from this new view, into nearly every social science, into public health and criminal justice – with promising portent for vibrant physical, mental, social and spiritual human flourishing.

New science will be presented that introduces human emotion as an ancient sensory system – one that both moves the body and guides the mind, processes that the vitalists once attributed to spirit or soul. While this new “emotional vitalism” is undergirded by hard science facts and dovetails with evolutionary theory, it also suggests deeper, more complex dimensions of human “self” identity. Implications for human values, spiritual experience, and consciousness will be discussed.

Katherine T. Peil is the founding Director of non-profit EFS International, whose mission is fostering global emotional wisdom. From a background in Pantheistic spirituality and clinical and social psychology, her lengthy interdisciplinary inquiry into the biophysical substrates of emotion led to the identification of its previously mysterious biological function: as an ancient “self-regulatory sense” – an evaluative perceptual mechanism through which living systems directly participate in self-organizing and evolutionary processes, and one that invites deeper inquiries into the physics of consciousness. This new science also casts light upon innate “biovalues, which scientific methodology has long avoided, as well as vital processes that in-form common spiritual experiences, and the healthy development of empathic moral conscience. It provides a biophysically informed vision of “naturalistic spiritualty”, one that echoes the common wisdom across the great religious traditions, while challenging such time honored assumptions as “sin” and the “good and evil” dichotomy.

A former affiliate of Northeastern University and the Harvard Divinity School, Ms. Peil has spoken internationally on the function, evolution, physio-chemical, and informational nature of emotion, as well as its central role in optimal health, human development, moral reasoning, universal spiritual experiences, and its informative value toward creating nonviolence in a global village.