I recently had the privilege of conducting an interview with Professor Evan Thompson from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. This insightful conversation offered a captivating exploration of Professor Thompson's life, work, and perspectives, providing valuable insights into the realms of philosophy, Tai Chi, and the intersection of technology and humanity. During our discussion, I also had a sneak preview of his upcoming speech at the "Science of Tai Chi & Qigong As Whole-Person Health Conference" hosted by Harvard Medical School and the Osher Center of Integrative Medicine in Boston (MA) on September 18-19 of this year.
Born in Isaac, New York, Evan Thompson is a renowned Philosophy professor who has made significant contributions to the field through his groundbreaking research on the science of mind, self, and consciousness. His expertise spans multiple disciplines, including neuroscience, phenomenology, meditation, cognitive science, Buddhism, and philosophy. With an impressive track record, he has authored five influential books on these subjects, including "The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience" with Francisco Varela and Eleanor Rosch (MIT, 1991, rev. 2016), "Color Vision: A Study in Cognitive Science and Philosophy of Perception" (Routledge, 1995), "Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Science of Mind" (Harvard, 2007), "Waking, Dreaming, Being: Self and Consciousness in Neuroscience, Meditation, and Philosophy" (Columbia, 2015), and his most recent work, "Why I Am Not a Buddhist" (Yale University, 2021).
In our recent interview, we delved into various aspects of Professor Thompson's life and work. We explored his fascinating upbringing as a child and teenager in Landisfarne Association, an educational community that brought together scientists, philosophers, artists, religious teachers, and environmentalists. This unique environment, founded by his parents, Professor William Thompson and Gail Thompson, played a pivotal role in shaping his intellectual journey.
During his years residing in Landisfarne, Professor Thompson had the opportunity to immerse himself in the practice of Tai Chi chuan and meditation. Meditation, in all its various forms, was a daily ritual for everyone in the community. Initially, he learned the Yang Style Tai Chi from Da Liu, and later he delved into other styles and forms. During his college years, he had to discontinue his practice due to a lack of accessible teachers. It was not until he began teaching that he resumed his studies and practice, which felt like a long-awaited return to his true path.
In our conversation, Professor Thompson shared his extensive experience and profound insights into the realm of Tai Chi. He shed light on the remarkable significance of this ancient art and its relevance in today's modern world. A central theme of our discussion revolved around the philosophical foundations of Tai Chi as a therapeutic and healing discipline. Professor Thompson offered valuable perspectives on the deeply rooted philosophies that underpin its therapeutic effects and holistic approach to promoting well-being.
Furthermore, we inquired into why Tai Chi has gained such a broad global appeal, transcending boundaries of political systems, religions, cultural heritages, racial backgrounds, sexes, and ages. Professor Thompson articulated his perspective on the universality of Tai Chi, which attracts practitioners from diverse walks of life. Its inherent inclusivity and transformative power have made it an art form that resonates with people from all corners of the world.
Overall, our conversation provided profound insights into the practice of Tai Chi, its philosophical foundations, and its remarkable ability to unite people across various backgrounds, fostering a sense of harmony and well-being in the present era.
Additionally, we delved into Professor Thompson's perspective on the impact of ever-growing technologies on humanity. Drawing from his comprehensive understanding of diverse disciplines, he shared his views on how these advancements will shape and influence our collective future.
You can watch the entire interview below and learn that Professor Thompson will be presenting a big picture of the science of Tai Chi & Qigong in respect of the mind body integration as a holistic phenomenon at the Sept. Conference in Boston. He stated in the interview that he would approach the topic from a cognitive science perspective. According to him, It is an important scientific perspective to understand a practice like Tai Chi and then reciprocally that Tai Chi is a very unique body-mind practice that can provide us with new kinds of perspective and information to understand the embodied cognition.