38. From the Five Aggregates to Phenomenal Consciousness

Towards a Cross-Cultural Cognitive Science

  1. Steven M. Emmanuel
  1. Jake H. Davis1 and
  2. Evan Thompson2

Published Online: 5 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch38

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy

How to Cite

Davis, J. H. and Thompson, E. (2013) From the Five Aggregates to Phenomenal Consciousness, in A Companion to Buddhist Philosophy (ed S. M. Emmanuel), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Chichester, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781118324004.ch38

Author Information

  1. 1

    Graduate Center of the City University of New York, USA

  2. 2

    University of Toronto, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 FEB 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 MAR 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470658772

Online ISBN: 9781118324004



  • attention;
  • Buddhist Model;
  • cognitive science;
  • consciousness;
  • five aggregates;
  • meditation;
  • mindfulness


This chapter explores how two different projects, exploring states of consciousness and training of attention might prove mutually beneficial. It lays the groundwork for a cross-cultural cognitive science by using one traditional Buddhist model of the mind – the five aggregates – as a lens for examining contemporary cognitive science conceptions of consciousness. The model of consciousness and meditative transformations of consciousness is inspired by the accounts found in the Pāli Nikāyas. The model of attention, consciousness, and mindfulness drawn from the Nikāya account of the five aggregates is of interest to us because it suggests promising new directions for scientific investigations of the mind. The chapter aims to provide some useful tools for this new conversation. In particular, building bridges between the five aggregates model and contemporary cognitive science can offer a way to understand precisely the roles of attention, consciousness, and memory in Theravāda mindfulness meditation.