Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Michael E. Zimmerman

Second Advisor

Holly Gayley

Third Advisor

Yuko Munakata


The human mirror neuron system (MNS) offers a clear connection between phenomenology, philosophy of mind and cognitive science that has profound implications for understanding the actions, emotions and intentions of others. The MNS exemplifies an integration of first-person subjective levels of lived-bodily experience, and third-person objective accounts stemming from within cognitive neuroscience, which is known as neurophenomenology. Neurophenomenology and the MNS are important for closing the explanatory gap in philosophy of mind, and for surmounting the mind-body problem. Furthermore, studies involving Buddhism and neuroscience have recently been important for shedding light on the explanatory `gap,' by identifying the neural correlates of compassion, emotional regulation and attention. In this thesis, I argue that Buddhist meditation and neuroscience are converging on illuminating the mind-body relationship, and the importance of both emotion and empathy in the MNS. Hence, a contemplative neuroscience approach is essential for illuminating the role empathy plays in the MNS.