At the end of the Nicomachean Ethics , the most in uential secular ethics text in the West (a set of lecture notes dutifully copied by Aristotle’s son Nicomachus), Aristotle wrote (or taught) that he would next take up politics, which in any case he ought to have done before the ethics. It would have been equally sensible if Aristotle had written (or taught) the Politics rst, that he might have had the reverse a erthought – namely, that he should (...) now turn to moral psychology and ethics, to providing a theory of individual ourishing ( eudaimonia ) as well as a theory of human agency, the virtues, moral development, moral education, and weakness of the will ( akrasia ), which in any case he ought to have done rst, before providing a theory of social or political good. So which really comes rst – or what is di erent, should come rst – ethics, including what we now call moral psychology – moral development, a ective and cognitive components of moral competence, and so on – or politics, including what we now call the theories of justice and social good? e answer to both the descriptive and normative questions is that ethics, moral psychology, and a conception of social and political good typically co-evolve and depend upon each other conceptually. us this messy feature of interdependency is as it should be, as it must be. In the domain of morality, as a lived phenomenon and as an area of inquiry, neither philosophy nor psychology nor social and political theory serves as the foundation for any other. ere is instead massive, and necessary, interpenetration among psychology, ethics, and politics, between the descriptive and the normative, even, as we shall see, between the psychophysical and the metaphysicalError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMapError: Illegal entry in bfrange block in ToUnicode CMap. It follows that the only sensible aim of anyone seriously concerned with the good life, with questions of how we individually and collectively.... (shrink)
An Essay in Comparative Neurophilosophy -- Preface -- Introduction: Buddhism Naturalized -- The Bodhisattva's Brain -- The Colour of Happiness -- Buddhist Epistemology and Science -- Buddhism as a Natural Philosophy. Buddhist Persons -- Being No-self & Being Nice -- Virtue & Happiness -- Postscript: Cosmopolitanism and Comparative Philosophy.
Flanagan (1991) was the first contemporary philosopher to suggest that a modularity of morals hypothesis (MMH) was worth consideration by cognitive science. There is now a serious empirically informed proposal that moral competence is best explained in terms of moral modules-evolutionarily ancient, fast-acting, automatic reactions to particular sociomoral experiences (Haidt & Joseph, 2007). MMH fleshes out an idea nascent in Aristotle, Mencius, and Darwin. We discuss the evidence for MMH, specifically an ancient version, “Mencian Moral Modularity,” which claims four innate (...) modules, and “Social Intuitionist Modularity,” which claims five innate modules. We compare these two moral modularity models, discuss whether the postulated modules are best conceived as perceptual/Fodorian or emotional/Darwinian, and consider whether assuming MMH true has any normative ethical consequences whatsoever. The discussion of MMH reconnects cognitive science with normative ethics in a way that involves the reassertion of the “is-ought” problem. We explain in a new way what this problem is and why it would not yield. The reason does not involve the logic of “ought,” but rather the plasticity of human nature and the realistic options to “grow” and “do” human nature in multifarious legitimate ways. (shrink)
The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World is my attempt to explain whether and how existential meaning is possible in a material world, and how such meaning is best conceived naturalistically. Neuroexistentialism conceives of our predicament in accordance with Darwin plus neuroscience. The prospects for our kind of being-in-the-world are limited by our natures as smart but fully embodied short-lived animals. Many find this picture disenchanting, even depressing. I respond to four criticisms of my relentless upbeat naturalism: that (...) naturalism can make no room for norms, for values; that I overvalue truth at the expense of happiness; that I underestimate the extent to which supernaturalism has made peace with naturalism; and that I can give no account for why humans as finite animals should want to overcome our given natures and seek impersonal, self-transcendent value. (shrink)
The scientific, ethical, and policy issues raised by research involving the engraftment of human neural stem cells into the brains of nonhuman primates are explored by an interdisciplinary working group in this Policy Forum. The authors consider the possibility that this research might alter the cognitive capacities of recipient great apes and monkeys, with potential significance for their moral status.
We define our conscious experience by constructing narratives about ourselves and the people with whom we interact. Narrative pervades our lives--conscious experience is not merely linked to the number and variety of personal stories we construct with each other within a cultural frame, but is subsumed by them. The claim, however, that narrative constructions are essential to conscious experience is not useful or informative unless we can also begin to provide a distinct, organized, and empirically consistent explanation for narrative in (...) relation to consciousness. Understanding the role of narrative in determining individual and collective consciousness has been elusive from within traditional academic frameworks. This volume argues that addressing so broad and complex a problem requires an examination from outside our insular disciplinary framework. Such an open examination would be informed by the inquiries and approaches of multiple disciplines. Recognition of the different approaches toexamining personal stories will allow for the coordination of how narrative seems (its phenomenology), with what mental labor it does (its psychology), and how it is realized (its neurobiology). Only by overcoming the boundaries erected by multiple theoretical and discursive traditions can we begin to comprehend the nature and function of narrative in consciousness. Narrative and Consciousness brings together essays by exceptional scholars and scientists in the disciplines of literary theory, psychology, and neuroscience to examine how stories are constructed, how stories structure lived experience, and how stories are rooted in material reality (the human body). The specific topics addressed include narrative in the development of conscious awareness; autobiographical narrative, fiction and the construction of self; trauma and narrative disruptions; narrative, memory and identity; and the physiological and neural substrate of narrative. It is the editors' hope that the multidisciplinary nature of this collection will challenge the reader to move beyond disciplinary confines and toward a coherent interdisciplinary dialogue. (shrink)
Traditional ideas about the basic nature of humanity are under attack as never before. The very attributes that make us human--free will, the permanence of personal identity, the existence of the soul--are being undermined and threatened by the current revolution in the science of the mind. If the mind is the brain, and therefore a physical object subject to deterministic laws, how can we have free will? If most of our thoughts and impulses are unconscious, how can we be morally (...) responsible for what we do? The Problem of the Soul shows the way out of these seemingly intractable paradoxes. Framing the conflict in terms of two dominant visions of the mind--the "manifest image" of humanistic philosophy and theology, and the scientific image--renowned philosopher Owen Flanagan demonstrates that there is, in fact, common ground, and that we need not give up our ideas of moral responsibility and personal freedom in order to have an empirically sound view of the human mind. (shrink)
What, if anything do dreams tell us about ourselves? What is the relationship between types of sleep and types of dreams? Does dreaming serve any purpose? Or are dreams simply meaningless mental noise--'unmusical fingers wandering over the piano keys'? With expertise in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, Owen Flanagan is uniquely qualified to answer those questions. And in Dreaming Souls he provides both an accessible survey of the latest research on sleep and dreams and a compelling new theory about the nature (...) and function of dreaming. Flanagan argues that while sleep has a clear biological function and adaptive value, dreams are merely side effects, 'free-riders', irrelevant from an evolutionary point of view. But dreams are hardly unimportant. Indeed, Flanagan argues that dreams are self-expressive, the result of our need to find or create meaning, even when we are sleeping. Rejecting Freud's theory of manifest and latent content--of repressed wishes appearing in disguised form--Flanagan shows how brainstem activity during sleep generates a jumbled profusion of memories, images, thoughts, emotions, and desires, which the cerebral cortex then attempts to shape into a more or less coherent story. Such dream narratives range from the relatively mundane worries of non-REM sleep tot he fantastic confabulations of deep REM that resemble pyschotic episodes in their strangeness. But, however bizarre these narratives may be, they can shed light on our mental life, our well being, and our sense of self. Written with clarity, lively wit, and remarkable insight, Dreaming Souls offers a fascinating new way of apprehending one of the oldest mysteries of mental life. (shrink)
This paper discusses the problem of destructive emotions by comparing Eastern and Western assumptions about emotions. In the case of anger, for example, Eastern thinkers straightforwardly posit that it is entirely possible to cultivate attitudes in which anger is naturally absent. In the West, by contrast, it is generally assumed that anger is a “basic” emotion that can be suppressed or managed, but not eliminated from one's basic emotional constitution. Thus, in the Eastern way of thinking, emotion is a force (...) that more easily harmonizes with rational approaches to life and to the specific problems in life. (shrink)
The five papers in this issue all deal with the proper evolutionary function of sleep and dreams, these being different. To establish that some trait of character is an adaptation in the strict biological sense requires a story about the fitness enhancing function it served when it evolved and possibly a story of how the maintenance of this function is fitness enhancing now. My aim is to evaluate the proposals put forward in these papers. My conclusion is that although sleep (...) is almost certainly an adaptation, dreaming is not. [Hobson et al.; Nielsen; revonsuo; Solms; Vertes & Eastman]. (shrink)
What, if anything, do dreams tell us about ourselves? What is the relationship between types of sleep and types of dreams? Does dreaming serve any purpose? Or are dreams simply meaningless mental noise--"unmusical fingers wandering over the piano keys"? With expertise in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, Owen Flanagan is uniquely qualified to answer these questions. In this groundbreaking work, he provides both an accessible survey of the latest research on sleep and dreams and a compelling new theory about the nature (...) and function of dreaming. Flanagan argues that while sleep has a clear biological function and adaptive value, dreams are merely side effects, "free riders," irrelevant from an evolutionary point of view. But dreams are hardly unimportant. Flanagan argues that dreams are self-expressive, the result of our need to find or to create meaning, even when we're sleeping. Written with remarkable insight, Dreaming Souls offers a fascinating new way of apprehending one of the oldest mysteries of mental life. (shrink)
Human beings have the unique ability to consciously reflect on the nature of the self. But reflection has its costs. We can ask what the self is, but as David Hume pointed out, the self, once reflected upon, may be nowhere to be found. The favored view is that we are material beings living in the material world. But if so, a host of destabilizing questions surface. If persons are just a sophisticated sort of animal, then what sense is there (...) to the idea that we are free agents who control our own destinies? What makes the life of any animal, even one as sophisticated as Homo sapiens, worth anything? What place is there in a material world for God? And if there is no place for a God, then what hold can morality possibly have on us--why isn't everything allowed? Flanagan's collection of essays takes on these questions and more. He continues the old philosophical project of reconciling a scientific view of ourselves with a view of ourselves as agents of free will and meaning-makers. But to this project he brings the latest insights of neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychiatry, exploring topics such as whether the conscious mind can be explained scientifically, whether dreams are self-expressive or just noise, the moral socialization of children, and the nature of psychological phenomena such as multiple personality disorder and false memory syndrome. What emerges from these explorations is a liberating vision which can make sense of the self, agency, character transformation, and the value and worth of human life. Flanagan concludes that nothing about a scientific view of persons must lead to nihilism. (shrink)
Recently some philosophers interested in consciousness have begun to turn their attention to the question of what evolutionary advantages, if any, being conscious might confer on an organism. The issue has been pressed in recent dicussions involving David Chalmers, Todd Moody, Owen Flanagan and Thomas Polger, Daniel Dennett, and others. The purpose of this essay is to consider some of the problems that face anyone who wants to give an evolutionary explanation of consciousness. We begin by framing the problem in (...) the context of some current debates. Then we. (shrink)
Todd Moody’s Zombie Earth thought experiment is an attempt to show that ‘conscious inessentialism’ is false or in need of qualification. We defend conscious inessentialism against his criticisms, and argue that zombie thought experiments highlight the need to explain why consciousness evolved and what function(s) it serves. This is the hardest problem in consciousness studies.