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.
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 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.