This volume is a collection of essays by various contributors in honor of the late Laurence Berns, Richard Hammond Elliot Tutor Emeritus at St. John's College, Annapolis. The essays address the literary, political, theological, and philosophical themes of his life's work as a scholar, teacher, and constant companion of the "great books.".
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)
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)
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.
Owen Flanagan argues in this book for a more psychologically realistic ethical reflection and spells out the ways in which psychology can enrich moral philosophy. Beginning with a discussion of such "moral saints" as Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Oskar Schindler, Flanagan charts a middle course between an ethics that is too realistic and socially parochial and one that is too idealistic, giving no weight to our natures.
Consciousness and evolution are complex phenomena. It is sometimes thought that if adaptation explanations for some varieties of consciousness, say, conscious visual perception, can be had, then we may be reassured that at least those kinds of consciousness are not epiphenomena. But what if other varieties of consciousness, for example, dreams, are not adaptations? We sort out the connections among evolution, adaptation, and epiphenomenalism in order to show that the consequences for the nature and causal efficacy of consciousness are not (...) as dire as has sometimes been supposed. (shrink)
In Dreaming Souls, Owen Flanagan 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. (shrink)
Schulman (Entropy 7(4):221–233, 2005) has argued that Boltzmann’s intuition, that the psychological arrow of time is necessarily aligned with the thermodynamic arrow, is correct. Schulman gives an explicit physical mechanism for this connection, based on the brain being representable as a computer, together with certain thermodynamic properties of computational processes. Hawking (Physical Origins of Time Asymmetry, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994) presents similar, if briefer, arguments. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the support for the link between (...) thermodynamics and an arrow of time for computers. The principal arguments put forward by Schulman and Hawking will be shown to fail. It will be shown that any computational process that can take place in an entropy increasing universe, can equally take place in an entropy decreasing universe. This conclusion does not automatically imply a psychological arrow can run counter to the thermodynamic arrow. Some alternative possible explanations for the alignment of the two arrows will be briefly discussed. (shrink)
Does the toleration of liberal democratic society mean that religious faiths are left substantively intact, so long as they respect the rights of others? Or do liberal principles presuppose a deeper transformation of religion? Does life in democratic society itself transform religion? In Making Religion Safe for Democracy, J. Judd Owen explores these questions by tracing a neglected strand of Enlightenment political thought that presents a surprisingly unified reinterpretation of Christianity by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson. (...) class='Hi'>Owen then turns to Alexis de Tocqueville's analysis of the effects of democracy on religion in the early United States. Tocqueville finds a religion transformed by democracy in a way that bears a striking resemblance to what the Enlightenment thinkers sought, while offering a fundamentally different interpretation of what is at stake in that transformation. Making Religion Safe for Democracy offers a novel framework for understanding the ambiguous status of religion in modern democratic society. (shrink)
The opening chapter of the Categories fails to reveal whether it is introducing a grammatical, a logical, or a metaphysical treatise. It deals with equivocals and univocals and ends with a definition of paronyms. The definition of paronyms is given in purely grammatical terms. Paronyms derive their name from an identical source with a difference only in case ending, as bravery and the brave, grammar and the grammarian. The second chapter, however, proceeds to state that an expression can be either (...) complex or simple--complex like "a man runs," or simple like "man" or "runs." Then it immediately passes over to beings. Of the things that are, it states, some are asserted of a subject, but are not in any subject. The example given is that "man" is asserted of a particular man. To supply for Aristotle a current instance of what is here meant, one might use the sentence "Bertrand Russell is a man." This type of statement, to take the Aristotelian text literally, is dealing with beings and is asserting something of a subject. What is asserted, "man," is not in any subject even though it is asserted of a subject. In other words, the logically proper name "Bertrand Russell" denotes a substance and not an accident. (shrink)
Attention to individual choice is a valuable dimension of public health policy; however, the creation of effective public health programmes requires policy makers to address the material and social structures that determine a person’s chance of actually achieving a good state of health. This statement summarizes a well understood and widely held view within public health practice. In this article, we (i) argue that advocates for public health can and should defend this emphasis on ‘structures’ by reference to citizen autonomy (...) and not simply by emphasizing concern for counter-balancing values such as ‘population health’ or ‘fairness’, (ii) map and critically explore the contrasting conceptions of autonomy that feature in such debates, with particular attention to conceptions of autonomy that might feature in the defence of an emphasis on structures. We draw on (i) a relational conception of autonomy and (ii) the distinction that can be made between autonomous deliberation and autonomous action to suggest that offering people the opportunity to make choices about their health without also supporting their capability to achieve the object of these choices falls short of what is often considered to be morally and politically important about promoting autonomy in relation to health. (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)
ABSTRACTGraeme Wood’s The Way of the Strangers suggests that many scholars have denied or downplayed the Islamic State’s own account of its emphatically religious foundation. This tendency is heir to the Enlightenment strategy of defanging illiberal religion by claiming that only religions conforming to liberal principles are genuinely religious—raising anew questions that arose at the dawn of liberalism, in the wake of the Wars of Religion.
The evocation of narrative as a way to understand the content of consciousness, including memory, autobiography, self, and imagination, has sparked truly interdisciplinary work among psychologists, philosophers, and literary critics. Even neuroscientists have taken an interest in the stories people create to understand themselves, their past, and the world around them. The research presented in this volume should appeal to researchers enmeshed in these problems, as well as the general reader with an interest in the philosophical problem of what consciousness (...) is and how it functions in the everyday world. (shrink)