Owen Flanagan

Owen Flanagan is James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy at Duke University. He is the author of Consciousness Reconsidered and The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World, both published by the MIT Press, and other books.

  • The Bodhisattva's Brain

    The Bodhisattva's Brain

    Buddhism Naturalized

    Owen Flanagan

    Can there be a Buddhism without karma, nirvana, and reincarnation that is compatible with the rest of knowledge?

    If we are material beings living in a material world—and all the scientific evidence suggests that we are—then we must find existential meaning, if there is such a thing, in this physical world. We must cast our lot with the natural rather than the supernatural. Many Westerners with spiritual (but not religious) inclinations are attracted to Buddhism—almost as a kind of moral-mental hygiene. But, as Owen Flanagan points out in The Bodhisattva's Brain, Buddhism is hardly naturalistic. In The Bodhisattva's Brain, Flanagan argues that it is possible to discover in Buddhism a rich, empirically responsible philosophy that could point us to one path of human flourishing.

    Some claim that neuroscience is in the process of validating Buddhism empirically, but Flanagan's naturalized Buddhism does not reduce itself to a brain scan showing happiness patterns. "Buddhism naturalized," as Flanagan constructs it, offers instead a fully naturalistic and comprehensive philosophy, compatible with the rest of knowledge—a way of conceiving of the human predicament, of thinking about meaning for finite material beings living in a material world.

    • Hardcover $27.95 £19.95
    • Paperback $16.95 £13.99
  • The Really Hard Problem

    The Really Hard Problem

    Meaning in a Material World

    Owen Flanagan

    A noted philosopher proposes a naturalistic (rather than supernaturalistic) way to solve the "really hard problem": how to live in a meaningful way—how to live a life that really matters—even as a finite material being living in a material world.

    If consciousness is "the hard problem" in mind science—explaining how the amazing private world of consciousness emerges from neuronal activity—then "the really hard problem," writes Owen Flanagan in this provocative book, is explaining how meaning is possible in the material world. How can we make sense of the magic and mystery of life naturalistically, without an appeal to the supernatural? How do we say truthful and enchanting things about being human if we accept the fact that we are finite material beings living in a material world, or, in Flanagan's description, short-lived pieces of organized cells and tissue?

    Flanagan's answer is both naturalistic and enchanting. We all wish to live in a meaningful way, to live a life that really matters, to flourish, to achieve eudaimonia—to be a "happy spirit." Flanagan calls his "empirical-normative" inquiry into the nature, causes, and conditions of human flourishing eudaimonics. Eudaimonics, systematic philosophical investigation that is continuous with science, is the naturalist's response to those who say that science has robbed the world of the meaning that fantastical, wishful stories once provided.

    Flanagan draws on philosophy, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and psychology, as well as on transformative mindfulness and self-cultivation practices that come from such nontheistic spiritual traditions as Buddhism, Confucianism, Aristotelianism, and Stoicism, in his quest. He gathers from these disciplines knowledge that will help us understand the nature, causes, and constituents of well-being and advance human flourishing. Eudaimonics can help us find out how to make a difference, how to contribute to the accumulation of good effects—how to live a meaningful life.

    • Hardcover $7.75 £5.95
    • Paperback $20.95 £16.99
  • The Nature of Consciousness

    The Nature of Consciousness

    Philosophical Debates

    Ned Block, Owen Flanagan, and Güven Güzeldere

    Intended for anyone attempting to find their way through the large and confusingly interwoven philosophical literature on consciousness, this reader brings together most of the principal texts in philosophy (and a small set of related key works in neuropsychology) on consciousness through 1997, and includes some forthcoming articles. Its extensive coverage strikes a balance between seminal works of the past few decades and the leading edge of philosophical research on consciousness.As no other anthology currently does, The Nature of Consciousness provides a substantial introduction to the field, and imposes structure on a vast and complicated literature, with sections covering stream of consciousness, theoretical issues, consciousness and representation, the function of consciousness, subjectivity and the explanatory gap, the knowledge argument, qualia, and monitoring conceptions of consciousness. Of the 49 contributions, 18 are either new or have been adapted from a previous publication.

    • Hardcover $120.00 £88.95
    • Paperback $61.00 £47.00
  • Consciousness Reconsidered

    Consciousness Reconsidered

    Owen Flanagan

    Consciousness is neither miraculous nor ultimately mysterious. In this broad, entertaining, and persuasive account Owen Flanagan argues that we are on the way to understanding consciousness and its place in the natural order. No aspect of consciousness escapes Flanagan's probe. Qualia, self-consciousness, autobiographical memory, perceptions, sensations, the stream of consciousness, disorders such as blindsight, various kinds of amnesia, and multiple personality all find a place in a constructive theory that brings into reflective equilibrium insights from a wide array of disciplines to reveal the deep, rich, and complex hidden structure of consciousness.

    Flanagan roams freely through a variety of scientific and philosophical domains, showing how it is possible to understand human consciousness in a way that gives its subjective, phenomenal aspects their full due while at the same time taking into account the neural bases of subjectivity. The result is a powerful synthetic theory of consciousness, a "constructive naturalism," according to which subjective consciousness is real, plays an important causal role, and resides in the brain.

    Flanagan draws the reader into a world of exciting current debates among such philosophers as Thomas Nagel, Daniel Dennett, Paul Churchland, Patricia Churchland, and Colin McGinn, and he makes this world accessible. He masterfully weaves the latest insights from theory and research in cognitive neuroscience, neural darwinism, connectionist brain architecture, and PET scanners to reveal clear links between events that "seem a certain way" and underlying neural activity. William James's famous phenomenological analysis of consciousness and neurologically impaired characters from the writings of Oliver Sacks and A.R. Luria join the narrative, providing valuable insights into important current controversies on the relation of consciousness to self.

    • Hardcover $24.95
    • Paperback $27.00 £21.00
  • The Science of the Mind, Second Edition

    The Science of the Mind, Second Edition

    Owen Flanagan

    Consciousness emerges as the key topic in this second edition of Owen Flanagan's popular introduction to cognitive science and the philosophy of psychology. in a new chapter Flanagan develops a neurophilosophical theory of subjective mental life. He brings recent developments in the theory of neuronal group selection and connectionism to bear on the problems of the evolution of consciousness, qualia, the unique first-personal aspects of consciousness, the causal role of consciousness, and the function and development of the sense of personal identity. He has also substantially revised the chapter on cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence to incorporate recent discussions of connectionism and parallel distributed processing.

    • Hardcover $30.00
    • Paperback $48.00 £37.00
  • Identity, Character, and Morality

    Identity, Character, and Morality

    Essays in Moral Psychology

    Owen Flanagan and Amélie Oksenberg Rorty

    Many philosophers believe that normative ethics is in principle independent of psychology. By contrast, the authors of these essays explore the interconnections between psychology and moral theory. They investigate the psychological constraints on realizable ethical ideals and articulate the psychological assumptions behind traditional ethics. They also examine the ways in which the basic architecture of the mind, core emotions, patterns of individual development, social psychology, and the limits on human capacities for rational deliberation affect morality.

    • Hardcover $52.50
    • Paperback $40.00 £30.00

Contributor

  • Extraordinary Science and Psychiatry

    Extraordinary Science and Psychiatry

    Responses to the Crisis in Mental Health Research

    Jeffrey Poland and Şerife Tekin

    Leading scholars offer perspectives from the philosophy of science on the crisis in psychiatric research that exploded after the publication of DSM-5.

    Psychiatry and mental health research is in crisis, with tensions between psychiatry's clinical and research aims and controversies over diagnosis, treatment, and scientific constructs for studying mental disorders. At the center of these controversies is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which—especially after the publication of DSM-5—many have found seriously flawed as a guide for research. This book addresses the crisis and the associated “extraordinary science” (Thomas Kuhn's term for scientific research during a state of crisis) from the perspective of philosophy of science. The goal is to help reconcile the competing claims of science and phenomenology within psychiatry and to offer new insights for the philosophy of science.

    The contributors discuss the epistemological origins of the current crisis, the nature of evidence in psychiatric research, and the National Institute for Mental Health's Research Domain Criteria project. They consider particular research practices in psychiatry—computational, personalized, mechanistic, and user-led—and the specific categories of schizophrenia, depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder. Finally, they examine the DSM's dubious practice of pathologizing normality.

    Contributors Richard P. Bentall, John Bickle, Robyn Bluhm, Rachel Cooper, Kelso Cratsley, Owen Flanagan, Michael Frank, George Graham, Ginger A. Hoffman, Harold Kincaid, Aaron Kostko, Edouard Machery, Jeffrey Poland, Claire Pouncey, Şerife Tekin, Peter Zachar

    • Hardcover $50.00 £40.00
  • The Philosophical Challenge from China

    The Philosophical Challenge from China

    Brian Bruya

    Rigorously argued and meticulously researched, an investigation of current topics in philosophy that is informed by the Chinese philosophical tradition.

    For too long, analytic philosophy discounted insights from the Chinese philosophical tradition. In the last decade or so, however, philosophers have begun to bring the insights of Chinese thought to bear on current philosophical issues. This volume brings together leading scholars from East and West who are working at the intersection of traditional Chinese philosophy and mainstream analytic philosophy. They draw on the work of Chinese philosophers ranging from early Daoists and Confucians to twentieth-century Chinese thinkers, offering new perspectives on issues in moral psychology, political philosophy and ethics, and metaphysics and epistemology. Taken together, these essays show that serious engagement with Chinese philosophy can not only enrich modern philosophical discussion but also shift the debate in a meaningful way.

    Each essay challenges a current position in the philosophical literature—including views expressed by John Rawls, Peter Singer, Nel Noddings, W. V. Quine, and Harry Frankfurt. The contributors discuss topics that include compassion as a developmental virtue, empathy, human worth and democracy, ethical self-restriction, epistemological naturalism, ideas of oneness, know-how, and action without agency.

    Contributors Stephen C. Angle, Tongdong Bai, Brian Bruya, Owen Flanagan, Steven Geisz, Stephen Hetherington, Philip J. Ivanhoe, Bo Mou, Donald J. Munro, Karyn L. Lai, Hagop Sarkissian, Bongrae Seok, Kwong-loi Shun, David B. Wong, Brook A. Ziporyn

    • Hardcover $48.00 £37.00
  • Addiction and Responsibility

    Addiction and Responsibility

    Jeffrey Poland and George Graham

    The intertwining of addiction and responsibility in personal, philosophical, legal, research, and clinical contexts.

    Addictive behavior threatens not just the addict's happiness and health but also the welfare and well-being of others. It represents a loss of self-control and a variety of other cognitive impairments and behavioral deficits. An addict may say, "I couldn't help myself." But questions arise: are we responsible for our addictions? And what responsibilities do others have to help us? This volume offers a range of perspectives on addiction and responsibility and how the two are bound together. Distinguished contributors—from theorists to clinicians, from neuroscientists and psychologists to philosophers and legal scholars—discuss these questions in essays using a variety of conceptual and investigative tools.

    Some contributors offer models of addiction-related phenomena, including theories of incentive sensitization, ego-depletion, and pathological affect; others address such traditional philosophical questions as free will and agency, mind-body, and other minds. Two essays, written by scholars who were themselves addicts, attempt to integrate first-person phenomenological accounts with the third-person perspective of the sciences. Contributors distinguish among moral responsibility, legal responsibility, and the ethical responsibility of clinicians and researchers. Taken together, the essays offer a forceful argument that we cannot fully understand addiction if we do not also understand responsibility.

    • Hardcover $42.00 £33.00
  • An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Second Edition, Volume 4

    An Invitation to Cognitive Science, Second Edition, Volume 4

    Methods, Models, and Conceptual Issues

    Daniel N. Osherson, Saul Sternberg, and Don Scarborough

    The chapters in this volume span many areas of cognitive science—including artificial intelligence, neural network models, animal cognition, signal detection theory, computational models, reaction-time methods, and cognitive neuroscience.

    An Invitation to Cognitive Science provides a point of entry into the vast realm of cognitive science by treating in depth examples of issues and theories from many subfields. The first three volumes of the series cover Language, Visual Cognition, and Thinking.

    Volume 4, Methods, Models, and Conceptual Issues, expands the series in new directions. The chapters span many areas of cognitive science—including artificial intelligence, neural network models, animal cognition, signal detection theory, computational models, reaction-time methods, and cognitive neuroscience. The volume also offers introductions to several general methods and theoretical approaches for analyzing the mind, and shows how some of these approaches are applied in the development of quantitative models.

    Rather than general and inevitably superficial surveys of areas, the contributors present "case studies"—detailed accounts of one or two achievements within an area. The goal is to tell a good story, challenging the reader to embark on an intellectual adventure.

    • Hardcover $23.75 £17.95
    • Paperback $10.75 £9.95