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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.

The Geography of Morals is a work of extraordinary ambition: an indictment of the parochialism of Western philosophy, a comprehensive dialogue between anthropology, empirical moral psychology, behavioral economics, and cross-cultural philosophy, and a deep exploration of the opportunities for self, social, and political improvement provided by world philosophy. We live in multicultural, cosmopolitan worlds. These worlds are distinctive moral ecologies in which people enact and embody different lived philosophies and conceive of mind, morals, and the meaning of life differently from the typical WEIRD -- Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic -- person. This is not a predicament; it is an opportunity. Many think that cross cultural understanding is useful for developing a modus vivendi where people from different worlds are not at each other's throats and tolerate each other. Flanagan presses the much more exciting possibility that cross-cultural philosophy provides opportunities for exploring the varieties of moral possibility, learning from other traditions, and for self, social, and political improvement. There are ways of worldmaking in other living traditions -- Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Amerindian, and African -- that citizens in Western countries can benefit from. Cross-cultural learning is protection against what Alasdair MacIntyre refers to as being "imprisoned by one's upbringing." Flanagan takes up perennial topics of whether there is anything to the idea of a common human nature, psychobiological sources of human morality, the nature of the self, the role of moral excellence in a good human life, and whether and how empirical inquiry into morality can contribute to normative ethics. The Geography of Morals exemplifies how one can respectfully conceive of multiculturalism and global interaction as providing not only opportunities for business and commerce, but also opportunities for socio-moral and political improvement on all sides. This is a book that aims to change how normative ethics and moral psychology are done.
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. 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 to create meaning, even when we're 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 to the fantastic confabulations of deep REM that resemble psychotic 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.
The Geography of Morals is a work of extraordinary ambition: an indictment of the parochialism of Western philosophy, a comprehensive dialogue between anthropology, empirical moral psychology, behavioral economics, and cross-cultural philosophy, and a deep exploration of the opportunities for self, social, and political improvement provided by world philosophy. We live in multicultural, cosmopolitan worlds. These worlds are distinctive moral ecologies in which people enact and embody different lived philosophies and conceive of mind, morals, and the meaning of life differently from the typical WEIRD -- Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic -- person. This is not a predicament; it is an opportunity. Many think that cross cultural understanding is useful for developing a modus vivendi where people from different worlds are not at each other's throats and tolerate each other. Flanagan presses the much more exciting possibility that cross-cultural philosophy provides opportunities for exploring the varieties of moral possibility, learning from other traditions, and for self, social, and political improvement. There are ways of worldmaking in other living traditions -- Confucian, Daoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Amerindian, and African -- that citizens in Western countries can benefit from. Cross-cultural learning is protection against what Alasdair MacIntyre refers to as being "imprisoned by one's upbringing." Flanagan takes up perennial topics of whether there is anything to the idea of a common human nature, psychobiological sources of human morality, the nature of the self, the role of moral excellence in a good human life, and whether and how empirical inquiry into morality can contribute to normative ethics. The Geography of Morals exemplifies how one can respectfully conceive of multiculturalism and global interaction as providing not only opportunities for business and commerce, but also opportunities for socio-moral and political improvement on all sides. This is a book that aims to change how normative ethics and moral psychology are done.
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. 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 to create meaning, even when we're 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 to the fantastic confabulations of deep REM that resemble psychotic 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.
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