The Really Hard Problem: Meaning 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.
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Conventional speech allows us to re-identify each person by her name as if she
is exactly the same over time. But in fact identity is not an all-or-none thing.
Personhood is a work in progress. This is the doctrine of anatman (not-self).
Without going into the various interpretations of the anatman doctrine, we can
see why, if Buddhists are going to talk about future lives, most careful ones will
distinguish between reincarnation (in which my atman is reborn) and rebirth (the
Rebirth is the view that consciousness conceived along anatman lines goes on.
How exactly is a bit unclear (to me). 2. The citation is to a book by the Dalai Lama
(1990). One gets glimpses of it in other writings. But Jinpa's formulation is very ...
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An academic philosopher discusses finding meaning in a material world. The assumption at the beginning is that humans are a transient collection of neurochemicals, and that all consciousness is ... Read full review
Buddhism and Science
Normative Mind Science? Psychology Neuroscience and the Good
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