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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Thomas Nagel concisely expresses one major worry that involves the question of
whether a scientific view of human action could conceivably be fused with our
ordinary view: If one cannot be responsible for consequences of one's acts due to
Both the desire to stay alive and the norms that protect even one's own life can be
trumped if unusual circumstances arise where things of greater value than one's
own life are at stake. For example, giving up one's life for loved ones or to ...
One might think of the spirit of the bow to complexity as akin to Aristotle's view on
true friendship. One can have only a few true friendships, otherwise one is
spread too thin. Likewise, only a few of one's talents can be developed complexly
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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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