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The Problem Of The Soul Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them

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Traditional ideas about the basic nature of humanity are under attack as never before. The very attributes that make us human--free will, the permanence of personal identity, the existence of the soul--are being undermined and threatened by the current revolution in the science of the mind. If the mind is the brain, and therefore a physical object subject to deterministic Traditional ideas about the basic nature of humanity are under attack as never before. The very attributes that make us human--free will, the permanence of personal identity, the existence of the soul--are being undermined and threatened by the current revolution in the science of the mind. If the mind is the brain, and therefore a physical object subject to deterministic laws, how can we have free will? If most of our thoughts and impulses are unconscious, how can we be morally responsible for what we do? The Problem of the Soul shows the way out of these seemingly intractable paradoxes. Framing the conflict in terms of two dominant visions of the mind--the "manifest image" of humanistic philosophy and theology, and the scientific image--renowned philosopher Owen Flanagan demonstrates that there is, in fact, common ground, and that we need not give up our ideas of moral responsibility and personal freedom in order to have an empirically sound view of the human mind.


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Traditional ideas about the basic nature of humanity are under attack as never before. The very attributes that make us human--free will, the permanence of personal identity, the existence of the soul--are being undermined and threatened by the current revolution in the science of the mind. If the mind is the brain, and therefore a physical object subject to deterministic Traditional ideas about the basic nature of humanity are under attack as never before. The very attributes that make us human--free will, the permanence of personal identity, the existence of the soul--are being undermined and threatened by the current revolution in the science of the mind. If the mind is the brain, and therefore a physical object subject to deterministic laws, how can we have free will? If most of our thoughts and impulses are unconscious, how can we be morally responsible for what we do? The Problem of the Soul shows the way out of these seemingly intractable paradoxes. Framing the conflict in terms of two dominant visions of the mind--the "manifest image" of humanistic philosophy and theology, and the scientific image--renowned philosopher Owen Flanagan demonstrates that there is, in fact, common ground, and that we need not give up our ideas of moral responsibility and personal freedom in order to have an empirically sound view of the human mind.

30 review for The Problem Of The Soul Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heather Pagano

    This book changed the way I understand myself and my world. Concepts like the manifest image and the center of the spider web are now part of my regular thought and speech patterns. Owen's analytic explanation of the origin of morality and ethics was my first answer to the question: how could morality have been built by a crane and not a sky hook? I thought the book was just a little weak in relating to its title and purported theme: the problem of the soul. Flanagan built calmly reasoned, beauti This book changed the way I understand myself and my world. Concepts like the manifest image and the center of the spider web are now part of my regular thought and speech patterns. Owen's analytic explanation of the origin of morality and ethics was my first answer to the question: how could morality have been built by a crane and not a sky hook? I thought the book was just a little weak in relating to its title and purported theme: the problem of the soul. Flanagan built calmly reasoned, beautiful explanations of where religious ideas come from, did a wonderful job talking about how the scientific image integrates with our conception of our universe, wrote some fascinating stuff about identity, continuity of self, and morality- but I didn't feel like he ever brought it all together with a solid conclusion related to the soul.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Book

    The Problem of the Soul by Owen Flanagan “The Problem of the Soul” is the interesting book about the two main conflicting views of the soul: one being the humanistic and the other scientific. Philosopher Owen Flanagan tackles the concept of the soul from various angles and in doing so also touches on other important related topics such as: the mind, the self, free will, God, ethics, and the meaning of life. This 384-page book is composed of the following seven chapters: 1. Human Being, 2. The Hum The Problem of the Soul by Owen Flanagan “The Problem of the Soul” is the interesting book about the two main conflicting views of the soul: one being the humanistic and the other scientific. Philosopher Owen Flanagan tackles the concept of the soul from various angles and in doing so also touches on other important related topics such as: the mind, the self, free will, God, ethics, and the meaning of life. This 384-page book is composed of the following seven chapters: 1. Human Being, 2. The Human Image, 3. Mind, 4. Free Will, 5. Permanent Persons, 6. Natural Selves, and 7. Ethics and Human Ecology. Positives: 1. Fascinating topic. 2. Thought-provoking book. 3. Hits on many fascinating religious topics. 4. Makes compelling arguments by using sound logic and science. 5. Clearly delineates both images of the soul: the humanistic versus the scientific. 6. Great thought-provoking quotes, “Our animal side is our only side. We are all animal and the brain is our soul”. 7. Conviction of his words, “There are no such things as souls or nonphysical minds”. 8. Neuroscience leaves no place for the soul to hide. 9. Evolution demonstrates how intelligence arose from totally insensate origins. 10. Accessible use of philosophy. Terms well defined and applied. 11. Objective versus subjective experiences. 12. Ethics as a form of human nature. 13. “False beliefs are the philosopher’s enemy”. A recurring theme throughout book. 14. The use of Buddhism to address matters of meaning, ethics and self. 15. The conflict between religion and science. Many examples. 16. The problem of free will versus determinism. 17. The soul defined. “The belief in the soul is, like many things we believe in, normally accepted without argument, let alone proof”. 18. Fascinating look at schizophrenia and autism. 19. Free will debunked. Including misinterpretation of Damasio’s view on it. 20. The claim that we can make sense of rational deliberation and choice in a causal universe. 21. A unique definition of miracles. “Rare causal outcomes, they are not uncaused”. 22. The difference between non-intellectualist versus intellectualist. 23. An interesting look at the concept of the self. 24. The difference between faith and knowledge. Great stuff! 25. The use of the Bible to make some points. 26. Four features of why the posits of the soul are appealing despite being unwarranted by the evidence. 27. The cosmological argument debunked. 28. Why do people believe… 29. The job of a philosopher. 30. Naturalism as the only worldview that explains everything in need of explanation. 31. What the self is. 32. The impact of brain injuries to the self. 33. Ethics from a naturalist’s point of view. 34. “It is one of the four noble truths of Buddhism that we will flourish only if, among other things, we see things truthfully”. Too good not to share. 35. Morality from the eyes of Hobbes and Hume. 36. Very strong bibliography. Negatives: 1. The quality of the font used left something to be desired. 2. The prose though effective lacked panache. 3. The author would have been better served if he had debated against the best of the opposing views. 4. The parts of the book appear to be better than the whole. 5. A little dated in parts (neuroscience) but still has value. 6. A little light on theology. In summary, few shortcomings aside I enjoyed this book. In fact, I liked it better the second time around. Professor Flanagan takes a fascinating topic and provides very solid arguments to defend his points. This is a very sound book, a solid recommendation. Further suggestions: “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer, “SuperSense” by Bruce M. Hood, “The Belief Instinct” by Jesse Bering, “Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality” by Patricia Churchland, “The Brain and the Meaning of Life” by Paul Thagard, “The Third Basic Instinct” by Alex S. Key, “The Ego Tunnel” by Thomas Metzinger, and “The Myth of Free Will” by Cris Evatt.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    I never know what to say about this book. It is so integrated into how I think now that I forget why it was significant. It may have been one of the earliest books in my library that defined humans as "extraordinary animals." It knocked me down a few notches in my assumptions about how much free will we have as humans, given the large number of decisions we make before they reach our consciousness. And it pleads for humanity to recognize that a healthy ecosystem depends upon all other ecosystems I never know what to say about this book. It is so integrated into how I think now that I forget why it was significant. It may have been one of the earliest books in my library that defined humans as "extraordinary animals." It knocked me down a few notches in my assumptions about how much free will we have as humans, given the large number of decisions we make before they reach our consciousness. And it pleads for humanity to recognize that a healthy ecosystem depends upon all other ecosystems. I don't see this book as a good ending point, but a good starting point for building a new definition of humanity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    James M. Madsen, M.D.

    What a dense but well-written book! Flanagan compares and contrasts various aspects of the "manifest image" (the traditional view of the world, the soul, immortality, and ethics as exemplified by traditional Western religion and by the "perennial philosophy") with the scientific image in a balanced and respectful way. He comes down on the side of the scientific image and argues that the fears of losing cherished ideas about the soul and about morals are in many ways misplaced. The arguments are What a dense but well-written book! Flanagan compares and contrasts various aspects of the "manifest image" (the traditional view of the world, the soul, immortality, and ethics as exemplified by traditional Western religion and by the "perennial philosophy") with the scientific image in a balanced and respectful way. He comes down on the side of the scientific image and argues that the fears of losing cherished ideas about the soul and about morals are in many ways misplaced. The arguments are deep and well-reasoned, and whether you agree with his thesis or not, this is a challenging and stimulating book that more than recompenses the time and effort needed to think carefully and critically about his positions. Not that it's not fun to read--his writing, dense at times when he delves deeply into philosophical premises, is also at times delightfully limpid. Some have criticized Flanagan for appearing to favor Buddhism over Western religion, but I for one do not find that attitude borne out by the book. I highly recommend not only the text of the book but also the bibliographic-essay section at the end of the book; this section is a great springboard for further reading even as it is daunting in its reach!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    The Problem of the Soul does an excellent job of revealing the philosophical bankruptcy of Cartesian dualism, the manifest image of humanity (that we are ensouled beings existing somehow outside of the natural order of all the other animals) and supernatural religious belief. In place of these naive ideas Flanagan argues for a naturalistic concept of humanity at large and, in what may be the most interesting parts of the book, of the self. In naturalizing the self, Flanagan admits to our tendenc The Problem of the Soul does an excellent job of revealing the philosophical bankruptcy of Cartesian dualism, the manifest image of humanity (that we are ensouled beings existing somehow outside of the natural order of all the other animals) and supernatural religious belief. In place of these naive ideas Flanagan argues for a naturalistic concept of humanity at large and, in what may be the most interesting parts of the book, of the self. In naturalizing the self, Flanagan admits to our tendencies to include events that either didn't happen or didn't happen the way we remember them in our personal narratives, but stops significantly short of arguing for a post-modernist concept of identity. That our memories are mistaken and that we tend to create self-flattering versions of events is entirely natural and appropriate for Flanagan.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Brian Pagano

    This was my first book by Flanagan, but it won't be my last. It was well written and quite interesting (until the final chapter, where it really ran out of steam). A solid 3.5 stars. Flanagan wrote a well thought out book on the topic of cartesian dualism vs naturalism (i.e. that mind is the brain), exploring concepts like the soul along the way. His stated goal is to reconcile the "manifest image" with the "scientific image". A noble goal. Too bad he doesn't deliver the punch at the end. After This was my first book by Flanagan, but it won't be my last. It was well written and quite interesting (until the final chapter, where it really ran out of steam). A solid 3.5 stars. Flanagan wrote a well thought out book on the topic of cartesian dualism vs naturalism (i.e. that mind is the brain), exploring concepts like the soul along the way. His stated goal is to reconcile the "manifest image" with the "scientific image". A noble goal. Too bad he doesn't deliver the punch at the end. After a pleasant dive through the various aspects of the topic, he tapers off. Still worth the time to read. Some really good ideas and some metaphors that I find myself using daily.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John

    You have to appreciate philosophical argument to get through it. Pretty dense stuff, but really good summation of the conflict between the humanistic and scientific image of who we are. Worth a read, just to help define terms and foundational arguments of a major conflict that continues to influence our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. Flanagan argues for the scientific image quite convincingly.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Flanagan is a committed naturalist/materialist attempting to reconcile our beliefs in magical things such as souls, minds, personal identity, and free-will. His reconciliations seem labored and are ultimately unconvincing. Especially unsatisfying is his account of 'ethics as ecology,' which sounds promising, but ends up in all sorts of contradictions. Also, this book is way too long for its intended audience and the material it covers. Flanagan is a committed naturalist/materialist attempting to reconcile our beliefs in magical things such as souls, minds, personal identity, and free-will. His reconciliations seem labored and are ultimately unconvincing. Especially unsatisfying is his account of 'ethics as ecology,' which sounds promising, but ends up in all sorts of contradictions. Also, this book is way too long for its intended audience and the material it covers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Howard Brown

    Very much enjoyed Owen's book Very much enjoyed Owen's book

  10. 4 out of 5

    Williwaw

    A worthy effort, but I got bored and gave up. I guess I don't care enough if we have souls or not. What would it add to my experience? A worthy effort, but I got bored and gave up. I guess I don't care enough if we have souls or not. What would it add to my experience?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gary Bengier

    Not to say that I agree with all his arguments, but Flanagan does an excellent job clearly articulating his case for materialism/physicalism on this subject.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Womack

    Rediscovered this on my shelf and included it for my personal record. As I recall, found it a very intriguing read but need to review with other similar materials.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sonya

    Well written, but I personally think Evolutionary Psychology is complete bunk.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Dodson

  15. 4 out of 5

    Steven Miller

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Teachout

  17. 4 out of 5

    Doc Schroyer

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hejsanckw

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Simpkins

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  21. 4 out of 5

    Derek McGuire

  22. 5 out of 5

    Markus Frankfurth

  23. 4 out of 5

    Toog

  24. 5 out of 5

    James

  25. 4 out of 5

    Quek

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  27. 4 out of 5

    Trinley

  28. 5 out of 5

    P.c.t.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rosa Ventura

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dan

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