Skip navigation

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.

Titles by This Author

Buddhism Naturalized

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.

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?

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.

A BIT of The Bodhisattva's Brain

Can there be a Buddhism without karma, nirvana, and reincarnation that is compatible with the rest of knowledge—a “naturalized” Buddhism? In this BIT, Flanagan connects Buddhist wisdom to the compassion and lovingkindness that Buddhism endorses—linking Buddhism’s metaphysics to its ethics.

A BIT of The Really Hard Problem

How is meaning possible in a material world? Owen Flanagan proposes a naturalistic (rather than supernaturalistic) way to live meaningfully, to live a life that really matters, to flourish, to achieve eudaimonia—to be a “happy spirit.” In this BIT, Flanagan draws on insights from neuroscience and on the transformative mindfulness and self-cultivation practices in Buddhism.

Titles by This Editor

Philosophical Debates

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.

Essays in Moral Psychology

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.