Dreaming Souls: Sleep, Dreams and the Evolution of the Conscious Mind

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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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What People Are Saying

Peter D. Kramer
How important to have a philosopher dedicate himself to the basic questions of human psychology. Owen Flanagan challenges and synthesizes contemporary theories of mind to arrive at a provocative understanding of the relationship of dream and dreamer.
—(Peter D. Kramer, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, author of Listening to Prozac and Should You Leave?)
Patricia S. Churchland
Flanagan's Dreaming Souls is, quite simply, a masterpiece: learned, lively, and surpassingly smart. Owen's voice in this book is so honest, direct, lovable and funny, it kept reminding me of Frank McCourt. And yet it IS neurophilosophy. It is about the whys and wherefores of our dreaming brains.
—(Patricia S. Churchland, Presidential Professor of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego, author of Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain)
J. Allan
Are dreams just the noise that the brain makes during sleep? Flanagan makes us take this question seriously as he builds dream consciousness into his new brain-based philosophy of mind.
—(J. Allan, Director of Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Harvard Medical School and author of Sleep, The Dreaming Brain, and most recently Consciousness)
Michael S. Gazzaniga
Owen Flanagan does it again. He takes one of the most fascinating and elusive topics in mind/brain research, the 'why' of dreams, and ropes it into a coherent notion that one and all can understand. I won't spoil it for you and tell you his intriguing idea. But I will tell you, I think he is on to something big.
—(Michael S. Gazzaniga, Director, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College, author of Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind and The Mind's Past)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195142358
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/2001
  • Series: Philosophy of Mind Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Owen Flanagan is James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Professor Psychology-Experimental, and Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University. He is the author of The Science of Mind, Consciousness Reconsidered, Varieties of Moral Personality and Self Expressions.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: "To Sleep: Perchance to Dream"
1. Heart Throbs
2. The Dreaming Mind
3. Sleepy Heads
4. Dreams: The Spandrels of Sleep
5. Self-Expression in Dreams
6. Philosophical Perplexities Epilogue: Here Comes the Sun Selected Bibliography Index

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