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The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism Naturalized
     

The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism Naturalized

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by Owen Flanagan
 

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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

Overview

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. In The Bodhisattva's Brain, Flanagan argues that it is possible to discover in Buddhism a rich, empirically responsible philosophy that could point us to one path of human flourishing. Some claim that neuroscience is in the process of validating Buddhism empirically, but Flanagan's naturalized Buddhism does not reduce itself to a brain scan showing happiness patterns. "Buddhism naturalized," as Flanagan constructs it, offers instead a fully naturalistic and comprehensive philosophy, compatible with the rest of knowledge -- a way of conceiving of the human predicament, of thinking about meaning for finite material beings living in a material world.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"…if you are interested in current debates at the interface between religion, science and moral philosophy, there is much in this book that will engage you." —Rupert Gethin, Times Higher Education

"Brilliant…Flanagan brings much needed clarity, insight and sophistication to the debate." — Julian Baggini, The Observer

"I can't recommend this book enough. It's thoughtful in the best sense of the word. It you're a Buddhist (or someone leaning towards Buddhism) who likes to wrestle with philosophical issues, it will help you to think things through more clearly. If you are a Buddhist who is inclined toward Naturalism, it's always nice to find another ally. Best of all, it's fun to read." — Seth Segall, The Existential Buddhist

"It is true that science has yet to produce good explanations of consciousness,value and free will. The suggestion brought to the fore by Flanagan — that Buddhism may be a source of insight in these areas — is a welcome and tantalizing one." —Nature

"[T]he most important question may be whether the cultivation of Buddhist virtues will lead to the sort of happiness that comes with the sense that...life has meaning and value....Flanagan has many insightful things to say about this claim." — The Philosopher'sMagazine

"Owen Flanagan writes with warmth, wisdom and wit. The Bodhisattva'sBrain is a milestone of cosmopolitan thought and should be read widely by philosophers,cognitive scientists, theologians and anyone concerned with human flourishing and the meaning of life."— Times Literary Supplement

"a trailblazing work which opens up new horizons for exciting comparative work in philosophy and psychology." — Mind

"Scholars and cognoscenti of Buddhism may find this a somewhat frustrating book; but all interested in Buddhism may read it and find discussions of interest and value….Above all,Flanagan has put on the table the issue of what a naturalized Buddhism is. If Buddhism is to move into the West significantly, I think it will have to go this way. The book, then, opens the way for many important future debates." — Philosophical Quarterly

Times Higher Education - Rupert Gethin
...if you are interested in current debates at the interface between religion, science and moral philosophy, there is much in this book that will engage you.

The Observer - Julian Baggini
Brilliant...Flanagan brings much needed clarity, insight and sophistication to the debate.

The Existential Buddhist - Seth Segall
I can't recommend this book enough. It's thoughtful in the best sense of the word. It you're a Buddhist (or someone leaning towards Buddhism) who likes to wrestle with philosophical issues, it will help you to think things through more clearly. If you are a Buddhist who is inclined toward Naturalism, it's always nice to find another ally. Best of all, it's fun to read.

Nature

It is true that science has yet to produce good explanations of consciousness, value and free will. The suggestion brought to the fore by Flanagan -- that Buddhism may be a source of insight in these areas -- is a welcome and tantalizing one.

The Philosopher's Magazine
[T]he most important question may be whether the cultivation of Buddhist virtues will lead to the sort of happiness that comes with the sense that...life has meaning and value...Flanagan has many insightful things to say about this claim.

Times Literary Supplement
Owen Flanagan writes with warmth, wisdom and wit. The Bodhisattva's Brain is a milestone of cosmopolitan thought and should be read widely by philosophers, cognitive scientists, theologians and anyone concerned with human flourishing and the meaning of life.

Mind

A trailblazing work which opens up new horizons for exciting comparative work in philosophy and psychology.

Philosophical Quarterly
Scholars and cognoscenti of Buddhism may find this a somewhat frustrating book; but all interested in Buddhism may read it and find discussions of interest and value...Above all, Flanagan has put on the table the issue of what a naturalized Buddhism is. If Buddhism is to move into the West significantly, I think it will have to go this way. The book, then, opens the way for many important future debates.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262297233
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
08/12/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
280
Sales rank:
763,354
File size:
653 KB

Related Subjects

What People are Saying About This

Patricia Churchland
In this masterpiece of insight and clarity, Flanagan takes us on a profound but still personal journey, as he contrasts philosophies of life held by Westerners and those held by Buddhists. Ever true to the path that logic carves, shrewdly sensitive to the human search for happiness, and with a unique accumulation of knowledge, Flanagan has given us something very new: comparative neurophilosophy.

From the Publisher
"…if you are interested in current debates at the interface between religion, science and moral philosophy, there is much in this book that will engage you." —Rupert Gethin, Times Higher Education

The MIT Press

"Brilliant…Flanagan brings much needed clarity, insight and sophistication to the debate." — Julian Baggini, The Observer

The MIT Press

"I can't recommend this book enough. It's thoughtful in the best sense of the word. It you're a Buddhist (or someone leaning towards Buddhism) who likes to wrestle with philosophical issues, it will help you to think things through more clearly. If you are a Buddhist who is inclined toward Naturalism, it's always nice to find another ally. Best of all, it's fun to read." — Seth Segall, The Existential Buddhist

The MIT Press

"It is true that science has yet to produce good explanations of consciousness,value and free will. The suggestion brought to the fore by Flanagan — that Buddhism may be a source of insight in these areas — is a welcome and tantalizing one." —Nature

The MIT Press

"[T]he most important question may be whether the cultivation of Buddhist virtues will lead to the sort of happiness that comes with the sense that...life has meaning and value....Flanagan has many insightful things to say about this claim." — The Philosopher's Magazine

The MIT Press

"Owen Flanagan writes with warmth, wisdom and wit. The Bodhisattva's Brain is a milestone of cosmopolitan thought and should be read widely by philosophers,cognitive scientists, theologians and anyone concerned with human flourishing and the meaning of life."— Times Literary Supplement

The MIT Press

"a trailblazing work which opens up new horizons for exciting comparative work in philosophy and psychology." — Mind

The MIT Press

Alasdair MacIntyre
What has Buddhism to teach us about human flourishing? What has neuroscience to teach us both about human flourishing and about the claims of Buddhism? Owen Flanagan's adventurous and intriguing pursuit of answers to these questions is matched by the impressive ingenuity of his attempts to accommodate those answers to the commitments of scientific naturalism.

Sam Harris
Buddhist doctrines about meditation, compassion, and well-being have begun to greatly enrich the scientific study of the human mind — but we have long needed a careful analysis of the philosophical merits of these ideas. In The Bodhisattva's Brain, Flanagan has delivered it in fine style. This is an unusually wise and useful book.

Meet the Author

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.

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