Owen Flanagan, philosopher and neurobiologist, believes the hard problem is not really all that hard.
Flanagan has proposed that there is a "natural method" to go about understanding consciousness that involves creating a science of mind. Three key elements of this developing science are: 1) paying attention to subjective reports on conscious experiences, 2) incorporating the results from psychology and cognitive science, and 3) including the results from neuroscience that will reveal how neuronal systems produce consciousness. Flanagan is also responsible for bringing attention to the relevancy of empirical psychology on the way we think of moral psychology. His efforts spawned the modern field of moral psychology.
Flanagan has argued previously (see The Problem Of The Soul: Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them, 2003) that the mind and the brain are essentially identical.
Needless to say, readers of this blog will know that I find such views incredibly reductive. The human mind is emergent from the brain, and it exists in a particular and specific worldspace—a particular quadrant, level, line, state, and type. The mind is a sensorimotor, subjective, intersubjective, cultural, environmental (physical, political, economic, etc), and temporal experience, all of them simultaneously, without exception.
Published on May 21, 2013Here is some bonus Flanagan - in this discussion he defends the Naturalist approach in neuroscience and the philosophy of consciousness.
The brain is a horrendously complex and poorly understood system that poses both an immense challenge -- and possibly rich rewards -- to neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers, and computer scientists. To celebrate Waterloo's recent establishment of the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience, which integrates these approaches to the brain, and to highlight the already established Cognitive Science Program, we have invited internationally renowned speakers to present generally accessible lectures from each of these perspectives.
Owen Flanagan (left) and Alex Rosenberg (right) on the significance of naturalism.
OCTOBER 6TH, 2011
Naturalists believe that the world is scientifically intelligible (at least in principle). Thus, naturalists doubt the reality of anything that cannot fit into a scientific worldview. How discomforting are naturalists’ doubts? Can naturalists coherently regard life as meaningful? Rosenberg is happily pessimistic about the answers to such questions. In this conversation, Rosenberg defends his pessimism, and Flanagan resists it. They discuss whether Darwin banished purpose (17:27), why naturalists get up in the morning (34:30), and morality and politics from a naturalist perspective (49:45), among other topics.
The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized (2011)
The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World (2009)
The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions (2011)
"Darwin’s Nihilistic Idea: Evolution and the Meaninglessness of Life"
with Tamler Sommers in Philosophy of Biology (Handbook of the Philosophy of Science) (2003)