The 78th Aquinas Lecture
Nominated for a Pulitzer in Best Academic Book Category. Published Nov. 1. In 2nd Printing
Spanish translation of DREAMING SOULS.
Interdisciplinary book (edited collection) on role/construction of self-narratives in cog. sci, neuroscience, psychology and literature. A contribution to topic of personal identity and role of narrative in self-construction.
First book of its kind, largely inspired by previous work of mine on the narrative self. Co-author of Introduction and of one essay with Gillian Einstein (see elsewhere)
To understand a complicated psycho-bio-social phenomenon(a) such as addiction to alcohol one wants ideally a phenomenology, a behavioral and cognitive psychology, a physiology, and a neurobiology – all embedded in a sociology. One wants to know what it is like to be alcoholic – if, that is, there is any commonality to the experiences of alcoholics (Flanagan 2011). One wants to know about such things as whether and if so what kind of loss of control alcoholics experience in relation to alcohol (as well as, any and all affective and cognitive deficits). One wants to know what the brain is doing and how it contributes to the production of the characteristic phenomenology(ies) and control (and other cognitive and affective) problems. One wants to know what effect heavy drinking has on vulnerable organ systems, e.g., the brain, the heart, and the liver. And, of course, all along the way, one should want to know how the sociomoral-cultural-political ecology normalizes, romanticizes, pathologizes, etc. alcoholism and its relations, heavy drinking, recklessness-under-the-influence, etc. Some scientists and philosophers worry that the program of A.A. biases our understanding of the phenomenology, psychology, physiology, and neurobiology of addiction and prevents a unified, or at least a consilient, account of the nature, causes, and treatment of alcoholism from emerging. I have experience in the rooms of A.A., as well as in seminar and conference rooms with experts on addiction. From this perspective, I assess this claim that A.A. is part of the problem, not of the solution, and suggest some ways to increase mutual understanding between the various modes of understanding alcoholism, which if abided would yield sensitive and sensible interaction among the practical program of A.A. and the sciences of addiction. One consequence is that A.A. would need to acknowledge that as a therapeutic social institution it is a repository of some practical knowledge about what works to help some people recovery and stay abstinent, but has no expertise on alcoholism or even on “how it works” if, that is, it does work.
Addiction is a person-level phenomenon that involves twin normative failures. A failure of normal rational effective agency or self-control with respect to the substance; and shame at both this failure, and the failure to live up to the standards for a good life that the addict himself acknowledges and aspires to. Feeling shame for addiction is not a mistake. It is part of the shape of addiction, part of the normal phenomenology of addiction, and often a source of motivation for the addict to heal. Like other recent attempts in the addiction literature to return normative concepts such as "choice" and "responsibility" to their rightful place in understanding and treating addiction, the twin normative failure model is fully compatible with investigation of genetic and neuroscientific causes of addiction. Furthermore, the model does not re-moralize addiction. There can be shame without blame.
Referred Article. Open Source Journal. 720 Views in 3 months.
Abstract: Buddhism is an extremely demanding ethic, possibly as demanding as act-utilitarianism. It endorses virtuous dispositions, compassion and loving-kindness, to alleviate the suffering of all sentient beings and to bring well-being in its stead. How does Buddhism inculcate these virtues, if it does? Besides the usual direct instruction, cajoling, carrots and sticks familiar across ethical traditions, Buddhists work to inculcate these virtues by teaching children a metaphysic that involves recognition of one’s ephemerality and one’s dependency on and interconnectedness with all other beings.
In this chapter I ask the question: Why are Buddhists and Confucians more tolerant, less conflict prone, less war-like, etc. than Abrahamic peoples IF THEY ARE?1 A proper analysis that positioned us to adequately answer this question would require defining the different concepts—“tolerance,” “conflict-prone,” “war-like”—producing evidence that it is true that there exist significant differences between adherents of these different traditions, and then using something like Mill’s methods to rule out political, economic, or material culture explanations of the differences, thereby making the reli- gious differences the most plausible candidate for the difference-maker.2 Here I do something less than what is needed. I operate on the assump- tion that it is true that Buddhists and Confucians are more tolerant, less conflict-prone, etc. than Abrahamic people, all else equal.3 Then I formulate a hypothesis for why the difference-maker may have to do with God, or better, with beliefs about God’s nature and modus operandi. I say “may” because I am not convinced that my hypothesis is true. The hypothesis is not that Buddhism and Confucianism are more rational, less superstitious than the Abrahamic religions. It is that Buddhism and Confucianism have theologies that differ from the Abrahamic ones in ways that make a difference. The core idea is that the belief in the Abrahamic God (Yahweh, God, Allah) engenders or supports attitudes and actions that demand epistemic and normative conformity across peoples with different customs, habits, and beliefs. Buddhist and Confucian theologies differ from each other in important ways, but share the following two features (Flanagan 2008; Flanagan 2011):
There are two ways a person can experience or, what is dif erent, can think about herself: f rst, as a subject of experience who feels a certain characteristic way, the-way-it-feels-to-be-oneself; and, second, as the person who is the subject of a particular autobiography, as the actor who is the protagonist in the history of this organism. The f rst is the phenomenal self; the second is the historical self. Marking the distinction has implications for philosophical psychology, for views about what a self is, how many selves a person has, the varieties of self-knowledge and self-consciousness, and for normative views about how a self is supposed to relate to its own past and future.
In Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man (1963) Wilfrid Sellars raises a problem for the very possibility of normative epistemology. How can the scientific image, which celebrates the causal relation among often imperceptible physical states, make room for justificatory relations among introspectible propositional attitudes? We sketch a naturalistic model of reason and of epistemic decisions that parallels a compatibilist solution to the problem of freedom of action. Not only doesn’t science lead to rejection of our account of normative reasoning, science depends on, sophisticates, and explains how normative reasoning is possible.
Abstract: I explore the ancient idea that life is some kind of dramatic or artistic performance. How seriously and literally ought we to take this idea that life is like a dramatic performance, even that it is one? There are metaphysical and logical questions about whether and how self-creation and self-constitution are possible; and there are normative questions about which norms sensibly govern self-constituting performances. Here I discuss the normative questions associated with the ideas that life is a performance and that the self is something that both emerges in and is constituted by the performance. Three contemporary psychopoetic conceptions of persons – “day-by-day persons,” “ironic persons,” and “strong poetic persons” are examined in order to discuss whether there are legitimate normative constraints on “performing oneself,” and, if so, what these might be.
Comment on McKay & Dennett
Chapter on Narrative Self-Construction by individuals w/non-standard sexual identities.
'Consciousness' is a superordinate term for a heterogeneous array of mental state types. The types share the property of 'being experienced' or 'being experiences'--'of there being something that it is like for the subject to be in one of these states.' I propose that we can only build a theory of consciousness by deploying 'the natural method' of coordinating all relevant informational resources at once, especially phenomenology, cognitive science, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. I'll provide two examples of the natural method in action in mental domains where an adaptationist evolutionary account seems plausible: (i) visual awareness and (ii) conscious event memory. Then I will discuss a case, (iii), dreaming, where I think no adaptationist evolutionary account exists. Beyond whatever interest the particular cases have, the examination will show why I think that a theory of mind, and the role conscious mentation plays in it, will need to be built domain-by-domain with no a priori expectation that there will be a unified account of the causal role or evolutionary history of different domains and competences.