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The Problem Of The Soul Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them Hardcover – May 28, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0465024605 ISBN-10: 0465024602 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; First Edition edition (May 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465024602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465024605
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 9.3 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,484,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Flanagan is a sparkling writer, leavening rigorous philosophical exposition with intimate personal disclosures, vivid examples, and humor. The Problem of the Soul is a pleasure to read."

About the Author

Owen Flanagan is James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Duke University. He is also Professor of Psychology and Professor of Neurobiology at Duke, as well as Affiliate Professor in the Graduate Program in Literature. He is the author of the classic Consciousness Reconsidered.

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Customer Reviews

I might agree that Dennett is not a postmodernist.
S. J. Snyder
In this book, philosopher Owen Flanagan argues that philosophically, introspectively and scientifically there is no soul or (uncaused) free will.
Flanagan's book is a good read and is both well researched and stimulating.
Frederick Mills

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Science Guy on July 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In this book, one of the world's most important and under-recognized philosophers addresses what is arguably the major cultural question of our times: Can the humanistic and even religious view of human nature be reconciled with science?
Flanagan is a witty, entertaining writer, who eschews the jargon and abstractions that deaden the prose of the vast majority of academic philosophers. And unlike philosophers such as Daniel Dennett, Flanagan is less intent on demonstrating his cleverness than on presenting his thoughts as clearly as possible. Although he is steeped in knowledge-from Aristotle to the latest findings of cognitive science-Flanagan wears his learning lightly. His writings are rigorous enough for professionals-philosophers and scientists paid to ponder the mind-body problem and other enigmas-while remaining accessible for lay readers. And shouldn't philosophy be for everyone?
Flanagan is basically a scientific materialist, who believes that the mind is a function of the brain and cannot exist independently of it. In The Problem of the Soul, he dismisses such supernatural concepts as God, the immortal soul, life after death, and even free will, defined as freedom from physical causality. But he argues convincingly that if we jettison a supernatural outlook, we are left not with an anything-goes nihilism but with an even more secure foundation for morality.
Flanagan deftly draws upon his personal experience to explore certain questions-for example, what concept of a self makes sense, given all the changes we pass through in life? He reveals his family's history of alcoholism, his decision to stop drinking, his recent interest in Buddhism. In the hands of a lesser writer, this approach would seem self-indulgent, but Flanagan makes it poignant and compelling.
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86 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Jared Wood on March 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I was going to grad school in philosophy before I read this book--I think--but I was worried about whether or not I would ever get to work on the things that really matter. I'm not worried anymore. Although I am wondering if I'll have to do all the other work Flanagan has done before I get the nerve to publish anything. Cognitive neuroscience, psychology, literature (with minor side interests in sociology and religion)--it's a wonder that I can understand anything the man says. But I found this book to be one of the clearest, most enjoyable things I ever read.
The Problem of the Soul is an amazing synthesis in which ethics meets the scientifically savvy 21st century--it's the book Nietzsche would have written if he had been interested in being understood. No other single text has had such an impact on the way I think, and I am in awe of the man who can build so much of the argument from scratch while getting so much right. Flanagan does indeed have the hands of a surgeon: there's no flinching here, and it's a light touch the whole way through. Whatever pain might be involved in the excision is masked by this surgeon's crooked grin; good humor is a great palliative.
This book is for people who want to enjoy reading something that will challenge how they think. It's an amazing primer for academic philosophy (frightening how much I learned without even realizing it--I can't tell you how much I wish I'd read it before I took all those stupid courses), and it reads like a novel. I can honestly say that I've never before had the experience of having to make myself put down a philosophy text in order to get some work done. It was a beautiful thing.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Carey Allen on September 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I truly enjoyed this book. One can always find something to carp about in a philosophy text, but this book does an excellent job discussing a number of BIG questions - mind, free will, the self, ethics, the meaning of life. If you have read widely, you will have seen many of the arguments presented here, but Flanagan does a wonderful job of weaving them together. I especially enjoyed his approach to ethics as a normative science (!) describing human ecologies. Flanagan's exposition will almost certainly challenge some of your ideas, but the objective here is not to find some final set of answers, but rather, to refine our questions. In that, the author succeeds brilliantly.
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45 of 56 people found the following review helpful By J. Wisdom on April 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
I've done a bit of reading in contemporary phiosophy of mind (Churchland, Dennett, Fodor, Kim, Searle, Papineau, Stich, etc...), and I bought this book with high hopes. What I discovered was a wordy (and at times entirely superficial) introduction to a contemporary naturalistic (i.e., the natural, material world is all there is) approach to some of the core issues in analytic philosophy; namely, human agency, the nature of the mental life, personal identity, and the nature of morality. Flanagan's premise is that there is no good reason to believe in non-physical or supernatural entities like God, the soul, or the like, and science can (or will) inevitably give us as good an explanation of all aspects of reality as we're ever going to get. Strictly speaking, there is no "problem of the soul" because the soul doesn't exist. The remaining 'problem' for the naturalist, then, is to come up with an account of personal identity, human agency, moral responsibility, and the like in a way that is compatible with the modern, naturalistic view but accords with enough of our pre-philosophical intuitions about these topics to count as an adequate explanation thereof. This book represents Flanagan's attempt at solving the latter sort of problem.
So there's the summary. Now for my all-too-brief critique: to his credit, Flanagan states up-front and in no uncertain terms what his beliefs are. There is very little of what John Searle calls the "give it a name" view going on here. However, after reading The Problem of the Soul, I was left wondering whether Flanagan had taken the time to read anything published in the last 30 years by any theistic philosopher writing in analytic philosophy of religion (e.g.
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