89 of 95 people found the following review helpful
"Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?" Dare I Not?,
This review is from: The Problem Of The Soul Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them (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.
Written for a general audience, The Problem of the Soul comes across as a late-night conversation with a really exciting person you just met at the local pub or coffeehouse. It's written with style and personality, and you truly feel as if you get to know this guy. Which turns out to be a good thing--he's a really great person.
I don't want to give the impression that I'm all for everything that Flanagan says. Actually, I'm the president of the group responsible for promoting interfaith dialogue on campus at Duke University, and I have something of a vested interest in refuting many of his arguments about matters of faith. I wish I could. I do believe there are some valid responses to most of the things he says, but I also believe that all those responses involve some serious re-evaluations. One thing I'm certain of is that all religious people have an undeniable obligation to read this book (to themselves, to their faiths). I applaud Flanagan for the effort he puts into opening up a genuine dialogue: he shows extreme sensitivity in treating people of faith as fellow creatures worthy of dignity and respect (even as he challenges the very beliefs that are generally thought to provide the foundation for that faith).
Reading this book refreshed my vision and rekindled my passion for philosophy. If I had to recommend just one philosophy book for each and every person to read, this would be it. Do yourself a favor and buy it. For those with slightly more specialized interests, you might want to check out Flanagan's other works. Varieties of Moral Personality and Dreaming Souls have become my new favorites; I'm going after the philosophy of mind stuff next. But none of them beats The Problem of the Soul, so make sure you get that one first.