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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Neuroexistentialism: Third-Wave Existentialism

Owen Flanagan and Gregg D. Caruso
In Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience edited by Flanagan and Caruso

Here is an excerpt:

      The scientific image is also disturbing for other reasons. It maintains, for example, that
the mind is the brain (see fn.4), that humans are animals, that how things seem is not how they
are, that introspection is a poor instrument for revealing how the mind works, that there is no
ghost in the machine, no Cartesian theatre where consciousness comes together, that our sense of
self may in part be an illusion, and that the physical universe is the only universe that there is and
it is causally closed. Many fear that if this is true, then it is the end of the world as we know it, or
knew it under the humanistic regime or image. Neuroexistentialism is one way of expressing
whatever anxiety comes from accepting the picture of myself as an animal (the Darwin part) and
that my mind is my brain, my mental states are brain states (the neuro- part). Taken together the
message is that humans are 100% animal. One might think that that message was already
available in Darwin. What does neuroscience add? It adds evidence, we might say, that Darwin’s
idea is true, and that it is, as Daniel Dennett says “a dangerous idea” (1995). Most people in the
West still hold on to the idea that they have a non-physical soul or mind. But as neuroscience
advances it becomes increasing clear that there is no place in the brain for res cogitans to be nor
any work for it to do. The universe is causally closed and the mind is the brain.

The book chapter is here.

Note to readers: This book chapter, while an introduction to the entire volume, is excellent scholarship.  There are a number of chapters that will likely appeal to clinical psychologists.