Self Expressions: Mind, Morals, and the Meaning of Life

Self Expressions: Mind, Morals, and the Meaning of Life

Self Expressions: Mind, Morals, and the Meaning of Life

Self Expressions: Mind, Morals, and the Meaning of Life


Continuing the old philosophical project of reconciling a scientific view of ourselves with the view of ourselves as agents of free will and meaning, but bringing to this project the latest insights of neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychiatry, Flanagan's collection of essays explores topics such as a scientific explanation of consciousness, the moral socialization of children, and the nature and issues of psychological phenomena such as multiple personality disorder and false memory syndrome.


It has gradually dawned on me that the unity of my work, insofar as it has unity, lies in an underlying concern with identity, self, and self-expression. There is a story, of interest only to myself and my loved ones, about why I am so concerned with the problems of the self. But the short version involves my disenchantment with the transcendental--precipitated when I was a teenager, when puberty met conventional Christian morality and theology.

My rejection of the idea of an immaterial soul required making sense of the mind, of my embodied self, really, in naturalistic terms. The idea that "if there is no God, then everything is allowed" worried me at the very same time that the prospect of everything being allowed elated me. But then there was the specter of nihilism. If everything is allowed, and if I am just an animal, and if my existence is just some very temporary cosmic accident, then what makes life worth living? Why does anything matter?

There at once--in a typical adolescent happenstance--I had my three problems: mind, morals, and the meaning of life.

The essays gathered here don't add up to a theory of the self, nor do they do anything like solve the problems of mind, morals, and meaning. Insofar as there is something like a theory presented here, some of its main tenets are these:

The word "self" has many meanings--personality, character, an individual's central character traits, the way(s) one carries oneself in the world, the way one represents oneself to oneself and to others, the dynamic integrated system of thoughts, emotions, lived events, and so on, that make up who one is from the God's eye point of view. All these senses are useful.

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