Owen Flanagan

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Owen Flanagan (born 1949) is the James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University. Flanagan has done work in philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of social science, ethics, contemporary ethical theory, moral psychology, as well as on Buddhist and Hindu conceptions of the self.


Flanagan earned his Ph.D. from Boston University and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University. He taught for many years at Wellesley College before moving to Duke.

Flanagan has written extensively on consciousness. He has been realistic about the difficulty of consciousness as a scientific and philosophical problem, but optimistic about the chance of solving the problem. One of the problems in a study of consciousness is the hidden way in which conscious states are dependent on brain states. Flanagan has proposed that there is a "natural method" to go about understanding consciousness that involves creating a science of mind. Three key elements of this developing science are: paying attention to subjective reports on conscious experiences, incorporating the results from psychology and cognitive science, and including the results from neuroscience that will reveal how neuronal systems produce consciousness.

Flanagan is also responsible for bringing attention to the relevance of empirical psychology on the way we think of moral psychology. His efforts spawned the modern field of moral psychology.[1][better source needed]

Flanagan was also one of the first moral philosophers to see the relevance of developments in social psychology to ethics.

Flanagan is currently on the Editorial Board of Greater Good Magazine, published by the Greater Good Science Center of the University of California, Berkeley. Flanagan's contributions include the interpretation of scientific research into the roots of compassion, altruism, and peaceful human relationships. He is also an active member of the Center for Pragmatic Buddhism's (CPB) Advisory Council.


  • The Science of the Mind (MIT Press, 1984; 2nd edition, 1991)
  • Identity, Character, and Morality: Essays in Moral Psychology (MIT Press, 1990)
  • Varieties of Moral Personality: Ethics and Psychological Realism (Harvard University Press, 1991)
  • Consciousness Reconsidered (MIT Press, 1992)
  • Self Expressions: Mind, Morals, and the Meaning of Life (Oxford University Press, 1996)
  • The Nature of Consciousness (MIT Press, 1998)
  • Dreaming Souls: Sleep, Dreams, and the Evolution of the Conscious Mind (Oxford University, 1999)
  • Narrative and Consciousness: Literature, Psychology, and the Brain (Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • The Problem of the Soul: Two Visions of Mind and How to Reconcile Them (Basic 2002)
  • The Really Hard Problem: Meaning in a Material World (MIT Press 2007)
  • The Bodhisattva's Brain: Buddhism Naturalized (MIT Press 2011)

See also


  1. Flanagan, Owen, Varieties of Moral Personality, Harvard University Press, 1991.

External links