The Bodhisattva's Brain

Buddhism Naturalized

If we are material beings living in a material world—and all the scientific evidence suggests that we are—then we must find existential meaning, if there is such a thing, in this physical world. We must cast our lot with the natural rather than the supernatural. Many Westerners with spiritual (but not religious) inclinations are attracted to Buddhism—almost as a kind of moral-mental hygiene. But, as Owen Flanagan points out in The Bodhisattva's Brain, Buddhism is hardly naturalistic. In The Bodhisattva's Brain, Flanagan argues that it is possible to discover in Buddhism a rich, empirically responsible philosophy that could point us to one path of human flourishing.

Some claim that neuroscience is in the process of validating Buddhism empirically, but Flanagan's naturalized Buddhism does not reduce itself to a brain scan showing happiness patterns. "Buddhism naturalized," as Flanagan constructs it, offers instead a fully naturalistic and comprehensive philosophy, compatible with the rest of knowledge—a way of conceiving of the human predicament, of thinking about meaning for finite material beings living in a material world.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. Introduction
  4. I. An Essay in Comparative Neurophilosophy
  5. 1. The Bodhisattva's Brain
  6. 2. The Color of Happiness
  7. 3. Buddhist Epistemology and Science
  8. II. Buddhism as a Natural Philosophy
  9. 4. Selfless Persons
  10. 5. Being No-Self and Being Nice
  11. 6. Virtue and Happiness
  12. Postscript: Cosmopolitanism and Comparative Philosophy
  13. Notes
  14. References
  15. Index