Examining the bodhisattva's brain

Zygon 49 (1):231-241 (2014)
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Abstract

Owen Flanagan's The Bodhisattva's Brain aims to introduce secular-minded thinkers to Buddhist thought and motivate its acceptance by analytic philosophers. I argue that Flanagan provides a compelling caution against the hasty generalizations of recent “science of happiness” literature, which correlates happiness with Buddhism on the basis of certain neurological studies. I contend, however, that his positive account of Buddhist ethics is less persuasive. I question the level of engagement with Buddhist philosophical literature and challenge Flanagan's central claim, that a Buddhist version of eudaimonia is a common core conception shared by all Buddhists. I argue that this view is not only a rational reconstruction in need of argumentation but is in tension with competing Buddhist metaphysical theories of self, including the one Flanagan himself endorses

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Bronwyn Finnigan
Australian National University

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