BUDDHISM, NATURALISM, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

with Christian Coseru, “Buddhism, Comparative Neurophilosophy, and Human Flourishing”; Charles Goodman, “Buddhism, Naturalism, and the Pursuit of Happiness”; Bronwyn Finnigan, “Examining the Bodhisattva's Brain”; and Owen Flanagan, “Buddhism and the Scientific Image: Reply to Critics.”

Authors

  • by Charles Goodman


Abstract

Owen Flanagan's important book The Bodhisattva's Brain presents a naturalized interpretation of Buddhist philosophy. Although the overall approach of the book is very promising, certain aspects of its presentation could benefit from further reflection. Traditional teachings about reincarnation do not contradict the doctrine of no self, as Flanagan seems to suggest; however, they are empirically rather implausible. Flanagan's proposed “tame” interpretation of karma is too thin; we can do better at fitting karma into a scientific worldview. The relationship between eudaimonist and utilitarian strands in Buddhist ethics is more complex than the book suggests. Flanagan is right to criticize incautious and imprecise claims that Buddhism will make practitioners happy. We can make progress by distinguishing between happiness in the sense of a Buddhist version of eudaimonia, and happiness in the sense of attitudinal pleasure. Doing so might result in an interpretation of Buddhist views about happiness that was simultaneously philosophically interesting, historically credible, and psychologically testable.

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