© 2012, Nicholas Ogle


In The Really Hard Problem, Owen Flanagan seeks to explain how we can live meaningfully in a material world despite naturalism’s supposed scientific reductionism, which more often engenders disenchantment with reality than the “joyful optimism” he believes ought to be produced by the naturalist position. In this paper I argue that Flanagan’s theory of subjective realism, as well as his faulty identification of consciousness with neurological states, fails to overcome the criticisms he and others have pinned against scientific reductionism, and thus he fails to ever go beyond it. While Flanagan’s intentions to make a case for ethical and political normativity are good, his bridging of the chasm between the empirical and the normative is too weak to be a groundwork for our talk of a “meaningful life” as we actually think of it.

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