Dreaming Souls

Dreaming Souls : Sleep, Dreams and the Evolution of the Conscious Mind

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What, if anything, do dreams tells us about ourselves? What is the relationship between types of sleep and types of dreams? Does dreaming serve any purpose? Or are dreams simply meaningless mental noise - " unmusical fingers wandering over the piano keys"? In this survey of sleep and dreams, Flanagan argues that while sleep has a clear biological function and adaptive value, dreams are merely side effects, "free riders," irrelevant from an evolutionary point of view. But dreams are hardly unimportant. Indeed, Flanagan argues that dreams are self-expressive, the result of our need to find or to create meaning, even when we're sleeping.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 521.63g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 3 halftones, 16 line illustrations
  • 0195126874
  • 9780195126877

Review quote

"Flanagan's Dreaming Souls is, quite simply, a masterpiece: learned, lively, and surpassingly smart. Owen's voice in this book is so honest, direct, lovable and funny, it kept reminding me of Frank McCourt. And yet it IS neurophilosophy. It is about the whys and wherefores of our dreaming brains."--Patricia S. Churchland, Presidential Professor of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego, author of Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain"How important to have a philosopher dedicate himself to the basic questions of human psychology. Owen Flanagan challenges and synthesizes contemporary theories of mind to arrive at a provocative understanding of the relationship of dream and dreamer."--Peter D. Kramer, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, author of Listening to Prozac and Should You Leave?"Owen Flanagan does it again. He takes one of the most fascinating and elusive topics in mind/brain research, the 'why' of dreams, and ropes it into a coherent notion that one and all can understand. I won't spoil it for you and tell you his intriguing idea. But I will tell you, I think he is on to something big."--Michael S. Gazzaniga, Director, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College, author of Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind and The Mind's Past"Are dreams just the noise that the brain makes during sleep? Flanagan makes us take this question seriously as he builds dream consciousness into his new brain-based philosophy of mind."--J. Allan, Director of Laboratory of Neurophysiology, Harvard Medical School and author of Sleep, The Dreaming Brain, and most recently Consciousnessshow more

About Owen J. Flanagan

Owen Flanagan is the James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Chair, Professor Psychology-Experimental, and Professor of Neurobiology, Duke University. He is the author of The Science of Mind, Consciousness Reconsidered, Varieties of Moral Personality and Self Expressions (OUP).show more

Review Text

An informative review of current research on sleep and dreams and a new theory about the nature and function of dreaming, presented with clarity, wit, and finesse. Flanagan (philosophy, experimental psychology, and neurobiology/Duke Univ.), editor of the Philosophy of Mind Series, to which the present work belongs, brings insights from philosophy, phenomenology, evolutionary biology, psychology and psychiatry, anthropology, sociology, and neuroscience to his theory of dreams. What's more, he does so in an unpedantic way that utterly engages the reader. Dreaming, he asserts, is not an evolutionary adaption but a side effect of an adaptation that human beings have learned to use in creative and helpful ways. While Flanagan's theory sees dreaming - "a free rider on a system designed to think and to sleep" - as serving no direct biological function, he finds that dreams do matter, for they sometimes possessmeaningful structure, are sometimes self-expressive, and sometimes provide insights into one's own mind and one's relations with others. Unlike Freud, he finds that most dreams do not conceal their content or have deep meaning. He uses Freud's famous "wolf man" dream interpretation to illustrate the implausibility of the Freudian approach and argues that his own alternative is both plausible and testable. He also takes issue with the notion that dreams are wellsprings of creativity, effectively destroying the commonly accepted belief that the lengthy "Kubla Khan" came to the poet Coleridge in a dream and that Mary Shelley dreamed the entire plot of the novel Frankenstein before writing it down. What is important to remember, in Flanagan's view, is that while dreams, hatched in the chaotic activity of the brainstem, sometimes don't mean much of anything, the images and memories activated in our sleep are our own, and it is we ourselves who give them narrative shape. Diagrams, cartoons, quotations, and of course dreams - mostly but not always the author's own - illuminate and enliven the presentation. Science writing at its best. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

32 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 6% (2)
4 59% (19)
3 28% (9)
2 6% (2)
1 0% (0)
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