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The Bodhisattva’s Brain pt2

Dr. J. chats with Owen Flanagan, professor of philosophy at Duke University and author of The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized. They discuss the relationship of the Aristotleian and Buddhist ideas of happiness and virtue, and the relevance of neuropsychological research on what it means to have a flourishing life. (Part 2 of 2)

Alain de Botton has also some interesting studies on this subject of happiness

You can watch his documentary series for FREE, no subscription required at Channel 4 OD at the below link

<b>"Philosophy: A guide to happiness" </b>

Series Summary

"De Botton believes that the great thinkers' works are full of practical advice on happiness. In each episode, he takes one key philosophical figure and tries to apply their teachings to a common emotional problem."

Just how far do Aristotle's ideas pertaining to happiness and friendship compare to Epicurus?

"The philosophies of Aristotle and Epicurus include some similarities, but at the same time, they are completely different in many ways. In a few ways, the two great philosophers have ideas that are almost exact duplicates; however, Epicurus seems to take a different direction when it comes down to certain ideas. For example, the two are similar in that they both believe that all human actions aim toward the goal of complete happiness (human flourishing)."

I totally agree that enlightenment as to the wisdom of anatta, (no Self), and the understanding of the Buddhist path towards an end to suffering, (for oneself and eventually the entire world), the end to grasping, clinging and cravings, using mindfulness and dispassion – will naturally lead to a better world and evolved humanism? Yet not all peoples favour Buddhism or it's dispassionate outlook towards Self gratification.

I also fully acknowledge that hedonists may have right and reason to pursue sensual gratification to support their wants and needs for happiness and fulfilment, hence I always say..

"The goal is not to be Self-less, it is to be not Self-ish?"

And the way to pursue this goal is through enlightenment concerning Self, (using philosophy and psychology), which also leads to greater awareness and understanding of the needs of others? We can all benefit from an understanding of anatta, without the rejection of this macro illusion of Self as both real and valid, (in the same way that free will is both real and valid for us and for our choices).

Bioethics is most certainly a major player in understanding individual and social needs, and in suggesting solutions to problems faced by ever increasing social masses. We should not rule out drug enhancements or genetic engineering in the long term?

Warm blooded mammals, (and birds), show social traits, share body warmth, and this nurturing characteristic combined with genetic survival traits such as empathy, play, cooperation, trust, (practice of mating and hunting skills), together with intellect and intelligence, leads to increased compassion and "social awareness". And this then reflects the necessity for humans to interact socially and thus suffer from lack of social stimulus, leading to unhappiness. these roots are genetic?

If you don't use it, you lose it?

Isolation of individuals seems to lead to social dysfunction, decreased social skills and emotional intelligence. Unemployment leads to isolation, and decrease of self respect. Loneliness leads to decrease in self worth, shame, which may also lead to fear, anger, hatred, misanthropy – a downward spiral?

So if we cannot yet pinpoint exactly those things that make us happy, (because we usually cannot be focused upon rationalising happiness whilst being joyful perhaps?) – then perhaps we should rather focus on those things that make us unhappy, and seek solutions to these?

Good points regarding happiness as measured in the lifestyles and social philosophy of one's offspring. Which also highlights that affluence, (financial security), may increase happiness, peaceful social behaviour, less stress and social pressures and increased rationalism in the longer term?

Therefore we need to free the world from poverty and austerity, and pursue a techno-logical post scarcity society ASAP (through socioeconomic reform)?

Intriguing discussion, thank you!
A few thoughts from a perspective of a buddhist student;
- the question was raised of why the buddhist notion of 'no-self' would motivate towards a bodhisattva ethic. In some Tibetan teachings the answer is that upon a certain depth of seeing egolessness, compassion just arises. Prajna (intelligence-insight) and Compassion are inseparable. That's just the way it is, and the way each practitioner finds it
- I think I heard Owen F stating that he is a materialist - that mind has a bio-neural basis. But a study of shunyata and in particular the Madhyamaka tradition's profound analysis refutes existence (and non-existence) of matter and self. Then where are we?
- buddhist meditation masters (and no doubt other wisdom tradition masters) who have reached profound levels of 'realization' seem about the happiest people you will ever come across... This I think is widely agreed upon observation by those who personally interact with them. It seems a profound understanding of non-self has that result. Curious.
- Techno-progressivism seems quite compatible with the bodhisattva aspiration. 'May all beings be happy and at their ease.'
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