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

Paperback | March 15, 2001

byOwen Flanagan

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What, if anything, do dreams tell 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"? With expertise in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, Owen Flanagan is uniquely qualified to answer these questions. And in Dreaming Souls he provides both an accessible survey of the latest research on sleep and dreams and a compelling new theory about the nature and function of dreaming.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 tofind or to create meaning, even when we're sleeping. Rejecting Freud's theory of manifest and latent content--of repressed wishes appearing in disguised form--Flanagan shows how brainstem activity during sleep generates a jumbled profusion of memories, images, thoughts, emotions, and desires, whichthe cerebral cortex then attempts to shape into a more or less coherent story. Such dream-narratives range from the relatively mundane worries of non REM sleep to the fantastic confabulations of deep REM that resemble psychotic episodes in their strangeness. But however bizarre these narratives maybe, they can shed light on our mental life, our well being, and our sense of self. Written with clarity, lively wit, and remarkable insight, Dreaming Souls offers a fascinating new way of apprehending one of the oldest mysteries of mental life.

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What, if anything, do dreams tell 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"? With expertise in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, Owen Flanagan is uni...

Owen Flanagan is James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy, Professor Psychology-Experimental, and Professor of Neurobiology at Duke University. He is the author of The Science of Mind, Consciousness Reconsidered, Varieties of Moral Personality and Self Expressions.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 5.79 × 8.9 × 0.71 inPublished:March 15, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195142357

ISBN - 13:9780195142358

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsPrologue: "To Sleep: Perchance to Dream"1. Heart Throbs2. The Dreaming Mind3. Sleepy Heads4. Dreams: The Spandrels of Sleep5. Self-Expression in Dreams6. Philosophical PerplexitiesEpilogue: Here Comes the SunSelected BibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"In contrast to Jouvet, Hobson and Winson, the American philosopher Owen Flanagan thinks that both sleep and consciousness are products of evolution, but consciousness during sleep (dreaming) is merely an accident of nature, a side effect of the two. Both consciousness and sleep have a clearbiological function, but dreams don't. During sleep, the brain stocks up neurotransmitters that will be used the next day. By accident, pulses that originate from this stockpiling chore (coming from the brain stem) also reactivate more or less random parts of memory. Unaware that the body isactually sleeping, the sensory circuits of the cerebral cortex process these signals as if they were coming from outside and produce a chaotic flow of sensations. Thus we dream. Dreams are just the noise the brain makes while working overnight. If Flanagan is correct, dreams are meaningless andpointless." -- Piero Scaruffi, Thymos.com