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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 ise - 'unmusical fingers wandering over the pia keys'? With expertise in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, Owen Flanagan is uniquely qualified to answer those 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 to find or create meaning, even when we are 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, which the cerebral cortex then attempts to shape into a more or less coherent story. Such dream narratives range from the relatively mundane worries of n-REM sleep tot he fantastic confabulations of deep REM that resemble pyschotic episodes in their strangeness. But, however bizarre these narratives may be, 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.
Owen Flanagan is James B. Duke Professor of Philosophy and Chair, Professor of 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), and is Series Editor of the Philosophy of Mind Series, OUP.