For fifty years the philosopher Daniel Dennett has been engaged in a grand project of disenchantment of the human world, using science to free us from what he deems illusions—illusions that are difficult to dislodge because they are so natural. In From Bacteria to Bach and Back, his eighteenth book (thirteenth as sole author), Dennett presents a valuable and typically lucid synthesis of his worldview. Though it is supported by reams of scientific data, he acknowledges that much of what he says is conjectural rather than proven, either empirically or philosophically.
A question that occurs to the improperly educated mind is whether “reams of data” mean anything under the circumstances described.
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The trouble is that Dennett concludes not only that there is much more behind our behavioral competencies than is revealed to the first-person point of view—which is certainly true—but that nothing whatever is revealed to the first-person point of view but a “version” of the neural machinery. In other words, when I look at the American flag, it may seem to me that there are red stripes in my subjective visual field, but that is an illusion: the only reality, of which this is “an interpreted, digested version,” is that a physical process I can’t describe is going on in my visual cortex.
… And he asks us to do this because the reality of such phenomena is incompatible with the scientific materialism that in his view sets the outer bounds of reality. He is, in Aristotle’s words, “maintaining a thesis at all costs.” (paywall) More.
Isn’t that the purpose of the modern university system? We pay, they decide how we should think and live. What could go wrong with that?
See also: Human mind: “Dead Horse” Dennett kicks Darwin’s nag again
Thomas Nagel: “The intelligentsia was so furious [at him] that it formed a lynch mob”
Split brain does not lead to split consciousness
Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?
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