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Daniel Dennett

At Nautilus: A bioelectric theory of consciousness

The hypothesis that consciousness is a function of bioelectric fields includes the notion that our individual cells are conscious. Levin and Dennett are willing to think of parts of the body as agents too. But from what we can tell, whole persons are not agents in Dennett's view. Read More ›

The philosopher and the biologist offer a “fantasy” of how Darwinism can create minds

The problem isn’t with their believing that cells feature lots of intelligence but with their effort to equate human and cellular intelligence. Human intelligence is something quite different. Read More ›

A classic Darwinian fairy tale: How the human mind jumpstarted itself into existence

Earlier, Frankish explained that Dennett accounts for consciousness as “a temporary level of organisation—a ‘virtual system’—that we create for ourselves through certain learned habits of self-stimulation.” But what are the concepts “we,” “ourselves,” and “self-” even doing in this discussion? If consciousness is an illusion, these concepts are illusions that cannot create anything. Read More ›

Why simple but useless theories of consciousness get so much attention

Because science writers need simple sound bites and catch phrases: Dennett’s integration of popular evolution theory into his work appeals to many science writers, as this snippet from a BBC news item shows: From an evolutionary perspective, our ability to think is no different from our ability to digest, says Dennett. Both these biological activities can be explained by Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection, often described as the survival of the fittest. We evolved from uncomprehending bacteria. Our minds, with all their remarkable talents, are the result of endless biological experiments. Our genius is not God-given. It’s the result of millions of years of trial and error. Anna Buckley, “Is consciousness just an illusion?” at BBC News BBC writer Buckley makes Read More ›

Daniel Dennett thinks a game can show that computers could really think

Fr. Robert Verrill, OP, takes different view: In his paper “Real Patterns,” Tufts University philosopher Daniel Dennett writes the following: In my opinion, every philosophy student should be held responsible for an intimate acquaintance with the Game of Life. It should be considered an essential tool in every thought-experimenter’s kit, a prodigiously versatile generator of philosophically important examples and thought experiments of admirable clarity and vividness. One of the reasons why Dennett likes the Game of Life is because he thinks it can help us understand how computers could be genuinely intelligent. Now I do think the Game of Life provides us with some interesting thought experiments, but precisely for the opposite reason to Dennett: the Game of Life simulation Read More ›