“Maintaining A Thesis At All Costs”

Daniel Dennett has a new book – From Bacteria To Bach And Back. I haven’t read it, though I likely will.

Thomas Nagel reviews it, here.


  1. Thomas says

    I read Dennett’s Consciousness Explained years ago. As I recall, it’s long but insubstantial. I’ve just begun to read Tor Norretranders’ The User Illusion, which is off to a promising start.

    Posted April 14, 2017 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    There is much to admire about Daniel Dennett. I’ve read most of his books, and he is an tremendously fertile thinker, and a lavishly gifted writer. His Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and his books on free will, are really outstanding, and I’ve given away many copies of them all. I think (for now, at least) that he is absolutely right about the gradual origins of consciousness and intentionality from an unconscious world.

    Where he loses me, though, is his overweening and dogmatic insistence upon a radical type of scientism, and his baffling eliminationism as regards the one fact that we know with absolutely incontrovertible certainty: the existence of our own consciousness. To deny the authority of the first-person perspective as regards the existence of subjectivity itself just seems to me sheer bloody-mindedness.

    As Thomas Nagel said in his review: “There is no reason to go through such mental contortions in the name of science.’

    I’m reminded of the old joke:

    Two behaviourists have just finished making love. One turns to the other and says:

    “Wow – that was great for you! How was it for me?”

    Posted April 15, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  3. I think tagging Dennett’s Consciousness Explained as “insubstantial” is prima facie inappropriately dismissive.

    Posted April 15, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink
  4. JK says

    Happy Easter y’all


    Posted April 16, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  5. Bill says

    My reading of Dennett reminds me of errors I have made in the past, forcing data into a preconceived theorem or pattern, regardless of how blindingly obvious the actual reality was. In “Consciousness Explained” Dennett goes way beyond his data, using his own desired goal as a guide to speculation.

    I have read other books by Dennett, and have not been overly impressed. “Breaking the Spell” was a very superficial and obvious commentary designed to counter those who would not have religion studied by science. Though I am in agreement with Dennett’s position, I thought he did a very poor job of presenting it.

    I think Dennett, underneath, sees evolution as a magic bean or a silver bullet that would explain everything. It is his Grand Unified Theory of biology. At present it does about as much as the physical GUT and it about just as complete.

    Posted April 17, 2017 at 7:52 pm | Permalink