Ideas of Daniel Dennett, by Theme

[American, b.1942, Pupil of Gilbert Ryle at Oxford. Professor at Tufts University.]

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1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 4. Aims of Philosophy / a. Philosophy as worldly
An overexamined life is as bad as an unexamined one
2. Reason / A. Nature of Reason / 9. Limits of Reason
Rationality requires the assumption that things are either for better or worse
8. Modes of Existence / C. Powers and Dispositions / 6. Dispositions / a. Dispositions
We can bring dispositions into existence, as in creating an identifier
9. Objects / D. Essence of Objects / 13. Nominal Essence
Words are fixed by being attached to similarity clusters, without mention of 'essences'
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 1. A Priori Necessary
Philosophers regularly confuse failures of imagination with insights into necessity
10. Modality / D. Knowledge of Modality / 4. Conceivable as Possible / c. Possible but inconceivable
Why pronounce impossible what you cannot imagine?
12. Knowledge Sources / B. Perception / 2. Qualities in Perception / d. Secondary qualities
Light wavelengths entering the eye are only indirectly related to object colours
13. Knowledge Criteria / B. Internal Justification / 4. Foundationalism / f. Foundationalism critique
That every mammal has a mother is a secure reality, but without foundations
13. Knowledge Criteria / C. External Justification / 2. Causal Justification
Causal theories require the "right" sort of link (usually unspecified)
14. Science / C. Induction / 1. Induction
Brains are essentially anticipation machines
15. Nature of Minds / A. Nature of Mind / 1. Mind / e. Questions about mind
Minds are hard-wired, or trial-and-error, or experimental, or full self-aware
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / a. Consciousness
Does consciousness need the concept of consciousness?
We can't draw a clear line between conscious and unconscious
Perhaps the brain doesn't 'fill in' gaps in consciousness if no one is looking.
Sentience comes in grades from robotic to super-human; we only draw a line for moral reasons
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / c. Parts of consciousness
Maybe language is crucial to consciousness
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 1. Consciousness / e. Cause of consciousness
Conscious events can only be explained in terms of unconscious events
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 3. Privacy
We can know a lot of what it is like to be a bat, and nothing important is unknown
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 4. Intentionality / b. Intentionality theories
Theories of intentionality presuppose rationality, so can't explain it
Unconscious intentionality is the foundation of the mind
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 5. Qualia / a. Nature of qualia
Dennett denies the existence of qualia
What is it like to notice an uncomfortable position when you are asleep?
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 5. Qualia / c. Explaining qualia
Obviously there can't be a functional anaylsis of qualia if they are defined by intrinsic properties
"Qualia" can be replaced by complex dispositional brain states
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 6. Inverted Qualia
We can't assume that dispositions will remain normal when qualia have been inverted
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 7. Blindsight
In peripheral vision we see objects without their details, so blindsight is not that special
Blindsight subjects glean very paltry information
16. Persons / B. Concept of the Self / 1. Essential Self
People accept blurred boundaries in many things, but self must be All or Nothing
16. Persons / B. Concept of the Self / 3. External Properties
I am the sum total of what I directly control
16. Persons / B. Concept of the Self / 6. Denial of the Self
The psychological self is an abstraction, not a thing in the brain
The brain is controlled by shifting coalitions, guided by good purposeful habits
We spin narratives about ourselves, and the audience posits a centre of gravity for them
We tell stories about ourselves, to protect, control and define who we are
Selves are not soul-pearls, but artefacts of social processes
The work done by the 'homunculus in the theatre' must be spread amongst non-conscious agencies
16. Persons / E. Self as Mind / 6. Self as Meta-awareness
Being a person must involve having second-order beliefs and desires (about beliefs and desires)
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Free Will / a. Nature of free will
You can be free even though force would have prevented you doing otherwise
Foreknowledge permits control
Can we conceive of a being with a will freer than our own?
Awareness of thought is a step beyond awareness of the world
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 6. Epiphenomenalism
If an epiphenomenon has no physical effects, it has to be undetectable
17. Mind and Body / A. Mind-Body Dualism / 8. Dualism of Mind Critique
Dualism wallows in mystery, and to accept it is to give up
17. Mind and Body / B. Behaviourism / 3. Intentional Stance
The 'intentional stance' is a way of interpreting an entity by assuming it is rational and self-aware
Beliefs and desires aren't real; they are prediction techniques
The active self is a fiction created because we are ignorant of our motivations
If mind is just an explanation, the explainer must have beliefs
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 1. Functionalism
Could a robot be made conscious just by software?
17. Mind and Body / C. Functionalism / 6. Homuncular Functionalism
All functionalism is 'homuncular', of one grain size or another
We descend from robots, and our intentionality is composed of billions of crude intentional systems
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 1. Physical Mind
There is no more anger in adrenaline than silliness in a bottle of whiskey
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 2. Reduction of Mind
Intelligent agents are composed of nested homunculi, of decreasing intelligence, ending in machines
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 3. Eliminativism
I don't deny consciousness; it just isn't what people think it is
It is arbitrary to say which moment of brain processing is conscious
Visual experience is composed of neural activity, which we find pleasing
Maybe there is a minimum brain speed for supporting a mind
17. Mind and Body / E. Mind as Physical / 7. Anti-Physicalism / b. Multiple realisability
The materials for a mind only matter because of speed, and a need for transducers and effectors
18. Thought / A. Modes of Thought / 5. Folk Psychology
You couldn't drive a car without folk psychology
Like the 'centre of gravity', desires and beliefs are abstract concepts with no actual existence
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 4. Language of Thought
The predecessor and rival of the language of thought hypothesis is the picture theory of ideas
A language of thought doesn't explain content
18. Thought / B. Mechanics of Thought / 6. Artificial Thought / a. Artificial Intelligence
What matters about neuro-science is the discovery of the functional role of the chemistry
18. Thought / C. Content / 1. Content
The nature of content is entirely based on its functional role
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 5. Concepts and Language / b. Concepts are linguistic
Concepts are things we (unlike dogs) can think about, because we have language
18. Thought / D. Concepts / 5. Concepts and Language / c. Concepts without language
Maybe there can be non-conscious concepts (e.g. in bees)
19. Language / F. Communication / 6. Interpreting Language / b. Indeterminate translation
Indeterminacy of translation also implies indeterminacy in interpreting people's mental states
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 3. Abortion
Most people see an abortion differently if the foetus lacks a brain
25. Society / E. State Functions / 5. Education / a. Education principles
Learning is evolution in the brain
26. Natural Theory / A. Heart of Nature / 2. Natural Purpose
Originally there were no reasons, purposes or functions; since there were no interests, there were only causes
27. Natural Reality / C. Biology / 1. Biology
Biology is a type of engineering, not a search for laws of nature
27. Natural Reality / C. Biology / 2. Life
Maybe plants are very slow (and sentient) animals, overlooked because we are faster?
27. Natural Reality / C. Biology / 3. Evolution
Darwin's idea was the best idea ever