Content and Consciousness Revisited, with Replies by Daniel Dennett

As a fan of Dennett, this is an interesting review of Content and Consciousness Revisited, with Replies by Daniel Dennett. Just baffled that whilst “revisiting” his 1969 and 1991 works it obviously refers to later work by others, but not later works by Dan himself.

Dennett does not engage with the details of Mandik’s argument but instead responds by reiterating his view of consciousness as ‘fame in the brain’ and contrasting it with his ‘known by the King’ caricature of the higher-order theory. As Dennett construes higher-order theories, they rely on a Cartesian model of the mind and “an unanalyzed res cogitans, [as] the thinker of those thoughts”

“Dennett’s challenging and influential attempts to solve the mind-body problem have rightly earned him notoriety. Though I can highly recommend the book [Content and Consciousness Revisited] I do wish there had been more interaction between Dennett and the authors, perhaps even the inclusion of some philosophers more critical or skeptical of the feasibility of Dennett’s project (as I would be). But then again, critics abound and it is nice to see Dennett’s ideas being explored, refined, and connected to contemporary interdisciplinary endeavors in the cognitive sciences, including by Dennett himself!”

What I don’t accept is that Dennett “holds” a Cartesian duality view of consciousness – obviously he uses such a model – as in “it’s a caricature” – to talk about the relationships between it’s parts, but the whole point is mind is not independent of matter. They’re co-evolved patterns (in patterns) of information.

BTW as the reviewer admits “critics abound”. As I said in the Fisher – Logic of Real Arguments post below, the prevailing meme is to destroy the arguments of others by analytical methods – death by a thousand cuts.

“Careful with that knife, Aristotle!”

“Don’t cut your own throat with that razor, Ockam!”

“Critical thinking” is a mugs game, shooting fish in a barrel. Sure, it allows you to check where political charlatans are pulling the rhetorical wool, but it does nothing to establish and understand a model of the real world. My top take-away from the Fisher work was they key virtue in argumentation being “Charity”. Dan’s equivalent messages are “Hold your definition” and “Rappaport’s rule”: All argument and debate should focus on establishing statements of understanding and agreement – refining definitions and articulating detailed analytical differences can come later. Agreeing to disagree is not progress, it’s simply putting of the real debate.

And … pushing the metaphors to their limit … the same is true in integrative thinking in the social “sciences” of politics and economics – and (say, topically) The Problem with Islam. In the politically correct rush to “be objective” and “look scientific” these disciplines allow “critical thinking” to trample the work of Mary Parker-Follett, original guru to the gurus of management gurus.

And, full circle, integration based on values is a virtue.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.