Barry Dainton’s Self

I’m reading Self by Barry Dainton, recommended to me by David Morey, a friend who I consider has a well informed take on current philosophy, right up to and including “New Realism”.

So far I’ve read the prologue and started on the first chapter. From the blurb, I was expecting an original philosophical novel, but in fact it’s a normal philosophical text describing and referencing the thought experiments of others as far as I can tell, so I guess I’m already disappointed. But it’s worse than that.

There are two glaring errors so far:

Firstly, using Dennett & Hofstadter’s Brain in a Vat, he seems to suggest that it’s a widely held belief that we, our selves, our minds, our souls, reside in our brains! Huh? Does anyone think that? The very opposite is surely the point of the referenced thought experiment?

Secondly, this:

[When you think “What am I?”, what’s actually doing the thinking? Is it a soul, some other kind of mental entity separate from your body, or are “you” just a collection of nerve-endings and narratives? …]

We will be looking at why the problem of consciousness is so uniquely difficult – much of the answer lies in the conception of the physical world that emerged during the Scientific Revolution (and is still with us today).

No way. Jose.

Me, my mind, I am doing the thinking. There is no problem of consciousness. I know it. You know it. We have no problem.

It’s science that has the problem, basing itself on a dualism that keeps the subjective separate from its objective model (for its own convenience). The problem, rather than the answer, lies in science’s conception of the physical. It is science that cannot explain, and therefore must deny as illusory, the consciousness and free-will we well know from our own empirical experience.

Hopefully by setting up such straw-men, Dainton is heading to the same conclusions, but why start with such clearly wrong premises. Where’s the suspense?

Reading on, with hopes diminished.

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