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Consciousness Explained by Daniel C. Dennett
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Consciousness Explained (original 1991; edition 1992)

by Daniel C. Dennett

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Member:leonardr
Title:Consciousness Explained
Authors:Daniel C. Dennett
Info:Back Bay Books (1992), Edition: 1, Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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Consciousness Explained by Daniel C. Dennett (1991)

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Daniel Dennett's eliminative materialism tries to cut through the hard problem of consciousness by completely removing the concept of qualia as a wrongheaded folk psychological epiphenomenon and replacing it with reductionist models of self-reflection and intentionality. To give him credit, if his thesis is correct then he really has explained consciousness, at least from a high-level conceptual perspective without the messy details. While I do think a lot of what he writes about is on the right track, I fear he goes one step too far by prematurely declaring qualia an illusion through a priori reasoning without any empirical justification. The problem of empirically understanding qualia is unique mainly because of the epistemological limitation of probing subjective experiences which breaks with the historically objective methods of scientific investigation. Dennett introduces heterophenomenology as a possible way to circumvent this limitation, but I feel it is just a sideshow that doesn't address the core of the problem. Furthermore, due to this epistemological limitation, the ontological reality of qualia is left as mysterious as ever, that doesn't mean it will always be mysterious, but for the moment it has not been explained, despite Dennett's claims. I can sympathize with Dennett's project, I don't think the alternatives to his views have been very fruitful either, for example, I agree with him that Chalmers' p-zombie thought experiment is an incoherent idea, however, just because your opponents are wrong doesn't mean you are right. I still liked the book, I think Dennett's ideas are helpful and point the way towards further research, but I'll stop short in agreeing with him that consciousness has been conceptually explained. Explained away, maybe, but not explained. ( )
  haig51 | Apr 11, 2013 |
It's rough when you get to page 433 of a long, often tedious slog (detailed examinations of dozens of very specific experiments) and the author says "My explanation of consciousness is far from complete. One might even say that it was just a beginning..." Dude! His brain as computer and consciousness as software-effect and self as narrative center of gravity are all interesting, though seem less profound than he suggests. Would rather have read a highly abbreviated version of this ala Freud's Ego and the Id. It basically ends pointing to the Blade Runner idea: that a conscious robot that can suffer is not so far from us. Hard to excite the imagination with this idea when BR already did that quite awhile ago, and threw in contemplations on death, desire, memory and purpose as well! ( )
  Carl_Hayes | Mar 30, 2013 |
Yeah .. this is pretty much it. We have this jelly-like blob in our heads: chemical computer composite, slow synaptic schematic, nature nurtured neurons Dennett demonstrates definitely has holistic whole. ( )
  StefanConradsson | Mar 23, 2012 |
What started as an enthusiastic quest ended in... giving up over halfway. Daniel Dennett's view on consciousness may be interesting, but it's also complicated. You need to be fully attentive when reading to grasp it all, save if you're familiar with this kind of material (psychology, metaphysics, ...). There are interesting elements in CE, but the way it's written doesn't make you slide through the book, by manner of speech. I might try again later, but at this point... let's carry on with other books. ( )
  TechThing | Feb 26, 2011 |
I haven't read this in several years, so I suspect that the science is somewhat out of date, but the philosophy is top-notch. I admit some possible carpenter’s-wooden-moon bias going on, but I honestly can’t see how a metaphysically materialistic consciousness could operate other than Dennett describes. ( )
1 vote llasram | Nov 9, 2010 |
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My first year in college, I read Descartes’s Meditations and was hooked on the mind-body problem.
(chapter 1)
Suppose evil scientists removed your brain from your body while you slept, and set it up in a life-support system in a vat.
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The idea of the possibility of such “inverted qualia” is one of philosophy’s most virulent memes.
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'Het is een genot om deze man re lezen en van hem te leren.' PIET VROON - D± GROENE AMSTERDAMMER
Door de opkomst van kunstmatige intelligentie is de belangstelling voor het bewustzijn weer toegenomen. Het bewustzijn is immers wat de mens van de computer onderscheidt. Danicl C. Denneet levert in Hel bewustzijn rerklaard een strijdbare en vernieuwende bijdrage aan de discussie over wat het bewustzijn eigenlijk is, liij vat het bewustzijn op als een zichzelf organiserend stelsel van regels waaraan ons brein is onderworpen.
'Niet alleen Dennetts betoog, maar ook de wijze waarop hij het voert,
verdient met aandacht te worden gevolgd.'
JAAP VAN HEERDEN - VRIJ NEDERLAND ISBN
'Zijn opus magnum. De verschillende draden van zijn werk komen hier bijeen.' NEDERLANDS TIJDSCHRIFT VOOR DE PSYCHOLÜGLE

De auteur, hoogleraar aan het Centrum voor Cognitieve Studies van de Tufts Universiteit in de USA, geeft in dit boek zijn ideeën weer over de organisatie van het bewustzijn. Het boek is een bijdrage aan de discussie over het bewustzijn en bespreekt het bewustzijn vanuit zowel natuurwetenschappelijke als filosofische optiek. Teneinde deze dualistische aanpak te onderstrepen geeft hij twee bijlagen: één voor filosofen en één voor wetenschappers. Het boek heeft een notenapparaat, een uitgebreide biografie en een register. De afbeeldingen zijn in zwart-wit en geven een goede ondersteuning van de tekst. De kern van de hypothese over het bewustzijn is, dat de auteur het opvat als een zichzelf organiserend stelsel van regels, waaraan onze hersenen zijn onderworpen. Hoewel het boek, gezien de opmerkingen op de achterkaft, geschikt is voor zowel de vakman als de leek, lijkt het voor de leek toch veel te moeilijk, als het gaat om de interpretatie van achtergrondinformatie.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316180661, Paperback)

Consciousness is notoriously difficult to explain. On one hand, there are facts about conscious experience--the way clarinets sound, the way lemonade tastes--that we know subjectively, from the inside. On the other hand, such facts are not readily accommodated in the objective world described by science. How, after all, could the reediness of clarinets or the tartness of lemonade be predicted in advance? Central to Daniel C. Dennett's attempt to resolve this dilemma is the "heterophenomenological" method, which treats reports of introspection nontraditionally--not as evidence to be used in explaining consciousness, but as data to be explained. Using this method, Dennett argues against the myth of the Cartesian theater--the idea that consciousness can be precisely located in space or in time. To replace the Cartesian theater, he introduces his own multiple drafts model of consciousness, in which the mind is a bubbling congeries of unsupervised parallel processing. Finally, Dennett tackles the conventional philosophical questions about consciousness, taking issue not only with the traditional answers but also with the traditional methodology by which they were reached.

Dennett's writing, while always serious, is never solemn; who would have thought that combining philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience could be such fun? Not every reader will be convinced that Dennett has succeeded in explaining consciousness; many will feel that his account fails to capture essential features of conscious experience. But none will want to deny that the attempt was well worth making. --Glenn Branch

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:14 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Advances a new theory of consciousness based on insights gleaned from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and artificial intelligence, and clears away obsolete myths about the process of thinking in conscious beings.

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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