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Wired for Sound

Daniel Dennett, 23 June 1994

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language 
by Steven Pinker.
Allen Lane, 493 pp., £20, April 1994, 0 7139 9099 6
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Patterns in the Mind: Language and Human Nature 
by Ray Jackendoff.
Harvester, 256 pp., £11.95, October 1993, 9780745009629
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... There was language long before there was writing, a fact that we literate investigators tend to underestimate. Today we are building the information superhighway, and for several millennia the written word has been a primary medium of cultural transmission, but for at least a thousand millennia before that, the main medium of information transfer from generation to generation was the well-beaten path of word of mouth ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: The Hitchens Principle, 21 March 2019

... was the misguidedness, stupidity and sometimes dangerousness of religious belief. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens: over the previous few years each had published a bestselling book condemning religion, and they were all rather pleased with themselves. Dawkins’s The God Delusion alone, with its compelling argument ...

Blunder around for a while

Richard Rorty, 21 November 1991

Consciousness Explained 
by Daniel Dennett.
Little, Brown, 514 pp., $27.95, October 1991, 0 316 18065 3
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... convictions like ninepins, and was rightly taken as the showpiece of post-war British philosophy. Daniel Dennett, who was one of Ryle’s students, has spent the last twenty-five years writing about the topic – consciousness – which has always been the great obstacle to the acceptance of Ryle’s non-Cartesian account of mind. Most of this ...
The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul 
edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett.
Harvester, 448 pp., £9.95, November 1981, 0 7108 0352 4
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... Both this and the following statement are false. Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett’s book is well worth £9.95. One does not have to be a philosopher to realise that I have already gone further than a humble book-reviewer should. The value of the book under review is, you might think, a matter of opinion ...

Why would Mother Nature bother?

Jerry Fodor, 6 March 2003

Freedom Evolves 
by Daniel Dennett.
Allen Lane, 347 pp., £20, February 2003, 0 7139 9339 1
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... thing? Been feeling that the laws of nature are pushing you around? Here’s a book-length dose of Daniel Dennett’s Cold Comfort Cure. According to Dennett, ‘naturalism is no enemy of free will; it provides a positive account of free will.’ Sound too good to be true? Well, so it is. Proposals for ...

Dennett’s Ark

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 1 September 1988

The Intentional Stance 
by Daniel Dennett.
MIT, 388 pp., £22.50, January 1988, 9780262040938
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... rational agents with beliefs, desires, and mental representations of the world. We adopt what Dan Dennett, the distinguished American philosopher of mind, refers to as the ‘intentional stance’ towards them. His latest collection of papers is a series of ruminations on quite what we are doing. At the core of our stance is the assumption that mental states ...

The Atheists’ Picnic

Julian Bell: Art and Its Origins, 10 June 2010

Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion 
by David Lewis-Williams.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £18.95, March 2010, 978 0 500 05164 1
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... up over the final overhang – and collapses into a company of picnickers. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris motored up to his chosen summit a while ago; and here, sure enough, stepping forward to pat the newcomer on the back and welcome him along, who should it be but Philip Pullman? ‘Magnificent … a ...

Get knitting

Ian Hacking: Birth and Death of the Brain, 18 August 2005

The 21st-Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind 
by Steven Rose.
Cape, 344 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 224 06254 9
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... has suggested that we look at the brain and ask how we would make an instrument like that. So has Daniel Dennett. But for Rose, the question is simply historical: observe as best we can, with a bit of imagination, how simple, slightly brainy creatures evolved into increasingly complex systems. Not just humans, and not just mammals: observe how different ...

Representing Grandma

Steven Rose, 7 July 1994

The Astounding Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul 
by Francis Crick.
Simon and Schuster, 317 pp., £16.99, May 1994, 9780671711580
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... Skarda, have actually relocated themselves within neuroscience laboratories; others, like Daniel Dennett and even John Searle, are content to observe closely from the outside. While this attention to the brain has shifted the centre of gravity of the mind/brain debate, it has hardly reduced the vigour of the polemic that has ensued among both ...

Bring me my Philips Mental Jacket

Slavoj Žižek: Improve Your Performance!, 22 May 2003

... should be attacked from a different direction. Bo Dahlbom is right, in his 1993 critique of Daniel Dennett, to insist on the social character of ‘mind’. Theories of mind are obviously conditioned by their historical context: Fredric Jameson recently proposed a reading of Dennett’s Consciousness Explained as ...

Feel the burn

Jenny Diski: Pain, 30 September 1999

Pain: The Science of Suffering 
by Patrick Wall.
Weidenfeld, 186 pp., £12.99, July 1999, 0 297 84255 2
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... messages: ‘That route has been taken for two thousand years, from Aristotle to John Searle and Daniel Dennett. Pain has been used repeatedly as the simplest possible example of a physical stimulus which inevitably results in a mental response. We will not retrace this route, dropping the names of Bacon, Hume, Berkeley, Kant and Wittgenstein ... Nor ...

Disappearing Acts

Terry Eagleton: Aquinas, 5 December 2013

Thomas Aquinas: A Portrait 
by Denys Turner.
Yale, 300 pp., £18.99, May 2013, 978 0 300 18855 4
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... but that they weren’t very good on the subject of matter. Aquinas believed in the soul, as Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins do not; but one reason he did so was because he thought it yielded the richest possible understanding of the lump of matter known as the body. As Wittgenstein once remarked: if you want an image of the soul, look at the ...

Do squid feel pain?

Peter Godfrey-Smith, 4 February 2016

Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts 
by Stanislas Dehaene.
Penguin, 336 pp., £11, December 2014, 978 0 14 312626 3
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... also liked to call qualia ‘raw feels’. Raw as opposed to cooked? The concept was a mess, as Daniel Dennett and others were witheringly effective in pointing out. But the notion of qualia, seen as separate from the idea of consciousness, did have one good feature: it naturally accommodated the idea that there might be a kind of feeling present in an ...

Monk Justice

Kieran Setiya, 30 August 2018

Philosophy within Its Proper Bounds 
by Edouard Machery.
Oxford, 224 pp., £40, August 2017, 978 0 19 880752 0
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... who insisted that much past and present philosophy is unverifiable nonsense; and, more recently, Daniel Dennett, who indicts the discipline as largely ‘self-indulgent, clever play’. In almost every case, the philosopher who criticises philosophy wants his colleagues to redirect their intellectual efforts away from the ineffable, nonsensical or ...

The Darwin Show

Steven Shapin, 7 January 2010

... Darwin’s idea of evolution through natural selection – his ‘dangerous idea’ – was, as Daniel Dennett famously said, ‘the single best idea anyone has ever had’. Better than any idea of Newton’s or Einstein’s, and better than any idea had by Jesus or Aristotle or Hume or that other great 12 February 1809 birthday boy, Abraham ...

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