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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 ...

Short Cuts

Daniel​ Soar: The Hitchens Principle

21 March 2019
... in Washington DC and had a two-hour discussion around a marble table. The subject, it seemed, was the misguidedness, stupidity and sometimes dangerousness of religious belief. Richard Dawkins, DanielDennett, 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 ...
21 November 1991
Consciousness Explained 
by Daniel Dennett.
Little, Brown, 514 pp., $27.95, October 1991, 0 316 18065 3
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... bravura, in prose which was accessible to non-philosophers. His book toppled settled philosophical convictions like ninepins, and was rightly taken as the showpiece of post-war British philosophy. DanielDennett, 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 ...
17 December 1981
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 DanielDennett’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 ...
6 March 2003
Freedom Evolves 
by Daniel Dennett.
Allen Lane, 347 pp., £20, February 2003, 0 7139 9339 1
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... Been feeling bad about being a thing? Been feeling that the laws of nature are pushing you around? Here’s a book-length dose of DanielDennett’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 ‘compatibilist’ resolutions of the problem of ...

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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... into saying it. Go on, it’s simple: ‘There is no God.’ And so the intrepid mountaineer hauls himself up over the final overhang – and collapses into a company of picnickers. Richard Dawkins, DanielDennett, 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 ...

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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... living beings much as we treat our next-door neighbours (most of the time): we assume that they are 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 ...
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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... joined by a small community of philosophers of mind. Some of these, like Patricia Churchland and Christine Skarda, have actually relocated themselves within neuroscience laboratories; others, like DanielDennett 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 ...

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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... I do not mean that Rose is doing reverse engineering. Steven Pinker, one of Rose’s bêtes noires, has suggested that we look at the brain and ask how we would make an instrument like that. So has DanielDennett. 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 ...

Bring me my Philips Mental Jacket

Slavoj Žižek: Improve Your Performance!

22 May 2003
... the liberal-democratic subject. Biogenetic (and, more generally, cognitivist-evolutionary) reductionism should be attacked from a different direction. Bo Dahlbom is right, in his 1993 critique of DanielDennett, 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 ...

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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... of shrifts to the theory that divides the sensory system from the mental processing of received messages: ‘That route has been taken for two thousand years, from Aristotle to John Searle and DanielDennett. 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 ...

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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... the materialists with whom he was acquainted was not that they were bad on the subject of mind or spirit, but that they weren’t very good on the subject of matter. Aquinas believed in the soul, as DanielDennett 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 ...

The Darwin Show

Steven Shapin

7 January 2010
... but that’s rather modest in the context of current celebratory hype. In now canonical versions, Darwin’s idea of evolution through natural selection – his ‘dangerous idea’ – was, as DanielDennett 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 ...

Darwinian Soup

W.G. Runciman: The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore

10 June 1999
The Meme Machine 
by Susan Blackmore.
Oxford, 264 pp., £18.99, March 1999, 0 19 850365 2
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... teachers, peer-group members or role-models, and the behaviour which the instructions dictate. Nobody can deny that such transmission is happening every day. Why, then, should even those whom DanielDennett calls ‘Darwin-dreaders’ object to the adoption of a single word for whatever specific bundles of instructions affecting phenotype – whether encoded in gestures, speech, writing or any ...


Andrew Hodges

17 April 1986
Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern 
by Douglas Hofstadter.
Viking, 852 pp., £18.95, September 1985, 0 670 80687 0
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Ada: A Life and a Legacy 
by Dorothy Stein.
MIT, 321 pp., £17.50, January 1986, 9780262192422
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... itself. Hofstadter found new ways to explain these ideas and to ask what, if anything, they could tell us about mind and its ability to think about itself. He went on to co-edit with the philosopher DanielDennett an annotated anthology of essays, The Mind’s I. Meanwhile, between 1981 and 1983, he wrote a sequence of some twenty-five columns for Scientific American, adopting the heading of ...

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