With a Foreword by Richard J. Bernstein and an Afterword by John Durham Peters
Edited By Jason Hannan
9 Daniel C. Dennett: Communication, Evolution, and Self DAVID L. THOMPSON 219
9 Daniel C. Dennett Communication, Evolution, and Self DAVID L. THOMPSON _____________________________________ Daniel C. Dennett, born in 1942, is one of the most popular and influential of contemporary American philosophers. He initially established his reputation in the philosophy of mind but has since written widely on ontology, cognitive science, robotics, freedom, Darwinian evolution, religion, and other areas. The notion of information is central to his philosophical analysis in each of these areas; hence his relevance for the theory of communication. Dennett studied philosophy at Harvard University, where he was a stu- dent of W. V. O. Quine. He reports receiving a deeply influential dose of Husserl from Dagfinn Follesdal while at Harvard. He did his doctorate at Oxford University, where he was influenced by Gilbert Ryle, a thinker whose behavioristic criticisms of Cartesian dualism permeate Dennett’s dis- cussions of mind and consciousness. While Dennett is primarily identified with the Anglo-American analytic school of philosophy, a number of his central themes would also be congenial to phenomenological and continental thinkers. Overall, he offers a synthetic vision of the role of human experience within the scientific worldview, in opposition to “dualists,” who hold that such a synthesis is impossible. René Descartes’s dualism is the backdrop against which Dennett’s thought is best understood. Developed in the seventeenth century, Des- cartes’s position was a reaction to the rise of modern science in the sixteenth century. The new sciences were founded on the principles of mechanism: All effects are explained by causes; causes obey natural, deterministic...
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