Friday, May 03, 2013

Moist Robots: Philosophy That Stirs the Waters

The new book, largely adapted from previous writings, is also a lively primer on the radical answers Mr. [Daniel] Dennett has elaborated to the big questions in his nearly five decades in philosophy, delivered to a popular audience in books like “Consciousness Explained” (1991), “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” (1995) and “Freedom Evolves.” The mind? A collection of computerlike information processes, which happen to take place in carbon-based rather than silicon-based hardware. The self? Simply a “center of narrative gravity,” a convenient fiction that allows us to integrate various neuronal data streams. The elusive subjective conscious experience — the redness of red, the painfulness of pain — that philosophers call qualia? Sheer illusion. Human beings, Mr. Dennett said, quoting a favorite pop philosopher, Dilbert, are “moist robots.” more

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