Daniel Dennett is mired in the mud of consciousness



The New Atlantis recently published a very interesting article written by David Bentley Hart, a fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. The article notes in the attribution that Hart is the author, most recently, of The Hidden and the Manifest: Essays in Theology and Metaphysics (Eerdmans, 2017) and The New Testament: A Translation (Yale, 2017). He is also the author of  the enjoyable Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies.

In the New Atlantis article entitled, "The Illusionist: Daniel Dennett’s latest book marks five decades of majestic failure to explain consciousness," Hart evaluates the latest book by Daniel Dennett entitled From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds. The article is gracious towards Dennett, but does an excellent job of pointing out some of the holes in Dennett's thinking.

For example, early in the article, Hart makes the following point:

After five decades, it would be astonishing if Dennett were to change direction now. But, by the same token, his project should over that time have acquired not only more complexity, but greater sophistication. And yet it has not. For instance, he still thinks it a solvent critique of Cartesianism to say that interactions between bodies and minds would violate the laws of physics. Apart from involving a particularly doctrinaire view of the causal closure of the physical (the positively Laplacian fantasy that all physical events constitute an inviolable continuum of purely physical causes), this argument clumsily assumes that such an interaction would constitute simply another mechanical exchange of energy in addition to material forces.

In the end, Dennett’s approach has remained largely fixed. Rather than a sequence of careful logical arguments, his method remains, as ever, essentially fabulous: That is, he constructs a grand speculative narrative, comprising a disturbing number of sheer assertions, and an even more disturbing number of missing transitions between episodes. It is often quite a beguiling tale, but its power of persuasion lies in its sprawling relentlessness rather than its cogency.
Overall, the article is interesting to read, and I recommend it as a reasonable critique of Dennett's work.

Comments

Joe Hinman said…
good heads upon the article BK,I will have a chapter on that in my new book that will come out in spring, it's already written.
Anonymous said…
Christianity has had plenty of time to resolve the question of consciousness. What has it determined?

Pix
BK said…
Your question is answered in Genesis 1 - Man was made "in the image of God", i.e., God gave us consciousness because He, Himself, is a conscious being with power to endow that on others.
Joe Hinman said…
Ye i have viewed consciousness as the image of God since all y life.
Anonymous said…
What does that actually mean? Where is consciousness? How does it connect to the brain? How is unification of experience achieved? How does it resolve the problem of intentionality? What is there outside of consciousness that lets us know what it is?

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
Ps it's apparent you have not read much on the topic all of these things are under discussion. My view says that consciousnesses the non physical awareness of one;s self and the world around one that obtains as a result of brain complexity that prejudices emergent properties.

Brain and consciousness go together like a wave and the energy that pushes the wave but they are not the same thing. They go together, consciousness supervenes upon brain structure but that does not make one reducible to the other.
Anonymous said…
Okay...

So is it localised to the brain, or a specific part of the brain, or spread out across the cosmos?

How does it interact with the brain? How is it affected by hormones or alcohol? Why do we forget things?

When does it enter the body? Does it grow as we get older? Do chimps have it? How about cats or slugs? Or computers?

Obviously I will be following your methodology, given your knowledge of the philosophy of science, and will utterly reject your theory if it does not adddress each and every one of these questions properly.

Pix
BK said…
Lots of questions there, Pix. I expect most people know what is meant by consciousness even if you don't, so since I don't want to get stuck in the mire of your myriad of questions, I will simply leave them unanswered.
Anonymous said…
Let us be honest here. You have no answers, and it has taken you three days to find a reply that saves face.

You have no actual theory of what consciousness really is, just a dogmatic belief in the soul, and that consciousness must somehow be there. So of course you want to avoid the mire of a myriad questions because you have no clue.

Personally I think consciousness is an emergent feature of the brain. This is a coherent theory, and so I can offer answers to that myriad of questions.

So is it localised to the brain, or a specific part of the brain, or spread out across the cosmos? Local to the brain

How does it interact with the brain? It is a product of the brain

How is it affected by hormones or alcohol? As it is a product of the brain, it is directly affected by chemicals in the blood

Why do we forget things? Physical connections in the brain deteriorate over time

When does it enter the body? The brain grows during the later stages of pregnancy, and degrees of consciousness emerge over time

Does it grow as we get older? It develops during childhood

Do chimps have it? To a limited degree; they have complex brains but not as complex as ours

How about cats or slugs? Cats might, their brains are rather simpler, but slugs brains are too primitive

Or computers? No, but potentially they could

Pix
BK said…
Pix, you have no clue what you are talking about. It took me three days to respond because I have a busy life and hadn't been on the blog for several days. In case you haven't noticed, I go weeks at a time without being on the blog. Your accusation simply demonstrates that you don't have a clue about that which you speak. But then, over time I have become quite accustomed to that.

My prior answer stands. And the conversation is over.
Joe Hinman said…
You have no actual theory of what consciousness really is, just a dogmatic belief in the soul, and that consciousness must somehow be there. So of course you want to avoid the mire of a myriad questions because you have no clue.

there is no reason why BK needs a theory of consciousnesses,reductionist don't have presumption, it's not as though it'a scientific fact that consciousness reduces to brain function,
Anonymous said…
JH: there is no reason why BK needs a theory of consciousnesses,reductionist don't have presumption, it's not as though it'a scientific fact that consciousness reduces to brain function,

So basically this is like Intelligent Design. You know the current scientific reason is wrong - because it disagrees withyour faith - but you cannot offer a theory that better matches the evidence.

Pix
Joe Hinman said…
Anonymous Anonymous said...
JH: there is no reason why BK needs a theory of consciousnesses,reductionist don't have presumption, it's not as though it'a scientific fact that consciousness reduces to brain function,

So basically this is like Intelligent Design.

what is? what is "this?" BK's understanding consciousness? Or the presumption reductionist don't have? Or our notion of scientific fact?


You know the current scientific reason is wrong - because it disagrees withyour faith - but you cannot offer a theory that better matches the evidence.

there is no current "scientific reason." Consciousness studies in still open to any disciplined es, It's rife with philosophers. There several models. Physical science don't like that but social science does. Physical science seeks one model but they have not yet established it.
Joe Hinman said…
Raymond Tallis was a professor of Geriatric medicine at University of Manchester, and researcher, who retired in 2006 6o devote himself to philosophy and writing. Tallis denounces what he calls “neurohype,” “the claims made on behalf of neuroscience in areas outside those in which it has any kind of explanatory power….”[22]

The fundamental assumption is that we are our brains and this, I will argue presently, is not true. But this is not the only reason why neuroscience does not tell us what human beings “really” are: it does not even tell us how the brain works, how bits of the brain work, or (even if you accept the dubious assumption that human living could be parcelled up into a number of discrete functions) which bit of the brain is responsible for which function. The rationale for thinking of the kind – “This bit of the brain houses that bit of us...” – is mind-numbingly simplistic.[23]

Specifically Tallis has refernce to experiments where the brain is scanned while the subject does some activity and the differences are attributed to some structure in that part of the brain. Tallis is highly skeptical of this method.

Why is this fallacious? First, when it is stated that a particular part of the brain lights up in response to a particular stimulus, this is not the whole story. Much more of the brain is already active or lit up; all that can be observed is the additional activity associated with the stimulus. Minor changes noted diffusely are also overlooked. Secondly, the additional activity can be identified only by a process of averaging the results of subtractions after the stimulus has been given repeatedly: variations in the response to successive stimuli are ironed out. Finally, and most importantly, the experiments look at the response to very simple stimuli – for example, a picture of the face of a loved one compared with that of the face of one who is not loved. But, as I have pointed out elsewhere (for the benefit of Martians), romantic love is not like a response to a stimulus. It is not even a single enduring state, like being cold. It encompasses many things, including not feeling in love at that moment; hunger, indifference, delight; wanting to be kind, wanting to impress; worrying over the logistics of meetings; lust, awe, surprise; imagining conversations, events; speculating what the loved one is doing when one is not there; and so on. (The most sophisticated neural imaging, by the way, cannot even distinguish between physical pain and the pain of social rejection: they seem to “light up” the same areas!)[24]



[22] Raymond Tallis New Haumanist.org.uk Ideas for Godless People (blog—online researche) volume 124 Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2009) URL: http://newhumanist.org.uk/2172/neurotrash visited 5/9/12

[23] ibid

[24] ibid
Joe Hinman said…
I am closing this section, because I'm answering the questions in the new blog pot come Monday we can discuss it then,I am using this last bit in that essay so we can discuss that then.

THIS THREAD I CLOSED

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