What is consciousness? Is it Gilbert Ryle's "Ghost in the Machine"? Is it our spirit or soul, entirely distinct from our body?
When we think it certainly seems that there is a Ghost watching a television inside our heads. Is mind entirely distinct from body?
Dennett seeks to debunk this mind-body duality that originated with Descartes and the Cartesian Theatre that goes with it. Mind cannot be separate from body and still be able to interact with it, yet I seem to be able to move my body by thinking. Instead, we are just evolved networks of neurons. Dennett disucsses psychological illusions that cannot be explained by the Cartesian Theatre; he uses the Multiple Drafts model to explain them in which a pandemonium of neural circuits is always responding to sensory inputs; the resulting conflict between different drafts is resolved by paying attention to whichever demon is presently shouting loudest. Even ourselves, suggest Dennett, are not single entities (our guts are ecosystems for bacteria, our boundaries are porous and multiple personality disorder suggests that our sense of self is illusory).
This is a very important book. It is difficult to understand its arguments and compelling and logical. It is a work of philosophy that appeals to common sense (whilst demolishing a huge common illusion) and as such deserves a place on the bookshelf of every serious thinker.
He writes well too, so that this is an accessible text.
October 2015; 455 pages
Another brilliant philosophical work from a modern thinker is Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57