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Machines Like Us

Daniel Dennett

Philosopher Daniel C. Dennett is University Professor, Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He is the author of Content and Consciousness; Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology; Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting; The Intentional Stance; Consciousness Explained; Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life; Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness; Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds; Freedom Evolves; Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness; and Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. Dennett's research centers on philosophy of mind and philosophy of science, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is perhaps best known for his concept of intentional systems, and his multiple drafts model of human consciousness, which sketches a computational architecture for realizing the stream of consciousness in the massively parallel cerebral cortex. His uncompromising computationalism has been opposed by philosophers such as John Searle and Jerry Fodor, who maintain that the most important aspects of consciousness – intentionality and subjective quality – can never be computed. He is the philosopher of choice of the AI community, and also a major contributor to the understanding of the conceptual foundations of evolutionary biology.

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Daniel Dennett Quotes

I think many people are terribly afraid of being demoted by the Darwinian scheme from the role of authors and creators in their own right into being just places where things happen in the universe.

The problem is that no ethical system has ever achieved consensus. Ethical systems are completely unlike mathematics or science. This is a source of concern.

The kindly God who lovingly fashioned each and every one of us and sprinkled the sky with shining stars for our delight – that God is, like Santa Claus, a myth of childhood, not anything a sane, undeluded adult could literally believe in. That God must either be turned into a symbol for something less concrete or abandoned altogether.