Anthony Bailey (anthonybailey) wrote,
Anthony Bailey

Review: Sweet Dreams (Pride, and Prejudice, and Zombies)

book coverSweet Dreams (Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness) by Daniel Dennett

Consciousness Explained book cover When I read the provocatively entitled Consciousness Explained fifteen years ago, I was very impressed by Dennett's "intentional stance" and advocacy of heterophenomenology - applying the standard scientific method to understanding the nature of the consciousness of some third-party, using the subject's own reports about their internal experience together with other evidence. The particular "multiple drafts" model of consciousness he proposed alongside was plausible but very sketchy.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book cover Dennett returns to the topic in Sweet Dreams, and again does a great job clearing the junk from this philosophical space. By his account, one has to fight surprisingly hard for common sense in the study of consciousness - people seem threatened by any model that doesn't make them sufficiently special, and unusually willing to rely on their default intuitions, even if this means entertaining zombies and moving into qualia street.

So, most of the book is a careful and polished philosophical argument that seeks to remove the obstacles that stop us making progress with the "problem" of consciousness. It's Dennett's best presentation yet - but for me, what he builds on the claimed ground remains frustratingly fuzzy. He fits a few new metaphors onto his still plausible model, but I'm still left waiting for others to go and Do Science with the tools and justifications that he has prepared.

Tags: hreview
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