Dennett's Dangerous Idea LO5270

Sanjeev N Khadilkar (
Thu, 1 Feb 96 11:58:33+050

Replying to LO5248 --


I missed the discussion on Dennett due to office pressures, so don't know
if this has already been said:

There is something concrete about LOs to be asked based on the issue
Dennett addresses and his proposed resolution.

The issue is simply this: Who is it that perceives what we see? The
classical resolution is that there is a small "demon" in our heads whose
"office windows" are our eyes and it is that demon who perceives what we
see. But then one has to explain who it is that perceives what that demon
sees, thus leading to what Dennett calls the problem of infinite regress.

Hindu philosophy recognizes and resolves this problem by declaring that
"The One who is the Eye of the eye, the Ear of the ear, He is God"
(Upanishads), ending the recursion. Schopenhauer (forgive any spelling
error) brought this idea to Western philosophy, which otherwise had no
alternative resolution to the problem.

Dennett's resolution is that the notion of consciousness itself is an
inductive construct, and as such cannot be applied without progressive
simplification to parts of the whole. Thus, for example, even if a
computer were "intelligent", one may not interpret this recursively to
lead finally to the conclusion that individual transistors are
"intelligent". Rather, the "intelligence" is an emergent property. So
also, "consciousness" is an emergent property of the human organization,
and not applicable to its substructures.

In the context of LOs, one can now ask: Is there a critical mass and
structure that has to be reached before an organization becomes an LO? Can
an organization learn at a level greater than its members do? Or is all
learning grounded in individual learning?


Sanjeev N. Khadilkar

>From: (John Woods)
>Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 08:19:08 -0600 (CST)
>Subject: Dennett's Dangerous Idea LO5248
>On Marion Brady's post of the quote on Dennett:
>>Many on this list would almost certainly find the profile of Daniel C.
>>Dennett, on pages 34 and 35 of the February SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, very
>>interesting. It's title: "Dennett's Dangerous Idea."
>>Here's a quote:
>>"Philosophers tumbled long ago to the realization that things are not what
>>they seem. Dennett has pushed this insight a mind-bending step further:
>>even our illusions are not what they seem, because they are built of still
>>more illusions. With this mental nutcracker he claims to have split open
>>the conceptual chestnut of consciousness, which he sees as the product of
>>a "virtual machine" running the brain."
>It never will stop amazing me at the rationalizations we come up with for
>making sense of that which ultimately cannot be made sense of. Here we
>are, sense-making organisms, realizing that our realities are made up, are
>purely subjective (while seeming objective), and we are puzzled, and we
>make up solutions to this puzzling dilemma that also seem objective,
>though we know they're not. And on and on.

-- (Sanjeev N Khadilkar)