Brainchildren: Essays on Designing Minds

Front Cover
MIT Press, 1998 - Philosophy - 418 pages

A new collection of wide-ranging essays from one of cognitive science's most distingushed figures.

Minds are complex artifacts, partly biological and partly social; only a unified, multidisciplinary approach will yield a realistic theory of how they came into existence and how they work. One of the foremost workers in this multidisciplinary field is Daniel Dennett. This book brings together his essays on the philosphy of mind, artificial intelligence, and cognitive ethology that appeared in inaccessible journals from 1984 to 1996. Highlights include "Can Machines Think?," "The Unimagined Preposterousness of Zombies," "Artificial Life as Philosophy," and "Animal Consciousness: What Matters and Why." Collected in a single volume, the essays are now available to a wider audience.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - HadriantheBlind - LibraryThing

This was a real treat to read. A compilation of essays by Dennett about a good variety of topics, from neurosci to philosophy of language and everything in between. Be warned, it's a bit tough for the ... Read full review

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 34 - That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish...
Page 2 - ... which cause some change in its organs; as, for example, if it was touched in some spot that it would ask what you wanted to say to it; if in another, that it would cry that it was hurt, and so on for similar things. But it could never modify its phrases to reply to the sense of whatever was said in its presence, as even the most stupid men can do.
Page 201 - articulated propositions". Suggestive as this is, it does not, of course, offer any concrete proposals for how to endow an inner (emotional) state with these interesting powers. Another suggestive — and overlooked — paper is Howard Darmstadter's "Consistency of Belief (Darmstadter, 1971: 301-10).
Page 111 - Different persons growing up in the same language are like different bushes trimmed and trained to take the shape of identical elephants. The anatomical details of twigs and branches will fulfill the elephantine form differently from bush to bush, but the overall outward results are alike.
Page 178 - It had just finished deducing that pulling the wagon out of the room would not change the colour of the room's walls, and was embarking on a proof of the further implication that pulling the wagon out would cause its wheels to turn more revolutions than there were wheels on the wagon— when the bomb exploded. Back to the drawing board.
Page 321 - How is it, then, with the whale ? True, both his eyes, in themselves, must simultaneously act ; but is his brain so much more comprehensive, combining, and subtle than man's, that he can at the same moment of time attentively examine two distinct prospects, one on one side of him, and the other in an exactly opposite direction...
Page 187 - When the time comes for egg laying, the wasp Sphex builds a burrow for the purpose and seeks out a cricket which she stings in such a way as to paralyze but not kill it. She drags the cricket into the burrow, lays her eggs alongside, closes the burrow, then flies away, never to return. In due course, the eggs hatch and the wasp grubs feed off the paralyzed cricket, which has not decayed, having been kept in the wasp equivalent of deep freeze.
Page 188 - For example, the wasp's routine is to bring the paralyzed cricket to the burrow, leave it on the threshold, go inside to see that all is well, emerge, and then drag the cricket in. If the cricket is moved a few inches away while the wasp is inside making her preliminary inspection, the wasp, on emerging from the burrow, will bring the cricket back to the threshold, but not inside, and will then repeat the preparatory procedure of entering the burrow to see that everything is all right.
Page 354 - Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catchphrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.
Page 354 - Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.

About the author (1998)

Born in Boston in 1942, Daniel Clement Dennett explores the philosophical links between mind and brain. His first book, Content and Consciousness (1969) was one of the earliest to examine this issue. It is one that he expands on in his other books, including Consciousness Explained (1991), where he uses philosophical "materialism" to examine the link between mind and body. Dennett is a Distinguished Arts and Sciences Professor, a Professor of Philosophy and director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University in Medford Mass. He is interested in the development of artificial intelligence, was the co-founder of the Curricular Software Studio at Tufts, and has aided in the design of computer exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Science in Boston and the Computer Museum in Boston.

Hilary Putnam was Walter Beverly Pearson Professor of Mathematical Logic at Harvard University.

Ned Block is Silver Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at New York University and was Chair of the Philosophy Program at MIT from 1990 to 1995. He is a coeditor of The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates (MIT Press, 1997).

Bibliographic information