From where do ‘I’ come?
Unlike the other authors that you have read over the past few weeks, Dennett gives attempts to give a strictly empirical account of ‘self’. For Daniel Dennett, accounting for phenomena (objects or events experienced in reality) is a matter of reduction to natural facts. When philosophers say all experience in reality is reducible to physical facts, we say that this is a physicalist account of the world. Dennett’s particular line of reasoning is an extreme form of physicalism, where if there is some phenomena that cannot be accounted without appealing to non-physical facts, then it stands to reason that the phenomena in question does not exist (or that it has been accounted for it incorrectly.) Hence, Dennett’s position in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science is what is known as material eliminativism. However, Dennett’s account approaches the notion of self from a perspective of evolutionary biology, and Dennett believes that an account of the self can be given in a way that develops from physical facts.
Prompt: First, briefly lay out Dennett’s account of the self as it constructed through a narrative. What might this narrative structure mean for a person that has multiple personality disorder? Second, give a brief comparison with James Giles ‘no-self theory’ that you read last week. Finally, and following from your responses to the two previous questions, should a person prefer Giles’ or Dennett’s account of the self? Provide reasons for your decision and list some possible advantages, and disadvantages, of your choice.
Required Reading: Daniel C. Dennett, “The Origins of Selves” (PDF)
Recommended Reading: TED Talk – Daniel Dennett and the Illusion of Consciousness (Weblink)(https://youtu.be/fjbWr3ODbAo); SEP, “Physicalism” – Introduction & Sections 1, 2, 10, 11, & 12 (Weblink)
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