Being Daniel Dennett: How To Make A Career Out of Your Own Non-Existence

According to philosopher Daniel Dennett consciousness is just an illusion, but why should we trust the the claims of an illusion?

Daniel Dennett has made perhaps the hardest sale in human history. He has managed to sell his idea that consciousness, the very self of a human being, is merely an illusion. He has been selling this idea for years, and there is no shortage of buyers. This may not seem all that incredible except that there is no such thing as Daniel Dennett, according to Daniel Dennett.

The thing that is recognized as Daniel Dennett is just an illusion. An accidental byproduct of brain activity whose only purpose is to drive genetic propagation into the future. Whatever Daniel Dennett thinks Daniel Dennett thinks is really just his genetic code tricking him into behaviors that fulfill their purpose. The thoughts of Daniel Dennett are determined, not by Daniel Dennett, but by this process of cognitive illusion.

This is literally what Daniel Dennett, or the illusion that thinks it is Daniel Dennett, believes. And he wants you to believe it to. Which is like buying a hot dog from somebody who claims that hot dogs don’t exist. They are just illusions that arise from the accident of nature. That will be three bucks, kid.

It is unthinkable to me that Daniel, obviously a smart guy, cannot see the problem with his claims. When you make a claim that negates your own agency, and the agency of everyone else, then how are we to take your claims as reliable? If your position is that your mind is just an illusion, then how are we supposed to trust that illusion to know what the fuck is going on?

When confronted by his own problematic logic, Dennett is prone to creating complex abstractions and attempting to dazzle his critics with enough bullshit to fertilize Death Valley. He will reference arcane bits of higher order logic that nobody can confirm or dispute and sidestep the obvious with semantic sleights of hand. I must admit he really is a brilliant salesman, but at the end of the day my budget for ideas by people who claim to be nothing but a complex illusion is $0.

Dennett is not alone. Throughout modern philosophy, especially among scientific materialists and naive realists, there is a tendency to reduce the human mind to nothingness. If you want to sell articles, books and speaking events you must be willing to sell your species short with suggestive nihilism based on reductionist logic and vivid obscurities. Somehow we have become obsessed with theories that use complex reasoning to suggest that human beings are pretty much shit, and not very impressive shit at that.

Even if Dennett is right, his proposal offers no way to go through life. There is no hope or beauty in his assessment, just cold and deterministic judgements about our existence that offer no meaning, purpose or productive paths. It is the empty virtue signal of the cynic dressed up in academic language so that it might be taken seriously enough to turn a shitty philosopher into a minor celebrity. And fuck me, but it somehow worked.

Can we maybe please stop giving an audience to people who want to tell us how fucking worthless we are? Anybody else see how that might be useful?

No?

Okay then. We are all worthless, stupid shits and we’re going to die terribly very soon. Now give me some money.

paypalme

http://paypal.me/JoshuaScottHotchkin

53 thoughts on “Being Daniel Dennett: How To Make A Career Out of Your Own Non-Existence

  1. From the Hard Anthropic Principle it’s the animal mind turns a potential reality into physical reality. This makes the mind pretty important in the emergence of matter and energy.

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      1. It occurred to me that the physical(according to the hard Anthropic principle) requires the existence of a mind evolved from the potential reality to make itself physical reality. Once that is achieved the past becomes physical.
        The Buddhists talk about this as enlightenment, after which you escape physicality and ascend to the realm of the creative energy of the Universe. Also the Mormons believe in this.

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      2. In anthroposophy it is taught that humans are the least refined creatures. After the original mind conceived of itself in our form, it created the single simple form that would explore all other forms before leading up to humans. It is a neat idea.

        But these days I am more of the opinion that all living entities are conscious and contribute intersectionally to a basic map of reality that guides our experiences.

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      3. There is the evidence of the quantum double slit experiments that Einstein replied to with, ” I like to think that the moon exists even when I’m not looking at it!”
        It seems that what Einstein liked may not be ultimately true. There is also the Simulation a Hypothesis and it works well in the context of the Anthropic Principle! 😎

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      4. Einstein showed his hand when he admitted he always begins with that assumption. As with most scientific materialists and naive realists, they often either ignore the viability of their first premises or just take them for granted with no further thought.

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      5. The materialists assume that the physical universe of matter and energy is all there is. The fact is it is only a subset of the whole! I agree, and that is why they cannot fit all the pieces together, they are only playing with a subset of the puzzle!

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      6. They seem to ignore that these things are experiences they are having, and instead interpret their reality with undue literalism. It would be quite amusing if it wasn’t so universally believed.

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      7. Unfortunately modern Eastern thought often runs parallel to Western, as the rapid emergence of technology suggests and reinforces scientific materialism. I wish it weren’t so, but perhaps it is an unavoidable stage of human development. Just gotta hope that the Idealist perspective is able to eventually shed those dogmas.

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      8. Taoism isn’t changing or is Tibetan Budhism…neither are materialist systems. The West is moving closer to them because of the metaphysics implied by the gains in scientific understanding in the past 100 years.
        West and East may yet merge with western science supporting the totality perspective of the east with scientific fact!

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      9. I am troubled by the idea of “scientific fact” as it implies a form of realism, or phenomena independent of experience.

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      10. If you don’t mind me suggesting it, take a look on YouTube for Allan Watts. He made a career out of exploring the depths of Eastern philosophies and presenting them to westerners! I am sure you’ll enjoy the abundance of lectures he has available there! 🙈

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      11. I am pretty familiar, but thank you. For a more modern mind on these issues check out Rupert Spira or Bernardo Kastrup.

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      12. I consider myself a Taoist and I thing the Simulation Hypothesis and Anthropic Principle compliment each other nicely, are consistent and are not out of line with Taoism or Tibetan Buddhism! So I wonder how you can say any of these are bad belief systems if you understand them!
        I was just arguing with a Zionist and he can’t understand that Judaism and Zionism are doctrinally racist religions! Many foolish stories told and many foolish people to argue for them! 😳

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      13. Both of these theories are abstractions. They are not even experiential phenomena. The only way they can be experienced is when their existence is from assumed from abstract logic. Things like that can be helpful, but my journey is to detach from all assumptions and see what lies beneath.

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      14. Taoism is a description and provides infinite examples from reality and proves itself reliable! If you don’t understand this much then you don’t understand Taoism!

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      15. The physical universe is not the totality. It had a beginning and an ending. In the totality the physical universe exists but also had a beginning and will end.
        The ground state of the universe is the Zero Point Field. It is the default state.
        If you ad all the positive and negative energy in the physical universe it all cancels out and leaves nothing but the ground state. In fact the Tao is the description of how physical reality is behaving in an effort to self organize to again achieve the ground state.
        This fits into Taoism well and the Anthropic principle.

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      16. Yes, I do understand where you are coming from. None of what you presented is new or not understood to me. In fact I have worked within those models before, for quite some time, really. I no longer find all those abstractions viable. Although I do sometimes miss the excitement of pure abstracturbation.

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      17. And non existence about someone that clearly presently exists is not abstract? So he drives an abstract car and eats his abstract meals and makes an abstract non existent living?

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      18. I have never denied the existence of other minds. I just recognize that I cannot verify objects outside of my experience, but other minds are not objects.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The idea that “the self is an illusion” is an oxymoron, because it begs the question, “then who is having this illusion?”

    We model reality in our brains. Part of the reality we model is us. We observe people moving around in the world, then look in the mirror and realize “Hey! I’m one of those things!”

    When the model provides practical information that lets us deal with reality in a meaningful and reliable fashion, we call it “real”, because it is our only access to reality.

    When the model provides misleading information, like when we accidentally walk into a very clean glass door, we call it an “illusion”.

    So, we need to be careful when throwing around the idea that this thing or that thing is an “illusion”, when we really mean it is our pragmatic model of the real world.

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    1. Real world?
      I have only ever had experiences of the world. Since I cannot interact with any alleged world outside of an experience of it, I cannot separate my experiences from that which is (the world) is experienced.

      Everything is a mental phenomena.

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      1. Turning the steering wheel is a mental phenomena. The car is a mental phenomena. The road is a mental phenomena. At the intersection of our beliefs and expectations lie our experiences. Because I have beliefs and expectations about the causation between turning the wheel and how it will affect the car and road, I experience those effects. Have you ever met anyone whose entire worldview was inconsistent with the steering wheel, car and roads? If such a person were around, we could test them as a control. In the meantime, car wreck is the narrative we live in, so it is the one we experience. There is no need for naive realism. That is just a leftover of Protestant literalism and fundamentalism.

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      2. Joshua, that’s the point. If the mental experience is all we have to go on, then it is effectively “reality”. That’s what we’ve chosen to call it, so, whether it is a solipsistic dream state or a brain in a vat, when that is the only reality you have, then that is what we must call “reality”. It’s a pragmatic truth, and it has nothing to do with religion at all.

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      3. You are assuming that the experience of reality is static, rather than evolving through interaction. If seen as an ever-evolving phenomena affected by those within it, there is no treason to reduce it to an objective absolute entity. It can be seen more clearly as a noun than as a verb.

        If you study you will find how Protestantism has influenced the entire western worldview, including the things we think of as secular or scientific. Those are also extensions of Calvin and Luther.

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      4. I’m sorry, Josh, but I’m pretty sure science preceded religion. Science is what we all do naturally to understand how the world works, so that we can predict what will happen when we do something. Learning to walk is a science experiment for the toddler.

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      5. Science is a very specific method. I am afraid walking toddlers does not require peer review, falsification or even reliable predictions about the phenomena universally.

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      6. Well, it involves observation and experimentation, that’s the science. We could certainly say there is peer review also. But I don’t think anyone has “falsified” walking yet.

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      7. You seem to begin from an assumption that there is a reality, and then try find the best way to describe what you have assumed. I try not to assume there is a reality. Just minds, experiences and interactions. It keeps the dogmas out.

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      8. I am not assuming anything. I directly experience those things. “Reality” is an umbrella abstraction that cannot be directly experienced.

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      9. Good point about the abstraction. But we call the things we experience “real” if they can be confirmed (looks like an apple, feels like an apple, tastes and crunches like an apple, etc.) and “illusions” if they turn out to be false (looks like an apple, but when I pick it up it is too light, and if I tap it with a knuckle it sounds hollow, damn it who put the bowl of artificial fruit on the table?).

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      10. I’m afraid I’m a William James pragmatist. It’s true if it works. Words are part of how we do stuff. On the other hand, A. J. Ayers would suggest that even meaningless statements can be meaningful to a person.

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      11. Placebos work.
        Two competing forms of gravity both work.
        An entire map of the cosmos that was wrong worked for navigation for a long time.
        I am afraid William James did not understand Hume’s problem of induction.

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      12. LOL. No, not at you, at Bertrand Russel’s example of the problem: the chicken who inductively presumes the farmer is bringing food again until the farmer wrings its neck to have it for dinner.

        The pragmatic problem is what alternative did the chicken have than to presume she was going to be fed again? So, we have to do pretty much the same thing, work from the best information we have, and have faith that when getting in our cars to drive to work that this won’t be the time when a tractor trailer rams into the side of our car and kills us.

        So, the so-called “problem” with induction is not inherent in induction itself. It is inherent in the lack of perfect information, and the requirement to act even when we cannot be 100% certain that things will go as they have in the past.

        This is also not a problem with reliable cause and effect. We can presume perfectly reliable cause and effect even when we don’t know or have mistaken ideas about what the cause is or will be.

        One thing we know for sure is that not all causation is physical. With living organisms you get purposeful behavior. With intelligent species you get deliberate behavior.

        Oh, and the Eagles just won the Superbowl.

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      13. If you presume or assume anything than you are loading your questions with the answers, or at the very least, narrowing their scope.

        You seem like a very intelligent individual with a keen eye towards analysis and a passion for inquisitiveness. Those are not inherently bad things, be they can become compulsive, and in validating that image of ourselves we can be prone to a lot of abstracturbation.

        It took me twenty years of effort to break myself the habits of naive realism and scientific materialism. I never expect anyone to read my work and have an instant EUREKA moment. But sometimes the ideas take seed. I hope you have a look around at some related articles to get the fuller view of my perspective. I checked out your site and read a few articles, and was impressed with the writing and tone and the genuine effort involved, yet find the materialism unsatisfying. As 99.9% of western thought is materialism and naive realism, it should be considered that I have fully understood those positions before rejecting them, and feel uninclined to defend against a minority position against a dominant, monolithic one. But thanks for reading and interacting, I truly appreciate the time and effort!

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      14. Okay. The place where I see “non-materialistic” causation is with rational thought. In the same way that reasoning can be performed on a computer controlled drone to maintain a fixed altitude, we employ reasoning to decide what is best to choose and best to do. Reasoning seems to take place upon the material platform (and can’t take place without it), but it seems to be different in nature from the platform. The two neuroscientists I’ve read, Michael Gazzaniga and Michael Graziano, speak of “top-down” as well as “bottom-up” causation. Top-down would be things like our purpose and our reasons, which we cannot find in the material itself. And I’m not sure how to classify “what it is”, other than to say that it is a process running on the hardware.

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      15. Interesting post. I cannot agree with attacking reality and reason. I can agree that there are many perspectives as to what is real. And I can agree that reason is often undermined by simple errors in our thinking. That’s why we spend time discussing ideas about which we believe we have special insights that we want to share with others. And we defend the ideas that we’ve come to believe get us a little closer to the truth.

        For me, I believe I have special insight into the determinism/free will paradox. One idea does not preclude the other. And it troubles me when people like Libet, Harris, Caruso, et al spread bad ideas that undermine personal responsibility for the sake of academic snobbery.

        It troubles me that there seems to be a tide of atheists buying into the abandonment of free will as a back door attack on religion. And it also troubles me to run into various forms of nihilism floating around out there, suggesting we abandon the search for what is true, and right, and good.

        There are some things worth looking for, even if we never find them.

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      16. I am also of the idea that free will and determinism run along a spectrum, and not in absolutes.

        You kinda remind me of an earlier version of myself, one who still had some naive faith that reason and rationality were what was right and proper, based on the fact that I was good at them.

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      17. I understand freedom being on a sliding scale, but I do not view determinism and freedom to be at the opposite ends. The same identical event carries them both. When I decide for myself what I will do, according to my own purpose and my own reasons, then it is both authentically “free will” and also authentically “reliable cause and effect”. And that’s the insight I’ve been carrying around with me since I was a teenager.

        The issue regarding reason and rationality is whether they are good for being good and doing good.

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      18. Everything is good for being good and doing good sometimes, and just plain awful others. This is why we should not elevate reason and rationality to dogmas, or ultimate always-goods. That is the way to insure they become plain awful more often.

        Wisdom first, and wisdom knows no absolutes or certainties. It is adaptable, responsive and self-aware of its fallibility and those of its methods and tools.

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