Frasi di Daniel Dennett
Data di nascita: 28. Marzo 1942
Daniel Clement Dennett è un filosofo e logico statunitense, da sempre studioso del funzionamento della mente. Nelle vesti di filosofo della scienza, è autore, con Douglas Hofstadter, dell'opera L'Io della mente.
Frasi Daniel Dennett
„Potremmo scoprire che le religioni sono una specie di simbionti culturali che prosperano saltando da un portatore a un altro. Potrebbero essere mutualisti: rinforzare la fitness umana o addirittura rendere possibile la vita umana, proprio come fanno i batteri nel nostro intestino. Oppure, potrebbero essere commensali: cioè neutrali, né buoni né cattivi nei nostri confronti, ma disposti a stare a guardare. O infine potrebbero essere parassiti: replicatori nocivi che faremmo meglio a non avere (almeno per quanto ne va del nostro interesse genetico) ma che è difficile eliminare, perché si sono evoluti davvero bene per contrastare le nostre difese e incrementare la loro propagazione.“
„Sono un filosofo, non un biologo, né un antropologo, né un sociologo, né uno storico, né un teologo. Noi filosofi siamo più bravi a porre le domande che trovare le risposte, e questo può dare l'impressione di una comica ammissione di futilità: "Dice che la sua specialità è fare domande, non dare risposte. Che lavoro buffo! E lo pagano per questo?". Ma chiunque si sia mai misurato con un problema veramente arduo sa che una delle cose più difficili è trovare le domande giuste e il giusto ordine in cui porle: devi capire non solo cosa non sai, ma anche cosa hai bisogno di sapere e cosa non ti serve sapere, e cosa devi sapere per capire cosa bai bisogno di sapere, e via di seguito.“
„Molti cristiani, ebrei e musulmani contemporanei affermano che Dio, o Allah, essendo onnisciente non ha bisogno di organi sensoriali ed essendo eterno non agisce nel tempo. Questo è piuttosto strano, perché molti di loro continuano a pregare Dio, a sperare che domani Dio risponda alle loro preghiere, a esprimere gratitudine a Dio per aver creato l'Universo e a usare frasi come "Quel che Dio si aspetta da noi" oppure "Dio abbia pietà": tutte cose che sembrano stare in aperta contraddizione con la tesi che il loro Dio non abbia niente di antropomorfo. Secondo un'antica tradizione questa tensione fra Dio come agente e Dio come Essere eterno e immutabile è una di quelle cose che vanno al di là dell'intelletto umano e sarebbe folle e arrogante cercare di comprenderla.“
„È perfettamente possibile essere atei e credere nella credenza in Dio. Una simile persona non crede in Dio, ma pensa ciononostante che credere in Dio sarebbe una meravigliosa condizione mentale, se solo fosse possibile deciderlo. Le persone che credono nella credenza in Dio cercano di convincere gli altri a credere in Dio e, ogni volta che vedono affievolirsi la loro credenza in Dio, fanno il possibile per rinvigorirla.“
„The methods of science aren't foolproof, but they are indefinitely perfectible. Just as important: there is a tradition of criticism that enforces improvement whenever and wherever flaws are discovered.“
— Daniel Dennett
Postmodernism and truth (1998), Context: The methods of science aren't foolproof, but they are indefinitely perfectible. Just as important: there is a tradition of criticism that enforces improvement whenever and wherever flaws are discovered. The methods of science, like everything else under the sun, are themselves objects of scientific scrutiny, as method becomes methodology, the analysis of methods. Methodology in turn falls under the gaze of epistemology, the investigation of investigation itself — nothing is off limits to scientific questioning. The irony is that these fruits of scientific reflection, showing us the ineliminable smudges of imperfection, are sometimes used by those who are suspicious of science as their grounds for denying it a privileged status in the truth-seeking department — as if the institutions and practices they see competing with it were no worse off in these regards. But where are the examples of religious orthodoxy being simply abandoned in the face of irresistible evidence? Again and again in science, yesterday's heresies have become today's new orthodoxies. No religion exhibits that pattern in its history.
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— Daniel Dennett
Time and the observer (1995), Context: Wherever there is a conscious mind, there is a point of view. A conscious mind is an observer, who takes in the information that is available at a particular (roughly) continuous sequence of times and places in the universe. A mind is thus a locus of subjectivity, a thing it is like something to be (Farrell, 1950, Nagel, 1974). What it is like to be that thing is partly determined by what is available to be observed or experienced along the trajectory through space-time of that moving point of view, which for most practical purposes is just that: a point. For instance, the startling dissociation of the sound and appearance of distant fireworks is explained by the different transmission speeds of sound and light, arriving at the observer (at that point) at different times, even though they left the source simultaneously. pp. 183–247
„Friends were anxious to learn if I had had a near-death experience, and if so, what effect it had had on my longstanding public atheism.“
— Daniel Dennett
Thank Goodness! (2006), Context: Friends were anxious to learn if I had had a near-death experience, and if so, what effect it had had on my longstanding public atheism. Had I had an epiphany? Was I going to follow in the footsteps of Ayer (who recovered his aplomb and insisted a few days later "what I should have said is that my experiences have weakened, not my belief that there is no life after death, but my inflexible attitude towards that belief"), or was my atheism still intact and unchanged? Yes, I did have an epiphany. I saw with greater clarity than ever before in my life that when I say "Thank goodness!" this is not merely a euphemism for "Thank God!" (We atheists don't believe that there is any God to thank.) I really do mean thank goodness! There is a lot of goodness in this world, and more goodness every day, and this fantastic human-made fabric of excellence is genuinely responsible for the fact that I am alive today. It is a worthy recipient of the gratitude I feel today, and I want to celebrate that fact here and now.
„It is now quite clear that there is no single point in the brain where all information funnels in, and this fact has some far from obvious consequences.“
— Daniel Dennett
Time and the observer (1995), Context: But if we ask where precisely in the brain that point of view is located, the simple assumptions that work so well on larger scales of space and time break down. It is now quite clear that there is no single point in the brain where all information funnels in, and this fact has some far from obvious consequences.
— Daniel Dennett
Thank Goodness! (2006), Context: One thing in particular struck me when I compared the medical world on which my life now depended with the religious institutions I have been studying so intensively in recent years. One of the gentler, more supportive themes to be found in every religion (so far as I know) is the idea that what really matters is what is in your heart: if you have good intentions, and are trying to do what (God says) is right, that is all anyone can ask. Not so in medicine! If you are wrong —especially if you should have known better — your good intentions count for almost nothing. And whereas taking a leap of faith and acting without further scrutiny of one's options is often celebrated by religions, it is considered a grave sin in medicine. A doctor whose devout faith in his personal revelations about how to treat aortic aneurysm led him to engage in untested trials with human patients would be severely reprimanded if not driven out of medicine altogether. There are exceptions, of course. A few swashbuckling, risk-taking pioneers are tolerated and (if they prove to be right) eventually honored, but they can exist only as rare exceptions to the ideal of the methodical investigator who scrupulously rules out alternative theories before putting his own into practice. Good intentions and inspiration are simply not enough.In other words, whereas religions may serve a benign purpose by letting many people feel comfortable with the level of morality they themselves can attain, no religion holds its members to the high standards of moral responsibility that the secular world of science and medicine does! And I'm not just talking about the standards 'at the top' — among the surgeons and doctors who make life or death decisions every day. I'm talking about the standards of conscientiousness endorsed by the lab technicians and meal preparers, too. This tradition puts its faith in the unlimited application of reason and empirical inquiry, checking and re-checking, and getting in the habit of asking "What if I'm wrong?" Appeals to faith or membership are never tolerated. Imagine the reception a scientist would get if he tried to suggest that others couldn't replicate his results because they just didn't share the faith of the people in his lab! And, to return to my main point, it is the goodness of this tradition of reason and open inquiry that I thank for my being alive today.
— Daniel Dennett
Context: In fact, of course, science is an unparalleled playground of the imagination, populated by unlikely characters with wonderful names (messenger RNA, black holes, quarks) and capable of performing the most amazing deeds: sub-atomic whirling dervishes that can be in several places — everywhere and nowhere — at the same time; molecular hoop-snakes biting their own tails; self-copying spiral staircases bearing coded instructions; miniature keys searching for the locks in which they fit, on floating odysseys in a trillion synaptic gulfs. "Reflections on 'A Conversation With Einstein's Brain'" in The Mind's I (1981), edited by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett
— Daniel Dennett
Thank Goodness! (2006), Context: Goodness comes in many forms, not just medicine and science. Thank goodness for the music of, say, Randy Newman, which could not exist without all those wonderful pianos and recording studios, to say nothing of the musical contributions of every great composer from Bach through Wagner to Scott Joplin and the Beatles. Thank goodness for fresh drinking water in the tap, and food on our table. Thank goodness for fair elections and truthful journalism. If you want to express your gratitude to goodness, you can plant a tree, feed an orphan, buy books for schoolgirls in the Islamic world, or contribute in thousands of other ways to the manifest improvement of life on this planet now and in the near future. Or you can thank God — but the very idea of repaying God is ludicrous. What could an omniscient, omnipotent Being (the Man Who has Everything?) do with any paltry repayments from you? (And besides, according to the Christian tradition God has already redeemed the debt for all time, by sacrificing his own son. Try to repay that loan!) Yes, I know, those themes are not to be understood literally; they are symbolic. I grant it, but then the idea that by thanking God you are actually doing some good has got to be understood to be just symbolic, too. I prefer real good to symbolic good. Still, I excuse those who pray for me. I see them as like tenacious scientists who resist the evidence for theories they don't like long after a graceful concession would have been the appropriate response. I applaud you for your loyalty to your own position — but remember: loyalty to tradition is not enough. You've got to keep asking yourself: What if I'm wrong? In the long run, I think religious people can be asked to live up to the same moral standards as secular people in science and medicine.