Frasi di Daniel Dennett

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Daniel Dennett

Data di nascita: 28. Marzo 1942

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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.

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Frasi Daniel Dennett

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„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
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.

„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
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.

„The distinction between responsible moral agents and beings with diminished or no responsibility is coherent, real, and important.“

—  Daniel Dennett
Context: The distinction between responsible moral agents and beings with diminished or no responsibility is coherent, real, and important. It is coherent, even if in many instances it is hard to apply; it draws an empirically real line, in that we don't all fall on one side; and, most important, the distinction matters: the use we make of it plays a crucial role in the quality and meaning of our lives. [... ] We want to hold ourselves and others responsible, but we recognize that our intuitions often support the judgement that a particular individual has "diminished responsibility" because of his or her infirmities, or because of particularly dire circumstances upon upbringing or at the time of action. We also find it plausible to judge that nonhuman animals, infants, and those who are severely handicapped mentally are not responsible at all. But since we are all more or less imperfect, will there be anyone left to be responsible after we have excused all those with good excuses? [... ] We must set up some efficiently determinable threshold for legal competence, never for a moment supposing that there couldn't be intuitively persuasive "counterexamples" to whatever line we draw, but declaring in advance that such pleas will not be entertained. [... ] The effect of such an institution [... ] is to create [... ] a class of legally culpable agents whose subsequent liability to punishment maintains the credibility of the sanctions of the laws. The institution, if it is to maintain itself, must provide for the fine tuning of its arbitrary thresholds as new information (or misinformation) emerges that might undercut its credibility. One can speculate that there is an optimal setting of the competence threshold (for any particular combination of social circumstances, degree of public sophistication, and so on) that maximizes the bracing effect of the law. A higher than optimal threshold would encourage a sort of malingering on the part of the defendants, which, if recognized by the populace, would diminish their respect for the law and hence diminish its deterrent effect. And a lower than optimal threshold would yield a diminishing return of deterrence and lead to the punishment of individuals who, in the eyes of society, "really couldn't help it." The public perception of the fairness of the law is a critical factor in its effectiveness. p. 157-162. Chapter 7, "Why Do We Want Free Will?"

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„Good intentions and inspiration are simply not enough.“

—  Daniel Dennett
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.

„Wherever there is a conscious mind, there is a point of view.“

—  Daniel Dennett
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

„In fact, of course, science is an unparalleled playground of the imagination“

—  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

„Goodness comes in many forms, not just medicine and science.“

—  Daniel Dennett
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.

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