Daniel Dennett

(Daniel Clement Dennett III)

Daniel Dennett
Daniel Dennett
  • Born: March 28, 1942
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Philosopher









Quote Topics Cited
… religion for many people is some sort of moral viagra. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
If I were designing a phony religion, I'd surely include a version of this little gem -- but I'd have a hard time saying it with a straight face:, If anybody ever raises questions of objections about our religion that you cannot answer, that person is almost certainly Satan. In fact, the more reasonable the person is, the more eager to engage you in open-minded and congenial discussion, the more sure you can be that you're talking to Satan in disguise! Turn away! Do not listen! It's a trap!, What is particularly cute about this trick is that it is a perfect "wild card," so lacking in content that any sect or creed or conspiracy can use it effectively. Communist cells can be warned that any criticism they encounter is almost sure to be the work of FBI infiltrators in disguise, and radical feminist discussion groups can squelch any unanswerable criticism by declaring it to be phallocentric propaganda being unwittingly spread by a brainwashed dupe of the evil patriarchy, and so forth. This all-purpose loyalty-enforcer is paranoia in a pill, sure to keep the critics muted if not silent. Loyalty & Loyalty Oaths
Not a single one of the cells that compose you knows who you are, or cares. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The revolution of the proletariat was inevitable, good Marxists believed, but if so, why were they so eager to enlist us in their cause? If it was going to happen anyway, it was going to happen with or without our help. But of course the inevitability that Marxists believe in is one that depends on the growth of the movement and all its political action. There were Marxists working very hard to bring about the revolution, and it was comforting to them to believe that their success was guaranteed in the long run. And some of them, the only ones that were really dangerous, believed so firmly in the rightness of their cause that they believed it was permissible to lie and deceive in order to further it. They even taught this to their children, from infancy. These are the "red-diaper babies," children of hardline members of the Communist Party of America, and some of them can still be found infecting the atmosphere of political action in left-wing circles, to the extreme frustration and annoyance of honest socialists and others on the left. Miscellaneous
There are no forces on this planet more dangerous to us all than the fanaticisms of fundamentalism… Human Nature
We used to think that secrecy was perhaps the greatest enemy of democracy, and as long as there was no suppression or censorship, people could be trusted to make the informed decisions that would preserve our free society, but we have learned in recent years that the techniques of misinformation and misdirection have become so refined that, even in an open society, a cleverly directed flood of misinformation can overwhelm the truth, even though the truth is out there, uncensored, quietly available to anyone who can find it. Secrecy & Transparency
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. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
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! Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
Wherever there is a conscious mind, there is a point of view. Human Nature
A child raised on a desert island, alone, without social interaction, without language, and thus lacking empathy, is still a sentient being.
As every scuba diver knows, panic is your worst enemy: when it hits, your mind starts to thrash and you are likely to do something really stupid and self-destructive.
Darwin's idea of natural selection makes people uncomfortable because it reverses the direction of tradition.
Human freedom is not an illusion; it is an objective phenomenon, distinct from all other biological conditions and found in only one species - us. Freedom & Liberty
I don't think the 9/11 attacks taught us anything we didn't already know about religion. It has long been obvious - even to the deeply religious - that religious fanaticism is an extremely dangerous deranger of otherwise sane and goodhearted people. Religion & God
I think many people are terribly afraid of being demoted by the Darwinian scheme from the role of authors and creators in their own right into being just places where things happen in the universe.
If the history of resistance to Darwinian thinking is a good measure, we can expect that long into the future, long after every triumph of human thought has been matched or surpassed by 'mere machines,' there will still be thinkers who insist that the human mind works in mysterious ways that no science can comprehend. Future ;History ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
In 50 years - or 20 years, or 200 years - our current epistemic horizon (the Big Bang, roughly) may look as parochial as the horizon Newton had to settle for in his day, but no doubt there will still be good questions whose answers elude us.
In short, we need to recover the courage we celebrate in our heroes, and in particular, the courage to tolerate, for the sake of a free society, a level of risk we hardly ever imagined in the past. Society
Natural selection is not gene centrist and nor is biology all about genes; our comprehending minds are a result of our fast evolving culture.
Now that mobile phones and the internet have altered the epistemic selective landscape in a revolutionary way, every religious organisation must scramble to evolve defences or become extinct.
Some cultural phenomena bear a striking resemblance to the cells of cell biology, actively preserving themselves in their social environments, finding the nutrients they need and fending off the causes of their dissolution.
Some of the greatest, most revolutionary advances in science have been given their initial expression in attractively modest terms, with no fanfare. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore so it eats it! Life
The mind is the effect, not the cause.
The problem is that no ethical system has ever achieved consensus. Ethical systems are completely unlike mathematics or science. This is a source of concern. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The secret of happiness is: Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it. Life ;Happiness & Unhappiness
There is no reality of consciousness independent of the effects of various vehicles of content on subsequent action (and hence, of course, on memory).
We adore babies because they're so cute. And, of course, we are amused by jokes because they are funny. This is all backwards. It is. And Darwin shows us why. Humor
We should get used to the idea that we'll probably never be able to find - and confirm - a good explanation of the ultimate origin of the universe, though I see no reason to believe that we can't press much further on this question than we have managed to date.
Wherever there is a design that is highly successful in a broad range of similar environments, it is apt to emerge again and again, independently - the phenomenon known in biology as convergent evolution. I call these designs 'good tricks.'
Words have a genealogy and it's easier to trace the evolution of a single word than the evolution of a language.