3 thoughts on “Dennett on Neurons

  1. I’ve been shaking my head about this for a few weeks now. I almost think the years he’s spent arguing against Bennett and Hacker’s mereological fallacy have led him to embrace these even more extreme, and baffling, extensions of the ‘intentional stance.’ His younger self would certainly be mystified!

  2. I wonder if there’s a naturalistic apologia for Dennet’s profligate application of the intentional stance. The trick, maybe, is to acknowlege that we can treat all sorts of dumb things as a strategic agents, but to account for the manifestation of strategic agency in terms of the functional organization of biological individuals. The story goes like this: biological autonomy or individuality consists in the capacity to actively maintain the constraints that make a far-from-equilibrium state possible. Such autonomy comes in degrees but it is only possible if it is evolvable and evolvability requires that the web of functionally independent processes characteristic of living systems have a modular basis. This is because modularity shields other processes from the effects of evolutionary or cognitive tinkering. But modules have to be individuals as well – self-maintining to a degree in order to be “iterated” into new environments. A couple of great pieces on this here:

    Christensen, Wayne David and Bickhard, M. H. (2002). “The Process Dynamics of Normative Function”. The Monist 85 (1):3-28.

    Ruiz-Mirazo, Kepa & Moreno, Alvaro (2012). “Autonomy in evolution: from minimal to complex life”. Synthese 185 (1):21-52.

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