Few forces in the world are as potent as religion: it comforts people in their suffering and inspires them to both magnificent and terrible deeds. In this provocative and timely book, Daniel C. Dennett seeks to uncover the origins of religion and discusses how and why different faiths have shaped so many lives, whether religion is an addiction or a genuine human need, and even whether it is good for our health. Arguing passionately for the need to understand this multifaceted phenomenon, Breaking the Spell offers a truly original - and comprehensive - explanation for faith.
For all the thousands of books that have been written about religion, few until this one have attempted to examine it scientifically: to ask why-and how-it has shaped so many lives so strongly. Is religion a product of blind evolutionary instinct or rational choice? Is it truly the best way to live a moral life? Ranging through biology, history, and psychology, Daniel C. Dennett charts religion's evolution from "wild" folk belief to "domesticated" dogma. Not an antireligious screed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy, Breaking the Spell will be read and debated by believers and skeptics alike.
"Should be read by every parent, teacher, minister, and Congressman in the land."--The Atlantic In The Conquest of Happiness, first published by Liveright in 1930, iconoclastic philosopher Bertrand Russell attempted to diagnose the myriad causes of unhappiness in modern life and chart a path out of the seemingly inescapable malaise so prevalent even in safe and prosperous Western societies. More than eighty years later, Russell's wisdom remains as true as it was on its initial release. Eschewing guilt-based morality, Russell lays out a rationalist prescription for living a happy life, including the importance of cultivating interests outside oneself and the dangers of passive pleasure. In this new edition, best-selling philosopher Daniel C. Dennett reintroduces Russell to a new generation, stating that Conquest is both "a fascinating time capsule" and "a prototype of the flood of self-help books that have more recently been published, few of them as well worth reading today as Russell's little book."
In The Crucible of Consciousness, Zoltan Torey offers a theory of the mind and its central role in evolution. He traces the evolutionary breakthrough that rendered the brain accessible to itself and shows how the mind-boosted brain works. He identifies what it is that separates the human's self-reflective consciousness from mere animal awareness, and he maps its neural and linguistic underpinnings. And he argues, controversially, that the neural technicalities of reflective awareness can be neither algorithmic nor spiritual--neither a computer nor a ghost in the machine. The human mind is unique; it is not only the epicenter of our knowledge but also the outer limit of our intellectual reach. Not to solve the riddle of the self-aware mind, writes Torey, goes against the evolutionary thrust that created it. Torey proposes a model that brings into a single focus all the elements that make up the puzzle: how the brain works, its functional components and their interactions; how language evolved and how syntax evolved out of the semantic substrate by way of neural transactions; and why the mind-endowed brain deceives itself with entelechy-type impressions. Torey first traces the language-linked emergence of the mind, the subsystem of the brain that enables it to be aware of itself. He then explores this system: how consciousness works, why it is not transparent to introspection, and what sense it makes in the context of evolution. The "consciousness revolution" and the integrative focus of neuroscience have made it possible to make concrete formerly mysterious ideas about the human mind. Torey's model of the mind is the logical outcome of this, highlighting a coherent and meaningful role for a reflectively aware humanity.
In a book that is both groundbreaking and accessible, Daniel C. Dennett, whom Chet Raymo of The Boston Globe calls "one of the most provocative thinkers on the planet," focuses his unerringly logical mind on the theory of natural selection, showing how Darwin's great idea transforms and illuminates our traditional view of humanity's place in the universe. Dennett vividly describes the theory itself and then extends Darwin's vision with impeccable arguments to their often surprising conclusions, challenging the views of some of the most famous scientists of our day.
In this landmark 1984 work on free will, Daniel Dennett makes a case for compatibilism. His aim, as he writes in the preface to this new edition, was a cleanup job, "saving everything that mattered about the everyday concept of free will, while jettisoning the impediments. " In Elbow Room, Dennett argues that the varieties of free will worth wanting -- those that underwrite moral and artistic responsibility -- are not threatened by advances in science but distinguished, explained, and justified in detail. Dennett tackles the question of free will in a highly original and witty manner, drawing on the theories and concepts of fields that range from physics and evolutionary biology to engineering, automata theory, and artificial intelligence. He shows how the classical formulations of the problem in philosophy depend on misuses of imagination, and he disentangles the philosophical problems of real interest from the "family of anxieties" in which they are often enmeshed -- imaginary agents and bogeymen, including the Peremptory Puppeteer, the Nefarious Neurosurgeon, and the Cosmic Child Whose Dolls We Are. Putting sociobiology in its rightful place, he concludes that we can have free will and science too. He explores reason, control and self-control, the meaning of "can" and "could have done otherwise," responsibility and punishment, and why we would want free will in the first place. A fresh reading of Dennett's book shows how much it can still contribute to current discussions of free will. This edition includes as its afterword Dennett's 2012 Erasmus Prize essay.
"The best new book I've read."--Richard Dawkins, New York Times Book Review Over a storied career, Daniel C. Dennett has engaged questions about science and the workings of the mind. His answers have combined rigorous argument with strong empirical grounding. And a lot of fun. Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking offers seventy-seven of Dennett's most successful "imagination-extenders and focus-holders" meant to guide you through some of life's most treacherous subject matter: evolution, meaning, mind, and free will. With patience and wit, Dennett deftly deploys his thinking tools to gain traction on these thorny issues while offering readers insight into how and why each tool was built. Alongside well-known favorites like Occam's Razor and reductio ad absurdum lie thrilling descriptions of Dennett's own creations: Trapped in the Robot Control Room, Beware of the Prime Mammal, and The Wandering Two-Bitser. Ranging across disciplines as diverse as psychology, biology, computer science, and physics, Dennett's tools embrace in equal measure light-heartedness and accessibility as they welcome uninitiated and seasoned readers alike. As always, his goal remains to teach you how to "think reliably and even gracefully about really hard questions." A sweeping work of intellectual seriousness that's also studded with impish delights, Intuition Pumps offers intrepid thinkers--in all walks of life--delicious opportunities to explore their pet ideas with new powers.
Combining ideas from philosophy, artificial intelligence, and neurobiology, Daniel Dennett leads the reader on a fascinating journey of inquiry, exploring such intriguing possibilities as: Can any of us really know what is going on in someone else's mind? What distinguishes the human mind from the minds of animals, especially those capable of complex behavior? If such animals, for instance, were magically given the power of language, would their communities evolve an intelligence as subtly discriminating as ours? Will robots, once they have been endowed with sensory systems like those that provide us with experience, ever exhibit the particular traits long thought to distinguish the human mind, including the ability to think about thinking? Dennett addresses these questions from an evolutionary perspective. Beginning with the macromolecules of DNA and RNA, the author shows how, step-by-step, animal life moved from the simple ability to respond to frequently recurring environmental conditions to much more powerful ways of beating the odds, ways of using patterns of past experience to predict the future in never-before-encountered situations. Whether talking about robots whose video-camera "eyes" give us the powerful illusion that "there is somebody in there" or asking us to consider whether spiders are just tiny robots mindlessly spinning their webs of elegant design, Dennett is a master at finding and posing questions sure to stimulate and even disturb.
Essays from the 20th century's greatest thinkers explore topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, evolution, science fiction, philosophy, reductionism, and consciousness, presenting a variety of conflicting visions of the self and the soul.
Sweet Dreams is a collection of essays and lectures written between 1999 and 2005 in which Dennett tries to freeze time and present a 'best' version of his evolving ideas...
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