In the years since Daniel Dennett's influential Consciousness Explained was published in 1991, scientific research on consciousness has been a hotly contested battleground of rival theories—"so rambunctious," Dennett observes, "that several people are writing books just about the tumult." With Sweet Dreams, Dennett returns to the subject for "revision and renewal" of his theory of consciousness, taking into account major empirical advances in the field since 1991 as well as recent theoretical challenges.
In Consciousness Explained, Dennett proposed to replace the ubiquitous but bankrupt Cartesian Theater model (which posits a privileged place in the brain where "it all comes together" for the magic show of consciousness) with the Multiple Drafts Model. Drawing on psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and artificial intelligence, he asserted that human consciousness is essentially the mental software that reorganizes the functional architecture of the brain. In Sweet Dreams, he recasts the Multiple Drafts Model as the "fame in the brain" model, as a background against which to examine the philosophical issues that "continue to bedevil the field."
With his usual clarity and brio, Dennett enlivens his arguments with a variety of vivid examples. He isolates the "Zombic Hunch" that distorts much of the theorizing of both philosophers and scientists, and defends heterophenomenology, his "third-person" approach to the science of consciousness, against persistent misinterpretations and objections. The old challenge of Frank Jackson's thought experiment about Mary the color scientist is given a new rebuttal in the form of "RoboMary," while his discussion of a famous card trick, "The Tuned Deck," is designed to show that David Chalmers's Hard Problem is probably just a figment of theorists' misexploited imagination. In the final essay, the "intrinsic" nature of "qualia" is compared with the naively imagined "intrinsic value" of a dollar in "Consciousness—How Much is That in Real Money?"
About the Author
Daniel C. Dennett is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. He is the author of SweetDreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness(MIT Press, 2005, 2006) and other books.
"In characteristically playful mode, Darwinian fundamentalist Daniel Dennett turns his opposition’s arguments against them in a masterful display of philosophical judo.... He is on his way to becoming the Herbert Spencer of our age, the man of ideas who can bridge radition and science, giving us a sense of how it is that the robot in the mirror is really us."
The Globe 100, the "Best and Most Influential Books of 2005" —The Globe and Mail
"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... the overall picture gives a good idea of where Dennett's thinking has been going."—Nature
"Into this fray ridesonce again the tireless figure of Daniel Dennett,... whose new book, Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness is a collection of essays devoted mainly to identifying and pummeling those diehard intuitions that he believes, rightly, still obstruct the progress of cognitive neuroscience"—The New Scientist