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I realise that thinking in terms of a control centre is a habit it's hard to break, but it's an error you have to put aside if we're ever going to get anywhere with consciousness. Another pervasive error, while we're on the subject, is the doctrine of ' qualia ' - the private, incommunicable redness of red or indescribable taste of a particular wine.

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Qualia are meant to be the part of an experience which is left over if you subtract all the objective bits. Now qualia cannot have any causal effects otherwise we should be able to find objective ways of signalling to each other which quale we meant. This has the absurd consequence that any words written or spoken about them were not, in fact, caused by the qualia themselves. But, Dennett says, let's be clear: there are no such things as qualia.


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There's nothing in the process of perception which is ultimately mysterious or outside the normal causal system. When I stand in front of a display of apples, every last little scintilla of subtle redness is capable of influencing my choice of which one to pick up. But in any case, Dennett hasn't excluded himself from anything.

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He proposes that instead of mystifying ourselves with phenomenology we adopt a third-person version - heterophenomenology. In other words, instead of trying to talk about our ineffable inner experiences, we should talk about what people report as being their ineffable inner experiences. When you think about it, this is really all we can do in any case.

That's Dennett in a nutshell. Actually, it isn't possible to summarise him that compactly: one of his great virtues is his wide range.


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Take the frame problem - the difficulty computer programs have in dealing with teeming reality and the 'combinatorial explosion' which results. It seems to me that a complete account of consciousness is going to need more than one theoretical insight. Denett's broad range means he's said useful things on a broader range of topics than anyone else.

And it typifies the other thing I like about Dennett. His theory may seem strange at first, but after a while I think it starts to seem like common sense. Take the analogy with centres of gravity. People must be something like this in the final analysis, mustn't they?

On the one hand we're told the self is a mysterious spiritual entity which will always be beyond our understanding: on the other side, some people tell us paradoxically that the self is an illusion. I don't think either of these positions is easy to believe: by contrast, the idea of the self as a centre of narrative gravity just seems so sensible, once you've got used to it. The problem is, it's blindingly obvious that whether something is conscious or not doesn't depend on our stance towards it. And that business about centres of gravity.

A centre of gravity acts as a kind of average for forces which actually act on millions of different points.

True Believers: The Intentional Strategy and Why It Works (Dennett, )

Well there really are people like that - legal 'persons', the contractual entitities who provide a vehicle for the corporate will of partnerships, companies, groups of hundreds of shareholders and the like. But surely it's obvious that these legal fictions, which we can create or dispell arbitrarily whenever we like, are entirely different to the real people who invented them, and on whom, of course, they absolutely depend. The fact is, Dennett's view remains covertly dependent on the very same intuitive understanding of consciousness it's meant to have superseded.

You can imagine a disciple running into problems like this Yes, very amusing I'm sure.

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I suppose I can sympathise with you to some extent. Grasping Dennett's ideas involves giving up a lot of cherished and ingrained notions, and I'm afraid you're just not ready or perhaps able to make the effort. But the suggestion that Dennett doesn't tell us what makes something a good target for the intentional stance is a shocking misrepresentation.

It could hardly be more explicit. Anything which implements a 'Joycean machine' is conscious. This Joycean machine is the thing, the program if you like, which produces the multiple drafts. The idea is that consciousness arises when we turn on ourselves the mechanisms and processes we use to recognise and understand other people.

True believers: the intentional strategy and why it works

Crudely put, consciousness is a process of talking to ourselves about ourselves: and it's that that makes us susceptible to explanation through the intentional stance. It's all perfectly clear.

Jonathan Cohen - - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4 3 Naturalising Representational Content. Nicholas Shea - - Philosophy Compass 8 5 Representation in Cognitive Science. Nicholas Shea - - Oxford University Press. Phenomenal Intentionality. Uriah Kriegel ed. Partial Belief and Flat-Out Belief.

Markus Werning - - Grazer Philosophische Studien 79 1 Inconsistency and Interpretation. Lisa Bortolotti - - Philosophical Explorations 6 2 Cognition, Natural Selection and the Intentional Stance. Intentional Systems Theory. Oxford University Press. The Tenacity of the Intentional Prior to the Genealogy. Mark Alfano - - Journal of Nietzsche Studies 40 1 Is Intentional Ascription Intrinsically Normative?

A large part of Dennett's program is trying to establish an objective basis for speaking about the contents of consciousness apart from just the report from the consciousness. His concept of the intentional stance represents an observation by the commentator of the subject's intent relative to a specific issue or action. Part of determining if our understanding of the subject's intent is correct is determining what beliefs the subject has which inform their intent. This cannot be merely the report by the subject, they might lie or be in error about their own beliefs. In order to determine a belief is actually held a true belief one must be able to predict the subject's intentional action on account of these beliefs.

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What is Daniel Dennett's definition of a true believer? Ask Question. Asked 3 years, 9 months ago. Active 3 years, 9 months ago.