Daniel C. Dennett, the author of Freedom Evolves (Viking) and Darwin's Dangerous Idea, is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He lives with his wife in North Andover, Massachusetts, and has a daughter, a son, and a grandson. He was born in Boston in 1942, the son of a historian by the same name, and received his BA in philosophy from Harvard in 1963. He then went to Oxford to work with Gilbert Ryle, under whose supervision he completed his D.Phil. in philosophy in 1965. He taught at U.C. Irvine from 1965 to 1971, when he moved to Tufts, where he has taught ever since, aside from periods visiting at Harvard, Pittsburgh, Oxford, and the Ecole Normal Superieure in Paris. His first book, Content and Consciousness, published in 1969, followed by Brainstorms (1978), Elbow Room (1984), The Intentional Stance (1987), Consciousness Explained (1991), Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), and Kinds of Minds (1996). He coedited The Mind's I with Douglas Hofstadter in 1981. He is the author of more than a hundred scholarly articles on various aspects on the mind, published in journals ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral and Brain Sciences to Poetics Today and the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. His most recent book is Brainchildren: A Collection of Essays 1984-1996 (MIT Press and Penguin, 1998).He gave the John Locke Lectures at Oxford in 1983, the Gavin David Young Lectures at Adelaide, Australia, in 1985, and the Tanner Lecture at Michigan in 1986, among many others. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Science. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1987.
"Trading in a supernatural soul for a natural soul-is this a fair bargain?" Dennett, seeking to fend off "caricatures of Darwinian thinking" that plague his philosophical camp, argues in this incendiary, brilliant, even dangerous book that it is. Picking up where he left off in Darwin's Dangerous Idea (a Pulitzer and National Book Award finalist), he zeroes in on free will, a sticking point to the opposing camp. Dennett calls his perspective "naturalism," a synthesis of philosophy and the natural sciences; his critics have called it determinism, reductionism, bioprophecy, Lamarckianism. Drawing on evolutionary biology, neuroscience, economic game theory, philosophy and Richard Dawkins's meme, the author argues that there is indeed such a thing as free will, but it "is not a preexisting feature of our existence, like the law of gravity." Dennett seeks to counter scientific caricature with precision, empiricism and philosophical outcomes derived from rigorous logic. This book comprises a kind of toolbox of intellectual exercises favoring cultural evolution, the idea that culture, morality and freedom are as much a result of evolution by natural selection as our physical and genetic attributes. Yet genetic determinism, he argues, does not imply inevitability, as his critics may claim, nor does it cancel out the soul. Rather, he says, it bolsters the ideals of morality and choice, and illustrates why those ideals must be nurtured and guarded. Dennett clearly relishes pushing other scientists' buttons. Though natural selection itself is still a subject of controversy, the author, director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts, most certainly is in the vanguard of the philosophy of science. (On sale Feb. 10)
The man who advanced our understanding of consciousness and evolution in books like Darwin's Dangerous Idea now addresses the issue of freedom. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Dennett has taken on really big issues, made them clear, dealt with them seriously and given us much on which to reflect. . . . Crisp and critically insightful." --The Washington Post Book World"One of the most original thinkers of our time." --ScienceDennett stands as the sharpest, cleverest, most stylish prober of how issues of human consciousness interconnect today with evolutionary theory. --The Philadelphia InquirerA serious book with a brilliant message. --Matt Ridley, The Sunday Telegraph