I had an interesting experience when I read Daniel C. Dennetts’ book Consciousness Explained. I couldn’t figure out what it was talking about. I’d read a chapter, and have no idea what he was getting at. Mainly, it seemed to me, he was explaining what consciousness wasn’t. And he just wasn’t putting the pieces together for me. I had a similar problem with most of Joseph Campbell’s books, except for The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which seemed pretty straightforward even for me.
And then, well after I’d finished reading it, something wonderful happened. All of a sudden I understood what he was talking about. Other people talking about consciousness, it just automatically fell into Dennett’s framework for me. Even Freud, whom I’d completely given up on ever making sense of. It’s like it took a while for my subconscious to put it all together for me. And now it’s just obvious.
So, when I saw that Intuition Pumps And Other Tools for Thinking was coming out, I was interested. It’s sort of a Dennett reader, summing up most of his life’s work in a way that even non-philosophers can understand. He actually tested each chapter on undergraduates, to make sure that his writing was intelligible, and actually conveyed the ideas he was trying to express.
I’m not quite finished with it yet. And once again, I’m not quite getting what he’s saying, or rather how it all hangs together. But I think I see where he’s going with it. And it all seems to make sense. Maybe once my subconscious finishes chewing on it I’ll be really satisfied.
As it is, I’m just happy to read a really well-written philosophy book. Each chapter is as brief as possible, giving you bites small enough to swallow, yet still fleshed-out enough to stretch your mental belly. It seems more humorous than his other stuff.
I have one bone of contention. For most of my life, I’ve suspected that I’m what Dennett calls a zimbo. That is, a person that doesn’t really think, that only thinks that he thinks, when really he’s just acting like he’s thinking. Dennett seems to be saying that such things cannot exist. But I really think that’s me. I used to think that I had Asperger’s Syndrome. But now it doesn’t officially exist as a diagnosis any more. So I cannot exist that way either. So maybe if Dennett’s right, I really don’t exist.
Oh bother, said Pooh.