Dan Dennett, Author Of ‘Consciousness Explained’, Devotes His Life To A Folly
The problem with Dennett’s theory of consciousness is that it doesn’t exist. So committed is he to strong materialism that this is for him an axiom — the axiom — and therefore the starting point from which his conclusions are based. But the immateriality of subjective experience (consciousness) and therefore its irreducibility to mere brain stuff, however, is the big, pink, defecating elephant in the room that is, by Dennett, being largely ignored.
See, rather remarkably (if not incredulously), Dennett believes subjective experience — those inner feelings — can be fully accounted for by science in that anyone can, in principle, know what it’s like to be Dennett. Anyone can know exactly what it’s like to be Dennett. Dennett’s only advantage over anyone else in Dennett-knowledge is that he hangs around a lot with Dennett. In other words, the question of what it’s like to be you, or what it’s like to be a bat, say, can in principle be objectively accounted for if we had enough knowledge about the workings of the brain. This is all of course to be expected from someone who stridently believes there’s nothing for which science cannot in principle give a full account (subjective experience being no exception). Thusly, to Dennett, thinking and photosynthesis are different merely in degree and not in kind, as was (or still is) conventionally believed.
If the error isn’t clear still, to repeat: Dennett believes objective science can give us a complete picture of subjective experience. Acutely, we see the corollary of this seems to be that subjective experience cannot exist, since if it is something for which a full objective account can be given, than it is objective! In other words, to Dennett, consciousness or subjective experience doesn’t really exist!
Now, of course, this would be all well and fine if this were something for which he had any evidence. But he doesn’t. He just likes to say that materialism is true and therefore that’s how it must be; it goes against intuition that particles bouncing around can produce consciousness, but since we are both particles bouncing around and conscious, then particles bouncing around must somehow be able to produce consciousness. In fact, Dennett will push the bullet even further down his throat and say consciousness is the bouncing around of particles. Problem solved!
No. If anything, the problem becomes more confounded, for now he must deny consciousness exists, or at the very least say it’s an illusion (which would actually still be to say it doesn’t exist). But in so doing, he denies the reality of that which he started out trying to explain in the first place!