Kinds of Minds: Preface
Dennett (Daniel)
Source: Dennett - Kinds of Minds - Towards an Understanding of Consciousness
Paper - Abstract

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  1. I am a philosopher, not a scientist, and we philosophers are better at questions than answers. I haven't begun by insulting myself and my discipline, in spite of first appearances. Finding better questions to ask, and breaking old habits and traditions of asking, is a very difficult part of the grand human project of understanding ourselves and our world. Philosophers can make a fine contribution to this investigation, exploiting their professionally honed talents as question critics, provided they keep an open mind and restrain themselves from trying to answer all the questions from "obvious" first principles.
  2. There are many ways of asking questions about different kinds of minds, and my way — the way I will introduce in this book — changes almost daily, getting refined and enlarged, corrected and revised, as I learn of new discoveries, new theories, new problems. I will introduce the set of fundamental assumptions that hold my way together and give it a stable and recognizable pattern, but the most exciting parts of this way are at the changeable fringes of the pattern, where the action is.
  3. The main point of this book is to present the questions I'm asking right now — and some of them will probably lead nowhere, so let the reader beware. But my way of asking questions has a pretty good track record over the years, evolving quite smoothly to incorporate new discoveries, some of which were provoked by my earlier questions. Other philosophers have offered rival ways of asking the questions about minds, but the most influential of these ways, in spite of their initial attractiveness, lead to self-contradictions, quandaries, or blank walls of mystery, as I will demonstrate. So it is with confidence that I recommend my current candidates for the good questions.
  4. Our minds are complex fabrics, woven from many different strands and incorporating many different designs. Some of these elements are as old as life itself, and others are as new as today's technology. Our minds are just like the minds of other animals in many respects and utterly unlike them in others. An evolutionary1 perspective can help us see how and why these elements of minds came to take on the shapes they have, but no single straight run through time, "from microbes to man," will reveal the moment of arrival of each new thread.
  5. So in what follows I have had to weave back and forth between simple and complex minds, reaching back again and again for themes that must be added, until eventually we arrive at something that is recognizably a human mind. Then we can look back, one more time, to survey the differences encountered and assess some of their implications.

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