A philosophical catfight in the TLS: Dennett vs Papineau

Why Evolution Is True

Matthew called my attention to a series of pieces in the Times Literary Supplement (free online) in which materialist philosophers Dan Dennett (Tufts) and David Papineau (King’s College London) battle it out over a number of philosophical issues.

It began with a fairly negative review by Papineau of Dan’s newest book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, a book I own but haven’t yet read.  In the review, called “Competence without comprehension,” Papineau takes issue with Dan’s idea that consciousness is an illusion; with his notion that humans are unique among animals in being able to comprehend some of why they do what they do (i.e., running away from predators, which he thinks humans can “comprehend” but zebras cannot, for the latter react from instinct or a form of learning that doesn’t involve “comprehension”); and with Dan’s idea that memes are self-selecting units…

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