Free Dennett

The following is from an email announcement sent by Shaun Gallagher:

The special double issue of Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (Vol 6, #1-2, 2007) on Dennett’s heterophenomenology, edited by Alva Noë, is available for free download until the end of March at

The issue includes papers by Taylor Carman, Roberto Casati and Elena Pasquinelli, Jérome Dokic and Elisabeth Pacherie, John Drummond, Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Kelly, Uriah Kriegel, Eduard Marbach, Alva Noë, Jean-Michel Roy, Eric Schwitzgebel, Charles Siewert, Gianfranco Soldati, Evan Thompson, Max Velmans, and Dan Zahavi; and a response by Dan Dennett.

Also the most recent issue (Vol. 7 #1, 2008), a special issue on Moral Phenomenology, edited by Uriah Kriegel, has just been published.

15 Responses to “Free Dennett”

  1. I saw the headline and thought dear ol’ Dan was in prison.

  2. Pete Mandik says:

    That was the subject of the email Shaun sent around and that was my reaction as well. Alternately, we could have interpreted it as something about correcting his views on free-will.

  3. Did anyone read the Hubert Dreyfus paper? I thought it was interesting. Dreyfus contends that Dennett’s methods “overgenerate” and “undergenerate” intentional phenomena by “distorting” the experiential data.

    What I want to know is whether or not the heterophenomenologist interprets all “intentional commitment” as belief, as Dreyfus thinks.

  4. Pete Mandik says:

    Gary, my short take is that Dennett’s right and Dreyfus and Kelly are wrong. If you want to see my long take on these sorts of issues, you can start here:

  5. Perhaps I am dense, but I am having trouble seeing the connection between your Transcendental Zombie argument and Dreyfus’s contention that any heterophenomenological capturing of “coping with the world” will necessarily overgenerate and undergenerate intentional phenomena.

    If I understand your argument, then the rejection of Dreyfus’s argument seems to stem from your claim in section 3 that :

    “If I know that I’m not a zombie, then my current mental states have a set of qualia, Q, such that I know that I have them and no member of which is unconceptualized residue. Relative to my current qualia, my conceptual repertoire is fully adequate.”

    So are you saying that the “conceptual repertoire”, or intentional beliefs of the heterophenomenologist, are fully adequate to explain the existential aspects of motorintentionality that Dreyfus talks about?

    Perhaps I just don’t fully understand your argument, but are you saying that because you know you aren’t a zombie(based on Lynch’s argument), phenomenal character can be entirely captured by “egocentric content”?

    My question then, is what about the pre-reflective motorintentionality involved in the body schema that acts upon affordances(solicitations) from the environment? Dreyfus thinks that this kind of intentionality cannot be captured in “egocentric content” because this kind of “coping” does not involve the ego.

    I am probably misunderstanding your argument, so forgive me.

  6. Pete Mandik says:

    Hi Gary,

    Thank you for your comments and questions.

    To your first question, yes, and to your second, yes if “egocentric content” is replaced with “conceptualized egocentric content”.

    To your third question, I have no clear idea what you or Dreyfus think the ego is or how you can tell when it is and isn’t involved in anything, but if you want to get a sense of what I think egocentricity amounts to, you can take a look at the following, especially around pp. 160-162.

    And if you’re further interested in what I think sucks about Dreyfus on motor intentionality, you can take a look at a paper by me and Rick Grush that also appeared in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences and is available here:

  7. Pete,

    Thank you for the link to your reply to Dreyfus, it was very informative. In the examples you used, such as chess playing, I agree that Dreyfus goes a little overboard in his anti-representationalism campaign. However, I do think that when it comes to pure action, anti-representationalism is the preferred way to go. As Shaun Gallagher says, when it comes to action, “representation is nothing other than a place-holder for an explanation that needs to be cast in dynamical terms…and if one can explain the phenomena in non-representationalist terms, then the concept of representation is at best redundant”


  8. Pete Mandik says:

    Unfortunately, since no one has actually produced an explanation of intentional phenomena in dynamic system theoretic terms, Gallagher’s invocation of DST comes across as more wishful thinking than a convincing challenge to representationalism.

    Nice and thorough critiques of dynamicism are available from Rick Grush and Chris Eliasmith, but one of my favorite ones is this one from Clark Glymour:

  9. For Shaun Gallagher’s sake, I should have finished the quote which in full said: “…nothing other than a place-holder for an explanation that needs to be cast in dynamical terms of an embodied, environmentally embedded, and enactive model.” With that said, I don’t know to what extent Gallagher actually endorses the dynamic systems approach in addition to the standard enactive approach, so hopefully I didn’t mischaracterize his position.

    As for no one producing an explanation of intentional phenomena in dynamic system theoretic terms, Dreyfus seems to think that Walter Freeman has sketched out how Merleau-Ponty’s intentional arc could work in dynamical terms with his work on rabbits. See section 7 of Dreyfus’s “Why Heideggerian AI Failed and How Fixing it Would Require Making it More Heideggerian”

  10. Oh, and thanks for the link to that paper from Glymour. Very interesting.

  11. Pete Mandik says:

    I’m well aware of that stuff. I think it’s terrible. It needs to simultaneously be demonstrated (1) that the rabbits have intentional phenomena in the first place (since you are not a rabbit who does autophenomenology, good luck doing that without doing heterophenomenology) and (2) that a real explanation (not a sketch) can be given that isn’t straightforwardly translatable into a representational one.

    Here’s more by me on this sort of stuff:

  12. Eric Thomson says:

    Interesting. I didn’t know the dynamical-systems-is-right-therefore-no-representations-needed people still existed. I always thought the consensus after the initial van Gelder hubub was that giving a dynamical systems analysis of X is compatible with giving an analysis of X as trading in representations. Even the Watt governor can be given a representational and dynamical spin at the same time I though (Bechtel argued this at some talk I went to years ago, and I remember being convinced).

    Nice articles BTW. It will help me as I write up my criticism of the ‘there is no cartesian theatre’ jive.

  13. Pete Mandik says:

    Thanks, Eric. I was at Wash U with Bill Bechtel, Andy Clark, Rick Grush, and Chris Eliasmith and we were all writing our criticisms of dynamacism around the same time.

  14. Thanks for the link to that Bechtel paper, Eric. It was very level-headed and convincing. I liked how he emphasized that the two approaches are “complementary”.

    I think I am coming around on the concept of representation in terms of explanatory usefulness.