On Reading Dennett

The Guardian had a good profile of the American philosopher Daniel Dennett. And funny enough there is a quote in it that illustrates why I might like his books, and still can find the writer somewhat irritating.

I read Descartes [and I thought] this is really interesting, but it’s wrong. Let me think if I can figure out why.

Still, one of the basic questions philosophy asks is what that knowledge is we so easily talk about. Dennett always has a down to earth approach to this, as is illuminated in this quote:

Some of the most beautiful and deep ideas of the 20th century come from engineering. Certainly in America, engineering is very declassé. It has never had the cachet of physics, or even chemistry. And yet the deep insights of computer science, and a lot of the insights of molecular biology, are fundamentally engineering insights.

Thermodynamics, too – a lot of it came from work with steam engines. So I think that thinking about machines, and how to get purpose out of material, has been a wonderful source of insight. I don’t think it’s an accident that some of the greatest artists of all time have been engineers.

Ideas like that will be why I’ll continue buying any of his books. At the same time, I know there’ll always be something about them that’ll annoy me.

But then, there are too many books in the world that leave me completely indifferent.

[x]#498 fan maandag 19 april 2004 @ 00:11:21