Comments on Dennett from a cautious ally

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (2):381-385 (1993)
In these notes, unadorned page numbers under 350 refer to Dennett (1987) - The Intentional Stance, hereafter referred to as Stance - and ones over 495 refer to Dennett (1988) - mostly to material by him but occasionally to remarks of his critics. Since the notes will focus on disagreements, I should say now that I am in Dennett’s camp and am deeply in debt to his work in the philosophy of mind, which I think is wider, deeper, more various and more fruitful than mine or anyone else’s. Still, I have some ideas and emphases that I think he could profit from. In the final chapter of Stance Dennett compares his work with that of several others, including me. He sees me as having a position like his, the main difference being that I think (as he doesn’t) that our attributions of mental content can always be highly determinate (pp. 347f). In fact, there are differences between us but this isn’t one of them. I want to get this straight, so as to clear the decks for the positive points I am going to make. There is some indeterminacy and there could be lots of it; Dennett’s case for that is unanswerable. As for how much there actually is: I don’t know and don’t even suspect; there is simply no declared issue between Dennett and myself on that. Nor do we disagree on a related matter. If there is no evidence that settles whether the animal believes that P or believes that Q, should we say that nevertheless one of these is right, and it’s just that we can’t know which it is? Dennett says No. I perfectly agree
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DOI 10.1017/S0140525X00030673
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