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  1. Daniel Dennett, A Clever Robot.
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  2. Daniel Dennett, An Open Letter to H. Allen Orr.
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  3. Daniel Dennett, Essay on Dawkins for Harvard Companion to Evolution, Forthcoming.
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  4. Daniel Dennett, From Typo to Thinko.
    in Evolution and Culture eds.Stephen C. Levinson and Pierre Jaisson, published by The MIT Press, 2006.
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  5. Daniel Dennett, Instead of a Review.
    forthcoming in Artificial Intelligence Journal.
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  6. Daniel Dennett, Introduction to What Are You Optimistic About?
    Today’s Leading Thinkers on Why Things Are Good and Getting Better ed. John Brockman, Harper Perrennial, 2007, pp. xvii-xxii; also appears in The Wall Street Journal Online January 25th, 2008, http://online.wsj.com/public/article_print/SB120120661987514417.html.
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  7. Daniel Dennett, The Evolution of ‘Why?’ -.
    essay on Robert Brandom, Making it Explicit.
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  8. Daniel Dennett, Thank Goodness!
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  9. J. Brockman & Daniel C. Dennett, How to Make Mistakes.
    Making mistakes is the key to making progress. There are times, of course, when it is important not to make any mistakes--ask any surgeon or airline pilot. But it is less widely appreciated that there are also times when making mistakes is the secret of success. What I have in mind is not just the familiar wisdom of nothing ventured, nothing gained. While that maxim encourages a healthy attitude towards risk, it doesn't point to the positive benefits of not just (...)
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  10. Daniel C. Dennett, Altruists, Chumps, and Inconstant Pluralists.
    Anybody interested in evolutionary explanations of social phenomena (and every philosopher should be) will learn a lot from Unto Others. In addition to its cornucopia of fascinating empirical findings from biology and psychology, it is chock full of arresting perspectives, ingenious thought experiments, and clear expositions of difficult-indeed, treacherous-concepts that should be in every philosopher's kit. What philosophers will not learn, however, is the status of group selection in current evolutionary theory, because while Sober and Wilson (hereafter S&W) strive intelligently (...)
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  11. Daniel C. Dennett, An Overview of My Work in Philosophy.
    In my opinion, the two main topics in the <span class='Hi'>philosophy</span> of mind are content and consciousness, and they have received about equal attention from me. As the title of my first book, Content and Consciousness (1969) suggested, that is the order in which they must be addressed: first, a theory of content or intentionality--a phenomenon more fundamental than consciousness--and then, building on that foundation, a theory of consciousness. Over the years I have found myself recapitulating this basic structure twice, (...)
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  12. Daniel C. Dennett, Comments on Evan Thompson, Mind in Life.
    I have learned a lot from Evan Thompson’s book–his scholarship is formidable, and his taste for relatively overlooked thinkers is admirable–but I keep stumbling over the strain induced by his self-assigned task of demonstrating that his heroes–Varela and Maturana, Merleau-Ponty and (now) Husserl, Oyama and Moss and others–have shattered the comfortable assumptions of orthodoxy, and outlined radical new approaches to the puzzles of life and mind. The irony is that Thompson is such a clear and conscientious expositor that he makes (...)
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  13. Daniel C. Dennett, Could There Be a Darwinian Account of Human Creativity?
    Weaver birds create intricate nests; sculptors and other artists and artisans also create intricate, ingenious constructions out of similar materials. The products may look similar, and outwardly the creative processes that create those processes may look similar, but there are surely large and important differences between them. What are they, and how important are they? The weaverbird nestmaking is ‘instinctual,’ and ‘controlled by the genes’ some would say, but we know that this is a crude approximation of a more interesting (...)
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  14. Daniel C. Dennett, Evolutionary Psychology.
    There are systemic features of contemporary Christianity that create an almost invisible class of non-believing clergy, ensnared in their ministries by a web of obligations, constraints, comforts, and community. Exemplars from five Protestant denominations, Southern Baptist, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Methodist and Church of Christ, were found and confidentially interviewed at length about their lives, religious education and indoctrination, aspirations, problems and ways of coping. The in-depth, qualitative interviews formed the basis for profiles of all five, together with general (...)
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  15. Daniel C. Dennett, Faith in the Truth.
    Is mathematics a religion at all? Is science? One often hears these days that science is "just" another religion. There are some interesting similarities. Established science, like established religion, has its bureaucracies and hierarchies of officials, its lavish and arcane installations of no utility apparent to outsiders, its initiation ceremonies. Like a religion bent on enlarging its congregation, it has a huge phalanx of proselytizers--who call themselves not missionaries but educators.
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  16. Daniel C. Dennett, Kinds of Things—Towards a Bestiary of the Manifest Image.
    Consider this chess puzzle. White to checkmate in two. It appeared recently in the Boston Globe, and what startled me about it was that I had thought it had been proven that you can’t checkmate with a lone knight (and a king, of course). This is a counterexample, a strange circumstance that can arise in a legal game of chess. This fact is a higher-order truth of chess, namely that the “proof” that you can never checkmate with a lone knight (...)
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  17. Daniel C. Dennett, On Failures of Freedom & the Fear of Science.
    Allen Funt was one of the great psychologists of the twentieth century. His informal demonstrations on Candid Camera showed us as much about human psychology and its surprising limitations as the work of any academic psychologist. Here is one of the best (as I recall it many years later): he placed an umbrella stand in a prominent place in a department store and filled it with shiny new golf-cart handles. These were pieces of strong, gleaming stainless steel tubing, about two (...)
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  18. Daniel C. Dennett, Preachers Who Are Not Believers.
    Are there clergy who don’t believe in God? Certainly there are former clergy who fall in this category. Before making their life-wrenching decisions, they were secret nonbelievers. Who knows how many like-minded pastors discover that they simply cannot take this mortal leap from the pulpit and then go on to live out their ministries in secret disbelief? What is it like to be a pastor who doesn’t believe in God? John Updike gave us a moving account in his brilliant novel, (...)
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  19. Daniel C. Dennett, Review of Cairns-Smith, Evolving the Mind. [REVIEW]
    After decades of persistent work by researchers in many fields, building foundations and patiently filling in details, the gigantic jigsaw puzzle of consciousness is beginning to come into focus. As large assemblies fall into place with a gratifying convergence of details drawn from different disciplines, the pace is quickening. Everybody wants to be in on the delicious task of describing what the Big Picture is going to look like, predicting the outlines before the mopping up operations confirm them. Well, not (...)
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  20. Daniel C. Dennett, Seeing is Believing..
    We would all like to have a good theory of perception. Such a theory would account for all the known phenomena and predict novel phenomena, explaining everything in terms of processes occurring in nervous systems in accordance with the principles and laws already established by science: the principles of optics, physics, biochemistry, and the like. Such a theory might come to exist without our ever having to answer the awkward "philosophical" question that arises.
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  21. Daniel C. Dennett, The Case of the Tell-Tale Traces: A Mystery Solved; a Skyhook Grounded.
    Michael Behe's book is an interesting attempt at a frontal assault on Darwinism, based on an analysis of the complexities of molecular structures inside the cell--Darwin's black box.
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  22. Daniel C. Dennett, The Evolution of Evaluators.
    We have values and aspirations. What of other animals? Are their "values" different from ours? Animals manifestly prefer having plenty of food to starvation, and comfort to pain, and they will work hard to obtain a mate. But beyond these "creature comforts," they seem to be largely indifferent to the prospects and anxieties that make up human life. A suitable coverall term for human aspiration would be the pursuit of happiness, bearing in mind that happiness is many different things to (...)
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  23. Daniel C. Dennett, The Scope of Natural Selection.
    The author replies to H. Allen Orr's review of "Darwin's Dangrous Idea" (Boston Review, Summer 1996).
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  24. Daniel C. Dennett, Unbelievable: That's What Religion is, Says Christopher Hitchens in His Profoundly Skeptical Manifesto.
    In earlier ages reliable information was rather hard to get, and in general people could be excused for taking the founding myths of their religions on faith. These were the "facts" that "everyone knew," and anybody who had a skeptical itch could check it out with the local priest or rabbi or imam, or other religious authority. Today, there is really no excuse for such ignorance. It may not be your fault if you don't know the facts about the (...)
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  25. Daniel C. Dennett, Who's On First?
    There is a pattern of miscommunication bedeviling the people working on consciousness that is reminiscent of the classic Abbott and CostelloWhos on First?’ routine. With (...)the best of intentions, people are talking past each other, seeing major disagreements when there are only terminological or tactical preferencesor even just matters of emphasisthat divide the sides. Since some substantive differences also lurk in this confusion, it is well worth trying to sort out. Much of the problem seems to have been caused by some misdirection in my apologia for heterophenomenology (Dennett, 1982; 1991), advertised as an explicitly third-person approach to human consciousness, so I will try to make amends by first removing those misleading signposts and sending us back to the real issues. On the face of it, the study of human consciousness involves phenomena that seem to occupy something rather like another dimension: the private, subjective, ‘first-persondimension. Everybody agrees that this is where we start. What, then, is the relation between the standardthird-personobjective methodologies for studying meteors or magnets (or human metabolism or bone density), and the methodologies for studying human consciousness? Can the standard methods be extended in such a way as to do justice to the phenomena of human consciousness? Or do we have to find some quite radical or revolutionary alternative science? I have defended the hypothesis that there is a straightforward, conservative extension of objective science that handsomely covers the groundall the groundof human consciousness, doing justice to all the data without ever having to abandon the rules and constraints of the experimental method that have worked so well in the rest of science. This third-person methodology, dubbed heterophenomenology (phenomenology of another not oneself), is, I have claimed, the sound way to take the first person point of view as seriously as it can be taken.. (shrink)
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  26. Daniel C. Dennett & Eva Jablonka, Review for Journal of Evolutionary Biology.
    predators stalk their chosen prey, and so forth. The genius of “instinct†comes in abundant variety, and breeds true. “It must be in the genesâ€â€“that’s what we tend to conclude. But when we do, we may be jumping to conclusions, because there are other possibilities: the clever behavior we observe could be the do-it-yourself invention or discovery of the individual behaver or it could be a clever trick copied from an elder member of its species, most likely one of its (...)
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  27. Daniel C. Dennett & Marcel Kinsbourne, Counting Consciousnesses.
    In a second there is also time enough, we might add. In his dichotomizing fervor, Bogen fails to realize that our argument is neutral with respect to the number of consciousnesses that inhabit the normal or the split-brain skull. Should there be two, for instance, we would point out that within the neural network that subserves each, no privileged locus should be postulated. (Midline location is not the issue--it was only a minor issue for Descartes, in fact.).
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  28. Daniel C. Dennett, Brian Skyrms & Lawrence Sklar, -2001.
    Paul Valéry1 Valéry’s “Variation sur Descartes” excellently evokes the vanishing act that has haunted philosophy ever since Darwin overturned the Cartesian tradition. If my body is composed of nothing but a team of a few trillion robotic cells, mindlessly interacting to produce all the large-scale patterns that tradition would attribute to the nonmechanical workings of my mind, there seems to be nothing left over to be me. Lurking in Darwin’s shadow there is a bugbear: the incredible Disappearing Self.2 One of (...)
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  29. Daniel C. Dennett & W. Wimsatt, The Interpretation of Texts...
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research , L, Supplement, 177-94, Fall 1990. Reprinted in M. Losonsky, ed., Language and Mind: Contemporary Readings in Philosopohy and Cognitive Science, Blackwells, 1995.
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  30. Christopher Taylor & Daniel Dennett, Center for Cognitive Studies.
    Incompatibilism, the view that free will and determinism are incompatible, subsists on two widely accepted, but deeply confused, theses concerning possibility and causation: (1) in a deterministic universe, one can never truthfully utter the sentence “I could have done otherwise,” and (2) in such universes, one can never really receive credit or blame for having caused an event, since in fact all events have been predetermined by conditions during the universe’s birth. Throughout the free will literature one finds variations on (...)
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  31. Daniel Dennett, Whole-Body Apoptosis.
    Full terms and conditions of use: http://www.informaworld.com/terms-and-conditions-of-access.pdf This article maybe used for research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan or sub-licensing, systematic supply or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.
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  32. Daniel Dennett, A Route to Intelligence: Oversimplify and Self-Monitor.
    I want to try to do something rather more speculative than the rest of you have done. I have been thinking recently about how one might explain some features of human reflective consciousness that seem to me to be very much in need of an explanation. I'm trying to see if these features could be understood as solutions to design problems, solutions arrived at by evolution, but also, in the individual, as a result of a process of unconscious self-design. I've (...)
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  33. Daniel Dennett, Commentary on Block.
    The differences Block attempts to capture with his putative distinction between P-consciousness and A-consciousness are more directly and perspicuously handled in terms of differences in richness of content and degree of influence. Block's critiques, based on his misbegotten distinction, evaporate on closer inspection.
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  34. Daniel Dennett, Darwin's ''Strange Inversion of Reasoning''.
    Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection unifies the world of physics with the world of meaning and purpose by proposing a deeply counterintuitive ‘‘inversion of reasoning’’ (according to a 19th century critic): ‘‘to make a perfect and beautiful machine, it is not requisite to know how to make it’’ [MacKenzie RB (1868) (Nisbet & Co., London)]. Turing proposed a similar inversion: to be a perfect and beautiful computing machine, it is not requisite to know what arithmetic is. Together, these (...)
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  35. Daniel Dennett, Foreword to Darwinizing Culture.
    If there is one proposition that would-be memeticists agree on, it is that the flourishing of an idea-its success at replicating through a population of minds-and the value of an idea-its truth, its scientific or political or ethical excellence-are only contingently and imperfectly related. Good ideas can go extinct and bad ideas can infect whole societies. The future prospects of the meme idea are uncertain on both counts, and the point of this book is not to ensure that the meme (...)
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  36. Daniel Dennett, Reply by Dennett to D'Souza Wall Street Journal Essay.
    If Dinesh D'Souza knew just a little bit more philosophy, he would realize how silly he appears when he accuses me of committing what he calls "the Fallacy of the Enlightenment." and challenges me to refute Kant's doctrine of the thing-in-itself. I don't need to refute this; it has been lambasted so often and so well by other philosophers that even self-styled Kantians typically find one way or another of excusing themselves from defending it. And speaking of fallacies, D'Souza contradicts (...)
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  37. Daniel Dennett, Review of Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion for Free Inquiry. [REVIEW]
    We agree about most matters, and have learned a lot from each other, but on one central issue we are not (yet) of one mind: Dawkins is quite sure that the world would be a better place if religion were hastened to extinction and I am still agnostic about that. I don’t know what could be put in religion’s place–or what would arise unbidden–so I am still eager to explore the prospect of reforming religion, a task that cries out for (...)
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  38. Daniel Dennett, Review of Renfrew & Zubrow, Eds., The Ancient Mind. [REVIEW]
    In 1990, a conference was held at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, to explore the prospects for a new school of research: cognitive archeology. The fruits of that conference are now published; they are uneven in quality, but provocative. Archeology at its best is detective work that rivals anything in science or fiction--from Crick and Watson to Holmes and Watson. At its worst, it is imagination run wild, underconstrained speculations that often have the added vice of permanently distorting the data, through (...)
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  39. Daniel Dennett, Snowmobiles, Horses, Rats, and Memes.
    This essay [by Boone and Smith] brings into sharp relief a ubiquitous confusion that has dogged discussions of cultural evolution, deriving, I suspect, from a subtle misreading of Darwin's original use of artificial selection (deliberate animal breeding) and "unconscious" selection (the unwitting promotion of favored offspring of domesticated animals) as bridges to his concept of natural selection. While it is true that Darwin wished to contrast the utter lack of foresight or intention in natural selection with the deliberate goal-seeking of (...)
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  40. Daniel Dennett, The Selfish Gene as a Philosophical Essay.
    One critic complained that my argument was ‘philosophical’, as though that was sufficient condemnation. Philosophical or not, the fact is that neither he nor anybody else has found any flaw in what I said. And ‘in principle’ arguments such as mine, far from being irrelevant to the real world, can be more powerful than arguments based on particular factual research. My reasoning, if it is correct, tells us something important about life everywhere in the universe. Laboratory and field research can (...)
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  41. Daniel C. Dennett, Artificial Life as Philosophy.
    There are two likely paths for philosophers to follow in their encounters with Artificial Life: they can see it as a new way of doing philosophy, or simply as a new object worthy of philosophical attention using traditional methods. Is Artificial Life best seen as a new philosophical method or a new phenomenon? There is a case to be made for each alternative, but I urge philosophers to take the leap and consider the first to be the more important and (...)
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  42. Daniel C. Dennett, Cognitive Science as Reverse Engineering.
    The vivid terms, "Top-down" and "Bottom-up" have become popular in several different contexts in cognitive science. My task today is to sort out some different meanings and comment on the relations between them, and their implications for cognitive science.
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  43. Daniel C. Dennett, Do-It-Yourself Understanding.
    One of the virtues of Fred Dretske's recent work has been the salutary openness with which he has described the motivations he discovers controlling his thought, and this candor has brought a submerged confusion close to the surface. Since this confusion is widely shared by philosophers and others working on the problem of content ascription, an analysis of its influence on Dretske will at the same time illuminate the difficulties it is creating for other writers.
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  44. Daniel C. Dennett, Errors in Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
    As of January 25, 2006, readers have identified the following errors in Darwin's Dangerous Idea. (I have considered other criticisms offered by readers, but decided that they were in error. Further criticisms are, of course, invited.).
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  45. Daniel C. Dennett, For Journal of Philosophy.
    On the back of the dust jacket of this fine book, one can barely make out two representations of a customized penny for our thoughts, drawn by John Haugeland. Accompanying Honest Abe on the heads side appear the words AExistential Commitment,@ AThought,@ and ASelf;@ while tails shows the Lincoln Memorial and E pluribus unum , surrounded by two unlikely additions: AConstituted Domain, @ and AObjects@. Haugeland explains: AThe basic Kantian/Heideggerian conclusion can be summed up this way: the constituted objective world (...)
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  46. Daniel C. Dennett, Holding a Mirror Up to Dupré.
    Suppose we discovered that all the women in the Slobbovian culture exhibit a strong preference for blue-handled knives and red-handled forks. They would rather starve than eat with utensils of the wrong color. We’d be rightly puzzled, and eager to find an explanation. ‘Well,” these women tell us, “blue-handled knives are snazzier, you know. And just look at them: these red-handled forks are, well, just plain beautiful!” This should not satisfy us. Why do they say this? Their answers may make (...)
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  47. Daniel C. Dennett, Learning & Labeling.
    Clark and Karmiloff-Smith (CKS) have written an extraordinarily valuable paper, which sympathetically addresses what has all too often been an acrimonious and ideology-ridden "debate" and begins to transform it into a multi-perspective research program. By articulating the submerged hunches on both sides in a single framework, and adding some powerful new ideas of their own, they dispel much of the smoke of battle. What we can now see much more clearly is the need for a model of a brain/mind that, (...)
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  48. Daniel C. Dennett, Look Out for the Dirty Baby.
    Back and forth swings the pendulum. It is remarkable that Baars can claim that “many scientists now feel that radical behaviorists tossed out the baby with the bathwater” while not being able to see that his own efforts threaten to be an instance of the complementary overshooting–what we might call covering a nice clean baby with dualistic dirt . Yes indeed, radical behaviorism of Skinner’s variety fell from grace some years ago, with the so-called cognitive revolution, to be replaced by (...)
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  49. Daniel C. Dennett, Memes: Myths, Misunderstandings and Misgivings.
    When one says that cultures evolve, this can be taken as a truism, or as asserting one or another controversial, speculative, unconfirmed theory. Consider a cultural inventory at time t: it includes all the languages, practices, ceremonies, edifices, methods, tools, myths, music, art, and so forth, that compose a culture. Over time, the inventory changes. Some items disappear, some multiply, some merge, some change. (When I say some change, I mean to be neutral at this point about whether this amounts (...)
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  50. Daniel C. Dennett, Producing Future by Telling Stories.
    Sometimes the way to make progress on a topic is to turn your back on it for a few years. At least I hope so, since I have just returned to the Frame Problem after several years of concentrating on other topics. It seems to me that I may have picked up a few odds and ends that shed light on the issues.
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