Robert Alan and Kathryn Dunlevie Hayes Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Rice University

7. What Dennett Can’t Imagine and Why

In Inquiry 36: 96-112, March 1993.


Woven into Dennett's account of consciousness is his belief that certain possibilities are not conceivable. This is manifested in his view that we are not conscious in any sense in which we can imagine that philosophers’ ‘zombies’ might not be conscious, and also in his claims about ‘blindsight’, and what possibilities this can coherently suggest to us. If the possibilities Dennett denies none the less seem conceivable to us, then if he does not give us reason to think they are actually incoherent, we ought to reject his theory, since it denies the intelligibility of the very notion we should want a theory of consciousness to discuss. I argue that Dennett does not provide us with convincing reasons of the relevant sort, and I suggest that his difficulty with the concept of consciousness is rooted in questionable epistemological assumptions which he fails to justify.

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