Related Tags

Daniel Dennett, a father

Daniel Dennett, a father

Daniel Dennett passed away yesterday, April 19th, 2024.

Dan was not my friend but my father; I’m his brainchild (Brainchildren). If Richard Dawkins had introduced the concept of memes and Susan Blackmore had been the most enthusiastic about it, Dan would have been and still is the one who developed memetics most profoundly, so he was indeed my father. If Richard abandoned memetics in all respects and Susan pushed it hard but was soon discouraged by the lack of response, Dan kept memes close to his heart and mind.

I should have met Dan with Richard and Susan at Tufts for a conference in 2021, but I did not, for Corona canceled it. I would change the title of his excellent book to “From Viruses to Bach and Back” because it was a virus that prevented me from meeting my brain father on a genetic and not only on a memetic level. I hope you understand that I do not want to say I could have genetic intercourse with him since I’m far from being WOKE.

The mentioned book is essential for two reasons. The first one is also the reason that I had to kill my memetic father, and I did this so many times. While the book title implies that bacteria represent biology and bach culture, being on two sides of human evolution, Dan’s reductivism finally reduces them to matter and physicality. I had to find his monism and reductivism misleading, and this allowed me to develop my theory of evolution as NOCEMA, Non-Overlapping Co-Evolutionary Magisteria, upgrading the famous S.J. Gould NOMA (Non-Overlapping Magisteria). Bacteria and Bach are non-reducible one to another, and for that reason, only they can coevolve. Dan missed the crucial point, but that fault helped me so much that I will always keep him as my true brainfather.

The second reason is that this book title brought me to the book From Darwin to Derrida, which opened the door to my PhD co-mentor, prof. David Haig. David teaches at Harward, a few kilometers away from Tufts, yet another telling coincidence. I envy David for having an opportunity to know Dan, that I have to confess.

Back to Dan. Although written in 1991, Consciousness Explained is still the cardinal work linking memetics and neuroscience. Even though Dan often repeats that we are remarkably ignorant about what goes on in our brains, he develops a consistent theory of consciousness that one has to consider, even if not fully subscribing to it. What I learned from him all the time is how to stay consistent and firm while at the same time being able to respect the views of those with whom you disagree.

Let me finish this obituary by asking what kind of freedom Dan will have after April 19th, 2024. He would have most probably answered that in none. He was a monist and materialist, so he could not have answered differently. Contrary to his belief, I find a strong argument for a slightly different answer that emerges from his own work. While it is true that he cannot act morally or morally, his freedom evolved.

Go to Top