6 March 2007
Text: Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea
|Wonderfully Useful||Iffy||A Problem|
greedy vs proper reductionism
cranes vs skyhooks
libraries, search landscape (akin to niches)
|genes and memes and selection and NOTHING else?|
no personal agency? no free will?
no space beyond the "libraries"?
Daniel Dennett's Brain:
(and sometimes out of control)
|Committed to (a particular kind of) Rigor in Thought||Some Times Too Much So? (and hence oddly timid? as well as destructive?)|
"To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone who today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant, excusably ignorant in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write" (p 46)
"Dr. Mayr, a strong believer in the Hegelian dialectic as a way of advancing understanding, was known for his definitive proclamations, which often inspired as many heated rebuttals as nods of vigorous agreement"
Lawrence H. Summers - "I think I do have a tendency to challenging dialogue in the way of a graduate seminar. Its probably both a strength and a weakness ..." NY Times, 26 Feb 2005
|"It makes sense to err on the side of greedy reductionism, to try for the simple model before wallowing around in complexities" (p 396)||"If a ... brain were truly capable of non-algorithmic activity, and if we have such brains, and if our brains are themselves the products of an algorithmic process ... an algorithmic process (natural selection in its various levels and incarnations) creates a non-algorithmic subprocess of subroutine, turning the whole process (evolution up to and including ... brains) into a non-algorithmic process after all. This would be a cascade of cranes creating, eventually, a real skyhook! ... The position is, I guess, possible, but ... (p 448)|
Selfish genes, selfish memes, exploration within a fixed landscape/library, emergent meaning/intentionality/morality within that constraint
"Darwin has shown us how, in fact, EVERYTHING is just such a product [of mindless purposeless forces] ... Darwin offers us [a convincing explanation of how God is distributed in the whole of nature]: it is in the distribution of Design through out nature, creating, in the Tree of Life, an utterly unique and irreplaceable creation ... that wonderful wedding of chance and necessity ... [that] just happened to happen, in the fulness of time ... it did make the ivy twine and the sky so blue, so perhaps the song I love tells a truth after all ... it is surely a being that is greater than anything any of us will ever conceive of in detail worthy of its detail ... I can stand in affirmation of its significance." (p 520)
Admiration and awe is all very fine, but I want to be an agent, to MATTER, not only to be shaped by but to shape, to be more than a product of genes and memes.
|science itself will teach man... that he himself is something of the nature of a piano-key or the stop of an organ... so that everything he does is not done by his willing it, but is done of itself, by the laws of nature....even if this were proved to him by natural science and mathematics, even then he would not become reasonable, but would purposely do something perverse out of simple ingratitude, simply to gain his point.... the whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano-key! .... Fyodor Dotoevsky, Notes From Underground, 1864|
I am, and I can think, therefore I can change who I am ... and the libraries, search landscapes as well?
A slightly different story, more cracked
It is from the "crack" (ambiguity) that creativity, ability to conceive meaning, bring into existence things that haven't yet been derive; "stories" are what come from, are made possible by the crack.
Depends on both expansion and trimming (to get new things with which to build)
Can't say in advance what expansion/trimming will be generative.
Does not depend on words/language, which further expands the range?
Expansion/trimming cycles obvious throughout human culture (science, art, etc), without there being a "plan" for them. Inherent in "generative" processes?
Literature: no plan, intent, goal - a "generative" process
Should be "Darwin's Generative Idea"
Behavioral (unconscious, algorithmic) meaning vs experienced (conscious, story) meaning
This an example of trimming/expansion; of intuition that a particular trimming will prove generative (and so experienced by PG as dysphoric (?) signal from unconscious, which must then be able to detect that?). Generation in unconscious, destablizing?, reported? Outburst of ideas an effort to capture before restabilized (trimmed?) in unconscious?
Originated in intuition that Dennett not adequate, persistent effort to establish the limitation, unconscious also able to judge/motivate that? Issue of "consciousness" without neocortex ...