Daniel C. Dennett is the author of Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, Breaking the Spell, Freedom Evolves, and Darwin's Dangerous Idea and is University Professor and Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He lives with his wife in North Andover, Massachusetts, and has a daughter, a son, and a grandson. He was born in Boston in 1942, the son of a historian by the same name, and received his B.A. in philosophy from Harvard in 1963. He then went to Oxford to work with Gilbert Ryle, under whose supervision he completed the D.Phil. in philosophy in 1965. He taught at U.C. Irvine from 1965 to 1971, when he moved to Tufts, where he has taught ever since, aside from periods visiting at Harvard, Pittsburgh, Oxford, and the École Normale Supérieure in Paris.
His first book, Content and Consciousness, appeared in 1969, followed by Brainstorms (1978), Elbow Room (1984), The Intentional Stance (1987), Consciousness Explained (1991), Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995), Kinds of Minds (1996), and Brainchildren: A Collection of Essays 1984-1996. Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness, was published in 2005. He co-edited The Mind's I with Douglas Hofstadter in 1981 and he is the author of over three hundred scholarly articles on various aspects on the mind, published in journals ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral and Brain Sciences to Poetics Today and the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.
Dennett gave the John Locke Lectures at Oxford in 1983, the Gavin David Young Lectures at Adelaide, Australia, in 1985, and the Tanner Lecture at Michigan in 1986, among many others. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Science. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1987.
He was the Co-founder (in 1985) and Co-director of the Curricular Software Studio at Tufts, and has helped to design museum exhibits on computers for the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Science in Boston, and the Computer Museum in Boston.
Question: What is a better alternative to religious solace?
Dennett: Well, I think that the community and the loving and the care that you can get from religion are very good things of course and if only there were more pure sect or groups that provided not only the good works but also the community I think that would be a good thing. I’ve been talking with various people about the need to provide that structure in sect or organizations and I think it’s possible and I think we should work at it because you’re absolutely right. People sometimes when there’s nobody around to love you and take care of you. It’s great to have a group that you can be welcome into.
Question: What kinds of structures should atheists build?
Dennett: Well, I suppose the simplest answer is it will be good if there were and there are already churches that are dogmas and in fact more and more churches downplay dogma to the point of evaporation and concentrate on providing draft to sort of community of care, mutual care and helping the world and so I think it’s entirely possible that churches will evolve into sort of cribless organizations that do a lot of good work and that would be wonderful.
It’s the sort of general purpose crowbar of rational argument where you take your opponent's premises and deduce something absurd from them.