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 new technologies are you most excited about?
Dennett: I don’t know, if I knew I’d either have a Nobel Prize or be a billionaire. I don’t know. I like to think that we may find some really transformative breakthroughs on energy. I think that renewable clean energy is one of the great obstacles in the way of sort of evening out the wealth in the world and making it a safer planet and I think that would be, that would be wonderful.
Question: Is the Obama Administration good for alternative energy?
Dennett: Well, they’ve said so and with sincerity and with some early actions to bare out that they mean it, I know the NSF was thrilled with the transition team that we’re so knowledgeable and so eager to see what they could do when they came in. Actually before, before the inauguration to sort of scout out what the NSF was doing and what it need and the current economic crisis of course is required, has cut back a lot on that but of course a lot of funding will go forward for clean energy and for other applications, high tech applications that will make the world a more efficient and safer place. I’m quite confident, yeah.
It’s the sort of general purpose crowbar of rational argument where you take your opponent's premises and deduce something absurd from them.