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Saving the Baby: Dennett on Autobiography, Agency, and the Self

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Dennett argues that the decentralized view of human cognitive organization finding increasing support in parts of cognitive science undermines talk of an inner self. On his view, the causal underpinnings of behavior are distributed across a collection of autonomous subsystems operating without any centralized supervision. Selves are fictions contrived to simplify description and facilitate prediction of behavior with no real correlate inside the mind. Dennett often uses an analogy with termite colonies whose behavior looks organized and purposeful to the external eye, but which is actually the emergent product of uncoordinated activity of separate components marching to the beat of their individual drums. I examine the cognitive organization of a system steering by an internal model of self and environment, and argue that it provides a model that lies between the image of mind as termite colony and a naïve Cartesianism that views the self as inner substance.

Keywords: Autobiography; Dennett; Navigation; Self; Self-Models; Self-Organization; Unity Of Self

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2006

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