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Biography of a philosopher

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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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Here is part I of an intellectual autobiography Daniel C. Dennett is writing. I find it extremely interesting, if only for the glimpse of what it was like to be a talented and dedicated student of philosophy at Harvard and then Oxford in the 1960s.

The thesis was duly typed up in triplicate and handed in (by a professional typist, back in those days before word-processing). I anxiously awaited the day when Quine and young Charles Parsons, my examiners, would let me know what they made of it. Quine showed up with maybe half a dozen single-spaced pages of comments. I knew at that moment that I was going to be a philosopher.


1 Comment

  1. Rob says:

    This, to judge by his many presentations available available online, struck me as something he’s taken to heart as a practical principle:

    “You seldom talk anybody out of a position by arguing directly with their premises and inferences. Sometimes it is more effective to nudge them sideways with images, examples, helpful formulations that stick to their habits of thought.”


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