Christian Long

Dan Dennett: Our Consciousness

In TED Talks on May 20, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Reflection by LINDSAY R.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Dan Dennett:  Our Consciousness

Philosopher Dan Dennett is a very funny man. He starts out his talk about going to a party and everyone’s eyes glaze over when he tells them he is a philosophy professor. Philosophers even think that he can’t explain consciousness so they laugh at him.

Dan Dennett said, “It’s very hard to change people’s minds about something like consciousness, and I finally figured out the reason for that. The reason for that is that everybody’s an expert on consciousness.”

Dan Dennett wanted to shake the confidence of saying that everyone else is wrong about consciousness and that he is right. He showed his favorite picture about consciousness that was a New Yorker cover. Dan says that many people feel that consciousness is like real magic. “Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic,” said Dan Dennett. Then Dan explains how philosophers explain consciousness. He shows this video with squares in the background and after the video is over he asks how many of you saw all of the squares change color. This was an example that is being studied recently. Dan Dennett wrote a book in 1991 called Consciousness Explained, where he did experiments like the video one.

One of his last experiments with the audience is there are two shapes and he asks if the shape on the left is the same one on the right. He asked the audience which one of the images did they rotated in their mind to match with the other one. The last and final question he ask about this experiment is “How do you know that’s what you did?” This was a very interesting video to watch and Dan Dennett was very quirky and fun to listen to.


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