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Daniel Dennett’s Philosophy of Mind Essay

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Updated: Feb 3rd, 2021

For centuries people distinguished two notions, body and soul. Many people argued and could not decide which is more important. Some say that soul (and later human consciousness) is essential since people are determined by their beliefs and souls. However, others cannot agree that the body is not that important since there can be no consciousness without a body. The development of technology makes it possible to open up new horizons for this problem consideration.

Thus, Dennett dwells upon the problem and tries to decide what makes a person that unique personality: body, brain, or maybe something else? Dennett depicts the (quite hypothetical) situations when the main character loses his body, which is substituted by another, and he is also provided by a computer program, which is a complete copy of his consciousness. At the end of the story, some mayhem begins, so it is the reader who is to decide where Dennett is. As a result, each reader will know what makes a person unique.

In the first place, it is necessary to consider whether real Dennett can be in a body. I believe that body is only a vessel that keeps the most important. It is quite obvious since over time human body changes and sometimes people’s appearance change dramatically. However, it does not make them other personalities. If a person is cheerful, he or she will remain such a positive personality. Moreover, the development of surgery proves that even when a body changes, consciousness does not change.

Of course, it is possible that due to some improvements in appearance a person can become more confident or less kind, but it does not mean the personality changed. It may mean that some unknown facets of the personality emerged. So, even if a person obtains a new body (like Dennett got Fortinbras), he/she remains the same personality with the same feelings and longings.

It can seem obvious that only the brain makes a person unique. Admittedly, it is the brain that is the center of people’s intentions, fears, beliefs, dreams, etc. People get to know each other after they communicate a bit after they know some basic peculiarities of the person’s inner world. Of course, by saying “inner world,” I do not mean the peculiarities of some organs functioning. People long to be with people who share their beliefs, who can support and give a piece of advice if necessary.

It is possible to say that people do not care much about the physical appearance of their friends, relatives, etc. because they are more concerned with more abstract things. However, people know that brain is just another organ that operates by some basic rules. Thus, it is possible even to create artificial intelligence. Can it be regarded as personality? Dennett had a program, which was a precise copy of his consciousness. He even thought that they are the same since they could operate separately in the same way.

To my mind, by introducing such a sophisticated copy Dennett suggests that the brain is not the personality itself, as well. I think that any computer (or other) copy cannot be regarded as the same personality. The computer program can create some logic sequences and predict possible variants of reactions, but it cannot be identical to a personality that exists. To my mind, it is impossible to compare Dennett to his computer copy since human consciousness is much more difficult than just logic operations. So, I would not claim that Dennett can be Hubert, i.e. the computer program.

In the case of Dennett, his real personality is only Yorick, his brain. It is Yorick that possesses Dennett’s life experience and his dreams and emotions. Even after some mayhem, it is possible to see that there are two different personalities, Yorick (Dennett) and Hubert (Dennett’s copy). So, the real Dennett still resides, so to speak, in Yorick. Generally speaking, several components constitute personality. By all, means people’s consciousness is the most important element which makes a person unique.

However, consciousness is not a mere brain, as an organ. Consciousness is formed by experience, emotions, feelings, which cannot be a result of neuron interactions. Some may say that such complex consciousness can be called a human’s soul. Religious people do explain people’s uniqueness by this notion. To my mind, what makes a person unique is the interaction of his/her brain and body (and perhaps a little bit of the divine sparkle). Thus, a person accumulates some knowledge and experience which form the personality. Physical perceptions also play quite an important role in the process of gaining experience.

For example, such feelings as love, affection, or disgust cannot be explained by some peculiarities of mental processes the body is also involved in creating certain reactions. So, while deciding what is more important human body or brain it is necessary to state that the brain is more essential since it accumulates the whole scope of knowledge, experience, and feelings but the body is one of those means which helps to collect all those data which contribute to the development of personality. Thus, even if it is possible to obtain a new body, a person will remain the same, whereas creating a new (even a copy of a) brain means the creation of some new being, which will develop into a new personality.

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