In Response to Daniel Dennett's "Where Am I?"

Topics: Brain, Philosophy of mind, Human brain Pages: 3 (1103 words) Published: November 14, 2007
One potential worry that one might have upon reading Daniel Dennett's "Where Am I?," is about the complications that might arise from Dennett categorizing his brain, who he calls Yorick, and his body, who he calls Hamlet, as two distinct entities. One may contend that the brain and the body are in fact only one entity, connected much in the same way that other people's brains and bodies seem to be connected—however that may be—with the exception of an unusually large temporal gap between Dennett's brain and Dennett's body in this case. Unfortunately, however, this worry is ultimately unclear and incoherent, but if expressed in different terms, it is possible to make sense of the underlying idea . In this paper, I will describe this worry, explain why it falls short, and then re-formulate it in clearer terms in the hope of capturing and clarifying what the underlying intuitions actually are. Furthermore, I will present and respond to a worry that may be brought against this reformulated position. In his extended thought experiment, Dennett imagines that, as part of a government assignment, he is to undergo a surgical operation that will separate his brain from his body. After undergoing and waking up from this hypothetical operation, he is escorted to his brain, which has been placed inside of a large vat. Upon viewing his brain inside the vat, he wonders why his thoughts seem to be originating from his body, although, he explains, "being a physicalist…I believed unswervingly that the tokening of my thoughts was occurring somewhere in my brain" (Reason and Responsibility, 13th edition, 380). Thus, he wonders why he believes that he is staring at his own brain instead of believing that he is "suspended in a bubbling fluid, being stared at by his own eyes" (ibid, 379).

In order to shed some light on the issue, Dennett believes that it is necessary to start "naming things" (ibid, 380). He writes: "‘Yorick," I said aloud to my brain, ‘you are my brain. The rest of...
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