The latest chapter of Consciousness Explained helped clear things up for me. Not, as one might expect, by weaving together various threads or building new concepts on earlier foundations. Rather, I feel like I’ve reached a punchline.
Dennett has spent the bulk of this book being defensive: explaining his theories from multiple angles, urging readers to give him a chance to tackle their intuitive objections. My intuition, though, has done little to object. Instead, I’ve found myself nodding understanding to nearly every point.
Chapter 12, for example, was devoted to disqualifying qualia, a philosophical construction that took much effort for me to understand in the first place.
Now, in chapter 13, Dennett presents “The Reality of Selves,” where he asserts that the “self” is a “web of discourses” constructed of words and deeds. My self is a boundary drawn in my mementic soup to represent “me” and draw the line between Hans and everything else.
This not only pleases my intuition, but it cuts through in a way that makes me think “Aha! This is how Dennett and I think alike, and why I have followed him so easily on this journey.” I can almost pinpoint the moment in time that I came to realize that “I” am a product of my own construction. Before I entered high school, I had consciously embarked on a mission of constructing my self with an effort towards objective observation.
No wonder I love studying this stuff.