Is there any way Dan Dennett's multiple drafts theory of consciousness could support an ego theory of consciousness, as opposed to a bundle theory?

What, if any, are the flaws in Dennett's theory?

I want a materialist from materialist perspective.

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2 Answers 2


Dennett's entire motivation is distrust of the Cartesian Theater, which is basically equivalent to the ego having a clear central auditor in an ego theory of consciousness. Very few notions of ego do not have such an aspect, and those seem, to me, simply evasive, and religious in form. So I would say there is no way of retaining the ego as a central aspect of consciousness without wholly violating Dennett's work in both form and spirit.

Besides that, the entire multiple-drafts theory is only meant to be a metaphor for how an ego might arise from a 'bundle' and be properly maintained without losing track of itself. It is not meant to model anything realistic, or even to truly be a theory of consciousness, but only to prove that a real theory of consciousness that allows for an apparent ego as a natural outcome is possible and not far from being attainable.

As I see it, in any realistic theory, there is likely no equivalent of the 'draft' in the metaphor. Each 'editing' process would not have a broad enough sense of context for a snapshot at a given instance to constitute a collection of competing drafts. So Dennett has presented a motivation for a model, but not a direction toward one.

To my mind, the consistency is entirely socially constructed. We impose the notion of a potential 'draft' -- a consistent whole account of ourselves, perhaps with subtle inconsistencies, but largely constituting a convincing story in competing forms -- from our linguistic experience that other humans expect stories to have a given quality. But that quality is not necessary for communication, it is necessary for social cohesion. We want a story to have a cohesive and coordinating effect on a group of listeners.

Interpreters like Feyerabend, talking of 'paratactic aggregation', and Bruno Scnell discussing how Greeks keep changing the metaphors in which they express the internal focal points of independent thought in Homer, even after the content is fixed, have the right idea. Our lives are stories, not because that is a realistic way of capturing and individual human's experience, but because we are not alone. It is likely that the notion of story as a cultural nexus evolved first, and around it we built our model of individual experience.

So, as science proposes broadly about other forms of perception, if we want to understand consciousness, we will be looking at illusions forced upon the data and re-constructed backward in time, and not at ongoing processes that actually maintain the consistency of our experience as we handle and store it. There is no draft, only competing revisions.

The apparent 'drafts' arise because we are tied to specific stories by our having negotiated them with others. Or, more commonly by having personified our goals as others and negotiated between our own internal goals as if they were separate individuals.

I don't think Dennett would defend himself against this kind of evaluation of his theory's "weaknesses". He does not offer it as a real theory, but a proof-of-concept that proves that the reality of the 'bundle' and the experience of the ego are not absolutely at odds, and nature would not require intractable quantities of computation to maintain them both and use them together fluidly.


Yes, Dennett's multiple drafts model is easily adapted to an ego model.

In Dennett's model, the multiple rafts arise thru some mysterious organic process, where perhaps variants of ideas are randomly generated. Then the collapse into a single dominant "draft" is based on an unstable "competition", where the nature of competitive dominance is not specified, nor why collapse happens.

If one combines multiple drafts with an ego model, where, say, the ego decides to try to return a ping-pong serve, and the drafts are the half dozen different moves one might have to make to return different types of serves, the ego choice "return serve" plus the circumstances constrained by context "ping pong" and the intention generate the drafts. Then as the world starts to reinforce one or another of the drafts (the opponent turns left while serving, thus focusing your attention on the right side response options) the ego-based intention plus events act to produce the REASON for one of the drafts to dominate.

Combining multiple drafts with an ego agent -- produces a MUCH more plausible and useful psychological model of mental activity than multiple drafts without a "center".

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