I just bought Daniel Dennett's book Consciousness Explained and was excited because it was the first time I read a book about the mind and so on.

But then I watched a video where Dennett said that he doesn't think (anymore) that the mind is a usual computer and a Von Neumann machine but a much much different thing (still computer), and it was a mistake of him. Now I wonder if his book is still relevant or if I can throw it in the garbage can.

You can also find the text here: https://edge.org/conversation/the-normal-well-tempered-mind

  • 3
    I find people's mistakes can be as educational as their successes.
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 5:08
  • Every kind of computer would operate with the principles of managing memory, having a limited capacity, processing logic, and so forth. Whether it is a quantum computer of personal desktop computer. I think it is still a good read. After all, what does the text mean to you? Do you find truth in it you can relate to. Then the book is of value to you, I would say. Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 16:12
  • "Consciousness, Explained" is from after the period he is apologising for. It does not argue for decomposition or functionalism, but for a sort of statistical holism of the mind. Different parallel processes try to speak for the whole, and they converge as a whole, instead of each element converging on a purpose, like humans presume when they decompose a problem for progressive refinement.
    – user9166
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 17:10
  • I just thought that he now dismisses his model in the book, but of course still thinks that the mind is a computer but with a different model than in his book. Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:24
  • If you still feel like trowing the book in the garbage, let me know and I will send you my mailing address and pay for the shipping. Thanks.
    – Guill
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 21:08

1 Answer 1


Where does Dennett claim in Consciousness Explained that the mind is a Von Neumann machine? I think that in the book he calls his model a Joycean machine; but by claiming that the mind amounts to a computation he subscribes to the consequence that it may be implemented in principle by any universal computation device, be it a quantum computer, a Von Neumann computer, or a mechanical implementation of a Universal Turing Machine built from cog wheels and running on steam, and it does not matter if the specific architecture that he is contemplating now has changed in the last 20 years; ask him in 20 years and he may have another theory in mind;

there is a lot of other good and bad stuff in the book that make it worth while reading, or at least going over; for example how not to treat other opinions (Dennett is often ridiculing and patronizing colleagues, sometimes it seems that he does it as a technique to make his arguments seem more convincing), and on the other hand his writing is always a beautiful example for communicating philosophy and interesting ideas clearly without using cryptic and highly technical jargon. and finally, especially if you disagree with him, it is good to read it as a challenge for ones ideas.

  • I added the links. Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 9:57
  • Alright thx. I thought that he dismisses the model in his book, but of course still thinks that the mind is a kind of computer but that his model is just wrong. Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 16:23

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