[Bill Wimsatt responded to my post on Dennett's piece on Jonathan Bennett's (1964) Rationality in Ten Neglected Classics of Philosophy. I reprint his letter of September 4, 2016, after modest editing with permission. A copy of Wimsatt's notes on Bennett's Rationality. These notes are of more than biographical interest, because they anticipate, in brief hints, several developments in later work in philosophy of science and philosophy of mind. -ES]
Eric--thanks for your lengthy and insightful blogpost, as well as getting Dan to reexamine Bennett's Rationality. I was really fortunate in seeing it early, it was referenced by Paul Grice in a seminar he gave during a semester visiting at Cornell in fall of 1964.*I think that it did have a significant impact on me, although I never published a piece on it. It likely colored my views and approaches to many things. His "evolutionary analysis" paralleled for me the sequential development of more accurate and realistic models of gases that I saw in development of the kinetic theory of gases, and a plausible thing to do as one way of studying a "phylogeny of the metal realm." Given also that I was then writing on function (for my undergrad thesis), reading evolution, and concentrating both on philosophy of psychology and philosophy of biology it was natural. I also read von Frisch at the time, quite possible inspired by Bennett, and was taking Rosenblatt's course on Brain Models and mechanisms only slightly later. I initially taught both Phil Bio and phil psych at Chicago, but decided to concentrate my research in Bio, since i thought that phil mind was such a mess that even a correct and deep analysis would be lost in a welter of unproductive confusion. (Bennett was an exception).I didn't respond earlier because i wanted to find stuff I had written on Bennett, Download here. I likely first taught Bennett when a TA for Nuel Belnap's course in Phil of Social Sciences at Pitt in fall of 1966 or 1967. (I did so both years, and Belnap let me teach one or two weeks of the course, which was designed for phil and sociology grad students). Download Wimsatt on Bennett's Rationality a mimeo (for class distribution) I did in january of 1970, when (while i was still a post-doc with Lewontin), I co-taught a course with Alan Donagan [at The University of Chicago]. I never thought it suitable for publication because it was largely a commented discussion of Bennett's analysis, though my recognition of some of Bennett's shortcomings (and clearly my appreciation of his many strengths) are found in footnotes there. There were references in the handout to views of Phil Quinn (my roommate in 1967-68 and 1968-69) and Dick Lewontin (whom I post-doc-ed with starting in summer of 1969.)I remember first reading Dan [Dennett] when his intentional systems paper came out in 1971--and thought--right on, although, as a Simon-inspired Satisfier, I disagreed with his strong separation between the intentional and design stances. I bought Content and Consciousness after that, but never finished it.By the way, I may be a Pitt naturalist, but I brought naturalism to Pitt--I didn't get it there. And neither Paul nor Patty Churchland were naturalists--at least not strong ones, during the time we were together at Pitt. And in one strand, my analysis of levels of organization (put forward in my Reductionism, levels of Organization, and the Mind-Body Problem in 1976) was picked up by Cliff Hooker in his 3-part analysis of reduction in 1981 (as he confirmed for me a decade later).In any case, thank you both (and also especially Jonathan) for stimulating and important reflections. For my money, Jonathan's work had greater impact than is generally realized, and it had at least 2 other admirers (Paul Grice and me).