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Max Khan Hayward

Thanks for this post! I agree that "synthetic philosopher" is a useful category, and that Dennett fits well within it.

Out of interest, did you get the term from Philip Kitcher, who uses it in almost precisely the same way here https://www.3ammagazine.com/3am/74992/ ? I think Kitcher also fits the model well. It's probably no coincidence that another of the synthetic philosophers that you mentioned - Peter Godfrey-Smith - is a former student of Kitcher's.

Eric Schliesser

Thank you for the link to the interview with Kitcher, Max.
I am pretty sure (as I hint in this post) I got the term from Spencer, who is a kind of synthetic philosopher in my sense (and Kitcher's), although sometimes uses it to refer to a slightly different project. (Over the years, I have seen others use the term for projects that unify philosophy--that's not this notion.)
It's such a good term that I am happy to share it with others!


Interesting to contrast the style of this important book of Dennett's with that of his teacher Ryle. The Concept of Mind has I think no references to Ryle's contemporaries in philosophy and although it has some discussion of 'behaviourism' no actual behaviourist psychology is cited or referenced (no Watson, Hull or Skinner). Philosophy of mind could then be conceived of as not deeply grounded in scientific or experimental work. Dennett has quite often railed against the technical seclusion and over-elaborate methodology of much contemporary philosophy, perhaps the wide-ranging and broad-brush nature of his argument is one reason for the relative popularity of his books. This one was not written primarily for a philosophical audience though it merits one, as you point out.

Roland Sassen

Thank you Eric for pointing out that Dennett thinks there may be some myths that are useful. Some myths, even as they seem to be solved (consciousness: Julian Jaynes, life: Nick Lane) seem to be more useful when they are not solved. The idea that there are answers to why questions is, however, not a myth but a misconception. I am looking forward to Dennett`s next book, where hopefully he will entertain and educate us about solved myths and beautiful new ones.

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