Saturday, February 18, 2006

Wieseltier on Dennett's Breaking The Spell

If you think you'd be amused by the spectacle of a man being confronted with a work that upsets all his dearest assumptions, resulting in a three-page splutter, read this.

You'd think the New York Times could have found a book reviewer with a little scientific or philosophical background, someone who could do better than argue, "Dennett says this weak thing, which is dumb because it's stupid" or "Dennett must think Kant was a real idiot because he believed design is manifest in the world, and by the way it is manifest in the world." We don't even get a sense of Dennett's argument, so thick is the denigration - perhaps Wieseltier found the whole book so transgressive that he only read passages here and there. He can't even bring himself to the usual "Dr. Dennett, a professor at Tufts and author of the widely acclaimed Consciousness Explained..." Or maybe that doesn't matter to a "literary editor".

[Note I haven't read Breaking the Spell, but I have read three or more of Dennett's previous books and probably agree with him here 99%.]

Update: a good shredding of the Wieseltier review.


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