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Personal and Sub-personal: A Defence of Dennett's Early Distinction

By Jennifer Hornsby


Daniel Dennett introduced the term 'sub-personal' into philosophers' vocabulary thirty years ago. Dennett's uses of 'sub-personal' are of interest in connection with the development both of his own views and of the subject of philosophy of mind in the recent past. I have a particular reason for focusing on Dennett: his original distinction between personal and sub-personal levels of explanation is lost sight of in much recent work, with the result that a position that I should want to defend is lost sight of too. I shall present an argument designed to show that a satisfactory philosophy of mind must respect the distinction Dennett first made, and that this distinction is widely ignored nowadays. Even Dennett has deserted it, so that the position I want to defend is kept invisible. People lose sight of Dennett's personal/sub-personal distinction because they free it from its philosophical moorings. A distinction that serves a philosophical purpose is typically rooted in doctrine; it cannot be lifted out of context and continue to do its work. So I shall start from Dennett's distinction as I read it in its original context. And when I speak of 'the distinction', I mean to point not only towards the terms that Dennett first used to define it but also towards the philosophical setting within which its work was cut out.Articl

Topics: PHI
Year: 2000
OAI identifier:
Provided by: SAS-SPACE

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