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Notes by RBJ on

Darwin's Dangerous Idea

by Daniel C. Dennett

This book is a work of philosophy, steeped in science and deficient in pedantry, harking back (or forard?) to an age when philosophy encompassed science and had not yet turned itself into a narrow academic speciality.

The book makes a case for Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, and for certain modern elaborations of that theory (e.g. that evolution is an algorithmic process). It also draws philosophical conclusions from these evolutionary theories, for example, against essentialism, about the relationship between mind and matter, and about morality.

The book is presented in three parts, the first is Dennett's presentation of the theory, the second is his reaction to the controversies which still surround it, and the third is a positive modern perspective on the implications of the theory, cultural, philosophical, moral.

Part IStarting in the middle
Chapter 1Tell me Why
Chapter 2An Idea is Born
Chapter 3Universal Acid
Chapter 4The Tree of Life
Chapter 5The Possible and the Actual
Chapter 6Threads of Actuality in Design Space
Part IIDarwinian Thinking in Biology
Chapter 7Priming Darwin's Pump
Chapter 8Biology is Engineering
Chapter 9Searching for Quality
Chapter 10Bully for Brontosaurus
Part IIIMind, Meaning, Mathematics, and Morality

Part III - Mind, Meaning, Mathematics, and Morality

Sorry readers, by the time I got to Part III my motivation was flagging and I was really pretty dissappointed, having acquired a sense of what Dennett was trying to do. It was touch and go whether the book went in the bin. I did finish it and put it back on the shelf, but notes on Part III never emerged.


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