First, some quotes:
Page 33: "According to the materialists, we can (in principle!) account for every mental phenomenon using the same physical principles, laws, and raw materials that suffice to explain radioactivity, continental drift, photosynthesis, repriduction, nutrition, and growth."And finally, in a section where Dennett is laying out the "ground rules" for what he will do in the rest of the book:
Page 35: "anything that can move a physical thing is itself a physical thing (although perhaps a strange and heretofore unstudied kind of physical thing)."
Page 37: "The fundamentally antiscientific stance of dualism is, to my mind, its most disqualifying feature, and is the reason why in this book I adpot the apparently dogmatic rule that dualism is to be avoided at all costs. It is not that I think I can give a knock-down proof that dualism, in all its forms, is false or incoherent, but that, given the way dualism wallows in mystery, accepting dualism is giving up
Page 40: "No Wonder Tissues allowed. I will try to explain every puzzling feature of human consciousness within the framework of contemporary physical science; at no point will I make an appeal to inexplicable or unknown forces, substances, or organic powers. In other words, I intend to see what can be done within the conservative limits of standard science, saving a call for a revolution in materialism as a last resort."Okay, now, what to make of this. It looks to me that Dennett, though quite intelligent, is going to wrestle with some fatal confusions through the rest of the book. If "dualism" means the doctrine that there is a mental stuff which holds the highest of importance for our mental lives, constantly interacting with our physical bodies, but which will suddently vanish when we try to try to study it scientifically, no matter how far our science progresses, then I agree that yes, dualism is silly. Any mental stuff that can interact with the physical components of our brains should, in principle, be able to interact with the physical components of devices we design to study it, even if the right sort of devices haven't yet been designed. However, Dennett's seems to reject much more than that, using his argument to attack thigns it cannot properly cover. The page 35 statement on physicalism is perhaps not objectionable if one takes it as a matter of definition, though the definition is somewhat odd: typical definitions of mental stuff have to do with lack of spacial location, or thinking, or subjectivity, or some such, not the inability to affect physical things. The real problems, though come with the first and last statements quoted. It is a serious mistake to confuse what is potentially within the reach of science with what science has heretofore succeeded in studying. Dennett shows some signs (in passages not quoted) of recognizing this fact, though he shys away from it. Perhaps he has seen to many calls for intellectual revolution that end in making strange, unsupported, and ultimately useless claims. Such things no doubt have happened all too often, but they should not scare us away from hoping, not so much for a revolution, but the slow progress of science in areas where the truth does not resemble anything we currently understand. Such an approach involves a lot more patience than many of us have, especially philsophers and scientists who want to make their mark on the intellectual world today. Unfortunately, such patience appears absolutely necessary in this matter.