And if talking of beliefs and desires is just a convenient shorthand for describing some agents, can we be that sure that it is not also just a convenient shorthand for describing ourselves?
He is also careful to point out that the intentional stance is different from anthropomorphism, unless we are careless: A mind is fundamentally an anticipator, an expectation-generator.
In this slim volume Dennett explores the different kinds of minds that animals might have, from simple programmed unconscious behaviour, through to full self-conscious thinking, building on ideas from his earlier works Consciousness Explained and Darwin's Dangerous Idea.
One of the reasons he is interested in whether animals can be considered to have minds is a moral one: can they suffer?
One fascinating point Dennett makes is that our current models of the body's role in mind are probably too simple.
A machine has transducers (converters of sensory or other environmental data into a form that can be transferred within the system) at one end, connected, via some communication and processing system, to effectors at the other.The idea that the network itself --- by virtue of its intricate structure, and hence powers of transformation, and hence capacity for controlling the body --- could assume the role of the inner Boss and thus harbor consciousness, seems preposterous. As he works his way up his hierarchy of minds, Dennett notes that higher forms arrange their environment to enhance their minds and relieve the burden of detailed memory (dogs marking territorial borders, people writing shopping lists). old folks removed from their homes to hospital settings are put at a tremendous disadvantage.... Often, however, if they are returned to their homes, they can manage quite well for themselves. Over the years, they have loaded their home environments with ultrafamiliar landmarks, triggers for habits, reminders of what to do, where to find the food, how to get dressed, where the telephone is, and so forth. Taking them out of their homes is literally separating them from large parts of their minds --- potentially just as devastating a development as undergoing brain surgery.There are some interesting ideas here, but, since the book is quite slim (170 pages of quite large type), his topic is not explored in the same level of detail as in his earlier works.The nature of the transducers and effectors are pretty well fixed, because of their interaction with the external world, but the nature of the communication medium is much more irrelevant: anything that moves the signals appropriately would do.However, Dennett points out that the way nerves work, using electrical signals along them but neurotransmitters between them, seems to include transducers everywhere; so maybe the communication medium is much more intimately linked with the transducers and effectors, and hence less substitutable, than we had previously been assuming.Which could make it a good starting point for new readers to get a feel for his style of argument before plunging into his deeper works. Dennett, as a philosopher, is interested in finding good questions. Thinking about thinking can be a baffling business.Fraught with confusion over terminology, purpose and ideology, investigations into the nature of the mind – how it works, why it works, its very existence – can seem convoluted to the point of fruitlessness.Daniel Dennett’s essays, however, bow to neither dogmatic scientism nor anxious mysticism about the mind, but rather are driven by the sort of clear-eyed, lucid reasoning he is known for.Whether dealing with the unimagined preposterousness of zombies, investigating the nature of multiple personality disorder, or offering practical advice on the building of a conscious robot, this is a consistently illuminating book.Has it ever occurred to you how lucky you are to be alive?More than 99 percent of all the creatures that have ever lived have died without progeny, but not a single one of your ancestors falls into that group! Not a single one of your ancestors, all the way back to the bacteria, succumbed to predation before reproducing, or lost out in the competition for a mate.