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Daniel Dennett Quotes

Daniel Clement Dennett

Daniel Dennett quotes: the philosopher’s finest thoughts.

“The secret of happiness is: find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.”

“The more we learn about what we are, the more options we will discern about what to try to become.”

“The secret ingredient of improvement everywhere in life is always the same: practice, practice, practice.”

“There may be things that are completely unknowable to us, so we must be careful not to treat the limits of our knowledge as sure guides to the limit of what there is.”

“What you can imagine depends on what you know.”

“Try to acquire the weird practice of savoring your mistakes, delighting in uncovering the strange quirks that led you astray. Then, when you have sucked out all the goodness to be gained from having made them, you can cheerfully forget them and go on to the next big opportunity.”

“We often learn more from bold mistakes than from cautious equivocation.”

“Nature’s full of tricks and you can call whatever bag of tricks you want life. As long as we understand the bag of tricks, we don’t need to draw the line.”

“Determinism is the friend, not the foe, of those who dislike inevitability.”

“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”

“Not a single one of the cells that compose you knows who you are, or cares.”

“No matter how smart you are, you’re smarter if you take the easy ways when they are available.”

“Ignorance is a necessary condition for many excellent things.”

“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.”

“The task of the mind is to produce future.”

“We all know how hard it is to make the major decisions of life: should I hang tough or admit my transgression, should I move or stay in my present position, should I go to war or not, should I follow my heart or my head? We still haven’t figured out any satisfactory systematic way of deciding these things. Anything that can relieve the burden of figuring out how to make these hard calls is bound to be an attractive idea.”

“Comprehension is not the source of competence or the active ingredient in competence; comprehension is composed of competences.”

“We really have to think of reasoning the way we think of romance: it takes two to tango. There has to be a communication.”

“Wherever there is a conscious mind, there is a point of view. A conscious mind is an observer, who takes in the information that is available at a particular (roughly) continuous sequence of times and places in the universe. A mind is thus a locus of subjectivity.”

“Imagination is cheap as long as you don’t have to worry about the details.”

“Mistakes are not just opportunities for learning; they are, in an important sense, the only opportunity for learning or making something truly new.”

“Sometimes you don’t just want to risk making mistakes; you actually want to make them, if only to give you something clear and detailed to fix. Making mistakes is the key to making progress.”

“The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them—especially not from yourself. Instead of turning away in denial when you make a mistake, you should become a connoisseur of your own mistakes, turning them over in your mind as if they were works of art, which in a way they are.”

“Philosophers’ Syndrome: mistaking a failure of the imagination for an insight into necessity.”

“There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view that I hold dear.”

“There is a time for politeness and there is a time when you are obliged to be rude.”

“It is not so much that we, using our brains, spin our yarns, as that our brains, using yarns, spin us.”

“The mind is the effect, not the cause.”

“Thinking is hard. Thinking about some problems is so hard it can make your head ache just thinking about thinking about them.”

“We need to let our children grow up to face the world armed with knowledge, with much more knowledge than we ourselves had at their age.”

“Thanks to technology, what almost anybody can do has been multiplied a thousandfold, and our moral understanding about what we ought to do hasn’t kept pace.”

“Philosophers are never quite sure what they are talking about—about what the issues really are—and so often it takes them rather a long time to recognize that someone with a somewhat different approach (or destination, or starting point) is making a contribution.”

“We philosophers are mistake specialists. (I know, it sounds like a bad joke, but hear me out.) While other disciplines specialize in getting the right answers to their defining questions, we philosophers specialize in all the ways there are of getting things so mixed up, so deeply wrong, that nobody is even sure what the right questions are, let alone the answers. Asking the wrongs questions risks setting any inquiry off on the wrong foot. Whenever that happens, this is a job for philosophers! Philosophy—in every field of inquiry—is what you have to do until you figure out what questions you should have been asking in the first place.”

“The point of asking questions is to find true answers; the point of measuring is to measure accurately; the point of making maps is to find your way to your destination. In short, the goal of truth goes without saying, in every human culture.”

“I am a philosopher, not a scientist, and we philosophers are better at questions than answers.”

“I look around the world and see so many wonderful things that I love and enjoy and benefit from, whether it’s art or music or clothing or food and all the rest. And I’d like to add a little to that goodness.”

“I am inclined to think that nothing could matter more than what people love. At any rate, I can think of no value that I would place higher. I would not want to live in a world without love.”

“The only meaning of life worth caring about is one that can withstand our best efforts to examine it.”

“Every living thing is, from the cosmic perspective, incredibly lucky simply to be alive. You spring from an unbroken line of winners going back millions of generations, and those winners were, in every generation, the luckiest of the lucky, one out of a thousand or even a million. So however unlucky you may be on some occasion today, your presence on the planet testifies to the role luck has played in your past.”

“Life itself is just a thin coat of paint on the planet, and we hold the paintbrush.”

Related: Richard Dawkins quotes.

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