Jonah Wilberg: Dennett, Orwell and Stalin
Abstract: In this paper I review some recent work in cognitive psychology and
assess its significance for Daniel Dennett’s well- known argument against the
‘Cartesian Theatre’ model of consciousness. In a crucial step of his argument,
Dennett distinguishes between ‘Orwellian’ and ‘Stalinesque’ explanations of
certain perceptual illusions and holds that there is no evidence to support one over
the other. But recent empirical work appears to challenge this claim. The ‘Optimal
Smoothing’ model of Rajesh Rao, David Eagleman and Terrence Sejnowski implies
a Stalinesque explanation of the relevant illusions, and Michael Tye has used their
work in support of his own Stalinesque account. On the other hand, Rick Grush
has developed a model of perception at small time-scales that implies an Orwellian
account. However, I argue that the evidence adduced in support of these empirical
models is in fact neutral between Orwellian and Stalinesque explanations, leaving
Dennett’s argument unscathed.
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Jonah Wilberg: Dennett, Orwell and Stalin