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In “I’ve Been Thinking,” Dennett takes readers on a captivating journey through his life, filled with personal anecdotes, intellectual musings, and humorous encounters. From overcoming life-threatening health issues to pursuing his various artistic endeavors, Dennett’s autobiography is a testament to a life lived fully. While his reputation as a renowned philosopher precedes him, this book offers a unique glimpse into Dennett’s personal experiences and the relationships that shaped his thinking. With a friendly and approachable tone, Dennett invites readers to join him on his adventures, sharing his love for sailing, his skepticism towards artificial intelligence, and his enduring partnership with his wife.

Chest Pain and Surgery


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Dissection of Aortic Artery

In his autobiography, Dennett recounts the day he experienced chest pain from the dissection of his aortic artery. This alarming incident occurred in 2006, seven years after he had undergone triple-bypass surgery due to a catastrophic heart attack. The pain led him to undergo a nine-hour surgery, where he proudly became the recipient of a new aorta. This event highlights the physical challenges Dennett has faced and overcome throughout his life.


Early Fascination with Everything

From a young age, Dennett found fascination in virtually everything around him. This innate curiosity and desire to explore the world would greatly shape his future endeavors.

Diverse Talents

As Dennett progressed through his academic journey, he discovered and nurtured a wide range of talents. In addition to his philosophical pursuits, he explored his creativity through drawing, singing, jazz piano, and music composition and arrangement. While he may not consider himself to have reached a professional level in these areas, he has had several exhibitions of his sculpture, demonstrating his dedication to various artistic expressions.


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The Study of Philosophy

During his time at Wesleyan and Harvard, Dennett immersed himself in the study of philosophy. This academic discipline became his primary focus, as he delved into the complex and profound questions surrounding the nature of the mind and consciousness. Although initially dismissive of science and critical of mid-20th-century psychology, Dennett’s fascination with these topics ultimately led to his sterling reputation as a philosopher.

Preoccupation with Philosophy

Burning Issues

Throughout his autobiography, Dennett delves into the burning issues that have preoccupied him as a philosopher. He shares his thoughts and insights on topics such as the mind, consciousness, and the nature of reality. These discussions shed light on his intellectual journey and the profound impact philosophy has had on his life.

Colleagues and Their Opinions

Dennett’s engagement with philosophy extended beyond his own musings. He also engaged with colleagues who held varying opinions on philosophical matters. He recounts the lively debates and arguments he had with fellow academics, highlighting his commitment to open discourse and the pursuit of truth. While some of these disagreements may have been intense, Dennett maintains a sense of respect and does not harbor ill-will towards those he disagrees with.

Diversions and Personal Life


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Academic Travels

As an esteemed academic, Dennett had the opportunity to travel extensively for lectures and teaching engagements. These travels allowed him to interact with diverse communities, expanding his knowledge and perspective. Exploring different cultures and intellectual traditions contributed to his growth as a philosopher and individual.

Arguments with Colleagues

Dennett’s intellectual pursuits were not without their fair share of disagreements. He recounts engaging in spirited arguments with colleagues, who challenged his ideas and presented their own interpretations. While these disagreements could be intense, they were driven by a shared commitment to intellectual rigor and the pursuit of truth. Dennett’s willingness to engage in open and honest debate showcases his dedication to intellectual growth and the exchange of ideas.

Love of Sailing

Beyond his academic pursuits, Dennett shares his passion for sailing. He finds solace and joy in navigating the open waters, allowing him to disconnect from the demands of his work and connect with the beauty of nature. Sailing serves as a personal sanctuary for Dennett, providing him with a sense of balance and rejuvenation.

Maine Farm

Purchase of Run-Down Farm

In 1970, Dennett and his wife made the bold decision to purchase a run-down farm in Maine. This investment in rural property would become a significant part of Dennett’s life for over four decades. The decision to embark on this farming endeavor showcased Dennett’s willingness to embrace new experiences and embrace the challenges that come with them.

Intensive Farming

Dennett dedicated himself to the intensive farming of the Maine farm. This involved hard work, as Dennett and his wife toiled to cultivate the land and maintain the farm’s operations. The farm became a sanctuary of sorts, allowing Dennett to reconnect with nature and find fulfillment in the fruits of his labor.

Years of Residence

Dennett remained on the Maine farm for over four decades, spanning from 1970 to 2013. During this time, he fully immersed himself in the rural lifestyle, appreciating the simplicity and beauty of his surroundings. The years spent on the farm undoubtedly influenced Dennett’s outlook on life and provided him with a unique perspective on the natural world.

Skepticism about Artificial Intelligence

Dennett’s autobiography delves into his skepticism about artificial intelligence (AI). He openly shares his doubts and concerns regarding the capabilities and limitations of AI systems. Drawing from his philosophical background and understanding of the human mind, Dennett brings a critical perspective to the growing field of AI, encouraging further exploration and inquiry.

Devout Readers of Faith

Possible Objectionable Parts

Dennett acknowledges that his autobiography contains certain sections that devout readers of faith may find objectionable. As an unapologetic atheist, he has dedicated a significant portion of his work to challenging religious beliefs and engaging in discussions on atheism. While sharing these aspects of his worldview, Dennett recognizes and respects differing perspectives and encourages readers to navigate sections that may not align with their own beliefs.

Understanding Modern Philosophy

Recommendation to Consult Earlier Books

Throughout his autobiography, Dennett provides insights and reflections on modern philosophy. However, he also recommends readers consult his earlier books for a deeper understanding of these complex philosophical concepts. By referencing his previous works, Dennett offers readers additional resources to explore these topics in greater detail, building upon the foundation he has laid in his autobiography.

Cheerful Atheism

Dennett’s autobiography paints a vivid portrait of his cheerful atheism. While he openly discusses his disbelief in a higher power, he does so with an underlying tone of positivity and optimism. Rather than focusing solely on challenging religious beliefs, Dennett strives to foster understanding, respect, and constructive dialogue between individuals with differing perspectives on matters of faith.

Sterling Reputation

Mind and Consciousness

Dennett’s work on the mind and consciousness has earned him a sterling reputation in the field of philosophy. Throughout his autobiography, he reflects on the critical insights he has contributed to these areas of study. Dennett’s exploration of the mind and consciousness has left an indelible mark on the field and continues to shape philosophical discourse.

In conclusion, Dennett’s autobiography offers readers an intimate and comprehensive glimpse into the life and intellectual journey of a prominent philosopher. From his early fascination with various disciplines to his passionate debates with colleagues, Dennett’s story is one of curiosity, dedication, and a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. While his viewpoints on atheism and skepticism may challenge some readers, his friendly tone and openness to dialogue invite engagement and thoughtful consideration. Through his autobiography, Dennett invites readers to reflect on their own beliefs, explore the complexities of the human experience, and embrace a spirit of intellectual curiosity.