Comment on “Affordances in “Dennett’s ‘From Bacteria to Bach and Back’”

Avant, Vol. XI, No. 2, doi: 10.26913/avant.2020.02.14
published under license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Daniel C. Dennett
Center for Cognitive Studies,
Tufts University, Medford, MA USA

The commented paper: Z. Rucińska. (2020). Affordances in Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. Avant, 11(2). doi: 10.26913/avant.2020.02.05

Received 30 June 2020; accepted 9 July 2020; published Online First 22 July 2020
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I am grateful to Zuzanna Rucińska for her wide-ranging discussion of different definitions and understandings of affordances, but I am not persuaded by her that the difficulties she exposes are not “just philosophers’” difficulties. By this I mean that philosophers can tie themselves in knots over whether colors are “external” properties or “internal” or “mental” properties or whether colors even exist, but the science of color and its related and constituent phenomena is hardly touched by these engaging puzzles. Color is actually one of the few phenomena of the manifest image that does occasionally mislead scientists into avoidable culs-de-sac, encouraging them to take the Hard Problem seriously, for instance, but in general, our understanding of what color is and isn’t is steadily improving thanks to scientists leaving these ontological problems to the philosophers, who are welcome to them. (For the record, I declared colors to be real “lovely” properties in Consciousness Explained (pp. 379–80), a distinction picked up usefully by my student Tony Chemero. They are not definable—more precisely they would not be defined—without reference to a class of “observers.”) Affordances are, like colors, lovely properties. […]

Keywords: affordances; cognitive science; explanation; From Bacteria to Bach and Back


Dennett, D.C. (1969). Content and Consciousness. London and New York: Routledge Classics.
Dennett, D.C. (1991). Consciousness Explained. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown and Co.
Dennett, D.C. (2013). Kinds of Things-Towards a Bestiary of the Manifest Image. In D. Ross, J. Ladyman and H. Kincaid (eds.), Scientific Metaphysics (pp. 96-107). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dennett, D. C. (2017). From bacteria to Bach and back: The evolution of minds. New York: WW Norton & Company.

Rucińska, Z. (2020). Affordances in Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. Avant, 11(2).


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