Julian Baggini at Prospect Magazine:
Dennett’s latest book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back, is unlikely to win over his critics. Their outrage is due to Dennett’s failure to address what is known as the “Hard Problem” of consciousness: “Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all?” as David Chalmers puts it. Dennett says his “refusal to play ball with my colleagues is deliberate.” He realises that—as in politics—if you debate on your opponents’ terms, you have already lost. To win, you must set the agenda. His bet is that if you understand consciousness in the right way, the Hard Problem will be exposed as an artefact of an outmoded way of thinking—a pseudo-problem comparable to the fruitless quest in the early 20th century for the élan vital that animates matter.
This approach, however, leaves Dennett almost completely silent on the very thing that characterises consciousness: subjective feeling. This is partly why Dennett is often accused of effectively denying that consciousness exists, of claiming that we are no more aware than zombies. Dennett has denied this. And in his writing, at least, he shows every sign of being very conscious indeed. Although you could mistake the works of some philosophers for the outputs of Turing machines, Dennett writes with sensuous verve—ideas and arguments are “ravishing,” “delightful,” “amusing” and “delicious.”