Daniel C. Dennett

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(CC) Photo: Hayford Peirce
Daniel Dennett in Tahiti in 1984.

Daniel Clement Dennett is a philosopher, a professor of philosophy at Tufts, and the author of several best-selling books popularizing various aspects of philosophy, including Breaking the Spell, Freedom Evolves, and Darwin's Dangerous Idea. Dennett was born on March 28, 1942, in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Ruth Marjorie (née Leck) and Daniel Clement Dennett Jr. He spent part of his childhood in Lebanon, where, during World War II, his father was a covert counterintelligence agent with the Office of Strategic Services posing as a cultural attaché to the American Embassy in Beirut. When he was five, his mother took him back to Massachusetts after his father died in an unexplained plane crash. Dennett's sister is the investigative journalist Charlotte Dennett. After attending Phillips Exeter Academy and Wesleyan University, he received his BA in philosophy from Harvard College in 1963 and his PhD from Oxford in 1965. Richard Dawkins has called him his intellectual hero.

With regards to free will, Dennett is a compatibilist—that is, someone who believes that free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive—arguing that our idea of free will is a cultural evolution in a deterministic, but not fatalistic, universe[1][2]. Dennett has also written widely on the subject of consciousness, as well as the philosophy of mind and religion. He is, along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, labeled (often disparagingly) a "New Atheist".


  1. Galen Strawson, Evolution Explains It All For You, New York Times.
  2. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Compatibilism §5.2 Multiple Views Compatibilism