In Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett embarks on the audacious task of explaining human consciousness. He sets his sights even higher for Kinds of Minds, attempting to provide a more general explanation of consciousness. But don't be put off: the book is short, easy to read, and makes a good introduction to Dennett's richly interdisciplinary oeuvre. While beginners will appreciate Dennett's appeals to intuitive moral considerations to emphasize the importance of investigating consciousness, there is much in the book to hold the attention of readers already familiar with his previous work.
At the beginning of Kinds of Minds Dennett asks, "What kinds of minds are there? And how do we know?" These two questions--the first ontological, the second epistemological--set the agenda for the book. Intuitions untutored by theory are not capable of answering these questions, Dennett argues, making it necessary to pursue insight from the evolutionary point of view. Accordingly, subsequent chapters are devoted to phylogenetic speculations about agency and intentionality, sensitivity and sentience, and perception and behavior. Particularly charming is the series of squiggly amoebas--the Darwinian, Skinnerian, Popperian, and Gregorian creatures--that illustrates the hierarchy of cognitive power. In the final chapter, Dennett returns to the original two questions, ending not with their answers, but, he hopes, with "better versions of the questions themselves." --Glenn Branch