Friday, December 4, 2009

Daniel Dennett on Sea Squirts and Tenure

Daniel Dennett has long been among my favorite contemporary philosophers. His various writings on the brain, consciousness, and what it means to be human have been fascinating, provocative, and always entertaining. This morning, as I was contemplating my own struggles to remain productive as a mature, tenured scholar, I was reminded of my favorite quip from Dennett's excellent book, Consciousness Explained (Little, Brown 1991, p. 177):


"The juvenile sea squirt [pictured right] wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore, so it eats it! (It's rather like getting tenure.)"

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