Actually, it is a fascinating glimpse into academic politics, this one being a battle royal between two philosophers.
Intellectually, they hold very different views on one of the hottest, and most intractable of philosophical problems, consciousness. Honderich calls himself a radical externalist on consciousness, meaning, he writes in his book, that “my perceptual consciousness now consists in the existence of a world”.
I’m the daughter of an academic and all too familiar with academic feuds, disputes, and other very nasty stuff. The Guardian article suggests that something personal not intellectual is at the heart of this particular fight which makes me quite uncomfortable. No doubt it will make all involved even angrier than they already are. But it was the consciousness stuff that caught my eye — Pullman’s Dust. Interesting, that.
Even those avatars racing around the internet apparently need the services of something called an “identity manager” to keep them up to date and on track. They don’t – just as daemons don’t – have a useful, productive existence independent of the person who created them. Until that moment comes, they remain yet another smart accessory that is more trouble than it is actually worth.
Huh? Kathryn Hughes is seriously stretching things by presenting avatars as something similar to Philip Pullman’s daemons. Avatars are things you make yourself (as in Second Life). But daemons? They are a part of you, your soul, not avatars or servants. You don’t select them or make them. They are a part of you — visible and active in Lyra’s world, but not ours. Utilitarian seems a pretty prosaic word to use about them. While not as peculiar a juxtaposition as Philip Pullman and V.C. Andrews, it is nonetheless pretty lame.