Eliminative materialism

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(Redirected from Eliminativist materialism)

In the philosophy of mind, eliminative materialism is the school of thought that argues for an absolute version of materialism and physicalism with respect to mental entities and mental vocabulary. It principally argues that our common-sense understanding of the mind (known as folk psychology) is not a viable theory on which to base scientific investigation, and therefore no coherent neural basis will be found for many such everyday psychological concepts (such as belief or intention) and that behaviour and experience can only be adequately explained on the biological level.

Eliminative materialists therefore believe that consciousness does not exist except as an epiphenomenon of brain function and some believe that the concept will eventually be eliminated as neuroscience progresses. Similarly, they argue that folk psychological concepts such as belief, desire and intention are illusory and therefore do not have any consistent neurological substrate.

Proponents of this view often make parallels to previous scientific theories which have been eliminated, such as the four humours theory of medicine, the phlogiston theory of combustion and 'vital force' theory of life. In these cases, science has not produced more detailed versions of these theories, but rejected them as obsolete. Eliminative materialists argue that folk psychology is headed the same way. According to W.V. Quine it will take tens of years before folk psychology will be replaced with real science.

Eliminative materialism was first defended by W.V. Quine, Paul Feyerabend, and Richard Rorty. This view is most associated with philosophers Paul and Patricia Churchland, although philosophers such as Daniel Dennett would also consider themselves eliminativists for many aspects of psychology. Philosopher Dale Jacquette has claimed that Occam's Razor is the rationale behind eliminativism and reductionism.

See also

Further reading

  • Churchland, P. (1979). Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind. New York, Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.
  • Churchland, P. (1981). "Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes." Journal of Philosophy 78(2): 67-90.
  • Churchland, P. (1984) Matter and Consciousness. Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press.
  • Churchland, P. a. P. S. C. (1998). Intertheoretic Reduction: A Neuroscientist's Field Guide. On the Contrary Critical Essays, 1987-1997. Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press: 65-79.
  • Jacquette, D. (1994). Ockham's Razor. Philosophy of Mind. Engleswoods Cliffs, N.J., Prentice Hall:34-36.
  • Rorty, Richard (1965) "Mind-body Identity, Privacy and Categories" in The Review of Metaphysics XIX reprinted Rosenthal, D.M. (ed.) (1971)
  • Rorty, Richard (1970) "In Defense of Eliminative Materialism" in The Review of Metaphysics XXIV reprinted. Rosenthal, D.M. (ed.) (1971)

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