Eliminative Materalism

Eliminative Materalism

Introduction to Eliminative Materialism

  • Eliminative materialism is a radical view within the philosophy of mind.
  • Contrary to the majority of philosophical theories, it outright denies the existence of some or all types of mental states.

Key Principles of Eliminative Materialism

  • Mental states that we believe and speak of, like desires, beliefs, or emotions, do not actually exist. They are simply folk psychology concepts.
  • The term ‘folk psychology’ refers to our everyday understanding and explanation of mind and behaviour based on mental experiences and states.
  • Eliminative materialists argue that folk psychology is a deeply flawed and outdated theory; a remnant from a prescientific age.
  • Mental states will not be found and explained by future neuroscience because these ‘states’ are not real phenomena, but rather linguistic conveniences.

Key Figures and Arguments

  • Paul and Patricia Churchland are key proponents of eliminative materialism.
  • The Churchlands argue that as neuroscience progresses, we will eventually eliminate the need for folk psychological explanations in favour of neuroscientific accounts.
  • They liken mental states to obsolete theories in science, such as the four humours in medicine or the phlogiston theory in chemistry.

Criticisms of Eliminative Materialism

  • Some argue that eliminative materialism makes a category mistake by considering folk psychology to be a theory. Instead, they suggest it might be a different kind of knowledge, such as know-how.
  • Many philosophers question the coherence of eliminative materialism, arguing that it is self-refuting. If beliefs do not exist, then the belief in eliminative materialism itself cannot exist.
  • The extreme nature of eliminative materialism makes it a contentious and controversial viewpoint within the philosophy of mind. Despite this, its challenge to mainstream cognitive theories makes it a significant part of the metaphysics of mind discussion.