Eliminative materialism and the distinction between common sense and science

Dissertation, (2007)
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Abstract
It is one of the premises of eliminative materialism that commonsense psychology constitutes a theory. There is agreement that mental states can be construed as posited entities for the explanation and prediction of behavior. Disputes arise when it comes to the range of the commonsense theory of mental states. In chapter one, I review major arguments concerning the span and nature of folk psychology. In chapter two, relying on arguments by Quine and Sellars, I argue that the precise scope of commonsense psychology cannot be determined because there are no resources to distinguish claims that are commonsense from all others. I use this conclusion to evaluate Churchland’s proposal that folk psychology should be eliminated in favor of a scientific theory. I argue that, although such an elimination is possible, it is unnecessary because commonsense psychology is in part informed by scientific theories. The properties that are usually attributed to mental states, on my view, are not common sense and would re-emerge even if we replaced our current theory with a scientific one. In chapter three, I examine how this affects eliminativist arguments, such as Churchland’s proposals for how to solve the emergence of the phenomenal character of sensations. I argue that it might be the case that some phenomenal properties are the result of endorsing a particular theory, but phenomenal character as such is a permanent feature of any theory about internal states. Addressing the problem of the incorrigibility of mental states, in chapter four, I challenge Rorty’s idea that such a property is the mark of the mental and can be attributed to our mental states based on our everyday usage of mental terms. The position asserted in the dissertation is compatible with the view that any theory can be revised, but doubts are expressed concerning the likelihood for a complete replacement of the current folk-psychological theory. Taking inspiration form Sellars, in chapter five, I argue that the establishment of a conceptual framework entails a wholistic jump from no concepts to a rudimentary framework. With this leap some properties are solidified and stand in the way of elimination.
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