Logical Form, the First Person, and Naturalism about Psychology: The Case Against Physicalist Imperialism

In Manuela Fernandez Pinto, Uskali Mäki & Adrian Walsh (eds.), Scientific Imperialism: Exploring the Boundaries of Interdisciplinarity. Routledge. pp. 237-253 (2018)
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Physicalistic theories of psychology are a classic case of scientific imperialism: the explanatory capacity of physics, both with respect to its methods and to its domain, is taken to extend beyond the traditional realm of physics, and into that of psychology. I argue in this paper that this particular imperialistic venture has failed. Contemporary psychology uses methods not modelled on those of physics, embracing first-personal methodology where physics is strictly impersonal. I make the case that whether or not scientific imperialism is in general harmful, in this instance naturalists who reject first philosophy should give up physicalist imperialism. Using only general principles from the philosophy of logic plus accepted physicalist criteria of identity, I show that first-personal psychology embodies a minor but fruitful increase in expressive strength compared to impersonal psychology: the ability to distinguish descriptively indiscriminable posits.
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Word and Object.Quine, Willard Van Orman

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