Eliminativism and Reading One's Own Mind


Some contemporary philosophers suggest that we know just by introspection that folk psychological states exist. However, such an "armchair refutation" of eliminativism seems too easy. I first attack two strategems, inspired by Descartes, on how such a refutation might proceed. However, I concede that the Cartesian intuition that we have direct knowledge of representational states is very powerful. The rest of this paper then offers an error theory of how that intuition might really be mistaken. The idea is that introspection does not detect any folk psychological states, but rather detects neural states that dispose us to certain sorts of linguistic behavior. Briefly, rather than detecting a mental appearance of the state-of-affairs that I am sitting near the fire, introspection detects a state disposing me to assert "It appears to me that I am sitting by the fire." The nature of this linguistic-dispositional state is then given a connectionist underpinning, where inputs from introspection lead to such assertive behavior. The Cartesian certainty we feel in self-ascribing such appearances is also explained. Even though I do not endorse such an error theory outright, I suggest that its tenability is enough to undercut introspection arguments against eliminativism.

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T. Parent
Nazarbayev University


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