Folk Psychology, Eliminativism, and the Present State of Connectionism

Theoria: Beograd 1 (64):173-196 (2021)
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Three decades ago, William Ramsey, Steven Stich & Joseph Garon put forward an argument in favor of the following conditional: if connectionist models that implement parallelly distributed processing represent faithfully human cognitive processing, eliminativism about propositional attitudes is true. The corollary of their argument (if it proves to be sound) is that there is no place for folk psychology in contemporary cognitive science. This understanding of connectionism as a hypothesis about cognitive architecture compatible with eliminativism is also endorsed by Paul Churchland, a radical opponent of folk psychology and a prominent supporter of eliminative materialism. I aim to examine whether current connectionist models based on long-short term memory (LSTM) neural networks can back up these arguments in favor of eliminativism. Nonetheless, I will rather put my faith in the eliminativism of the limited domain. This position amounts to the claim that even though connectionist cognitive science has no need whatsoever for folk psychology qua theory, this does not entail the illegitimacy of folk psychology per se in other scientific domains, most notably in humanities, but only on condition that one regards folk psychology as mere heuristics.

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Vanja Subotić
University of Belgrade


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