Monday, November 05, 2007

Are the Churclands real eliminativists?

Or are the Churchlands just weak, wishy-washy eliminativists? Apparently if this guy Ratcliffe is right, they are. After all they admit the existence of a false theory called folk psychology. To be honest, I'm not sure folk psychology can exist if eliminativism is true. HT: Dennis Monokroussos



At 11/05/2007 07:57:00 PM , Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Rabble rouser :)

At 11/15/2007 02:47:00 AM , Blogger real_irish_rusyn said...

I haven't read the Ratcliffe book, but I wouldn't lean too hard on Hutto's NDPR review of it (which you link to) for evidence that the Churchlands are--either in fact or according to Ratcliffe--relatively '"weak" eliminativists', at least about beliefs and desires, which is (roughly speaking) what they are eliminativists about.

For consider again what I take to be the relevant section of Hutto's review:

'[I]t is the book's bold conclusion that stands out: CSP [CommonSense Psychology] is not the name of our familiar way of making sense of intentional action; rather it is a philosophical creation -- "a misguided reification of abstractions" (23). In fact, nothing at all answers to the name of CSP (see also Morton 2007). Obviously, this constitutes the most interesting and powerful challenge to CSP. By comparison, the Churchlands, who hold that CSP is a radically false theory, are 'weak' eliminativists. For the claim [by Ratcliffe] is that FP [Folk Psychology, aka CSP] does not exist at all, other than--at best--in the fevered imaginations of some philosophers.'

However, and pace Hutto's apparent inference, it doesn't follow from the fact--if it is a fact--that 'nothing at all answers to the name of CSP', that nothing at all answers to beliefs and desires. Nor does it follow that Ratcliffe is an eliminativist about belief and desires. After all, there are any number of points at which one may bail out on CSP--e.g., the idea that it is universally-deployed, or a 'theory', or 'a kind of "mindreading" activity', or 'forever requir[es] inferential thinking', or that it is 'primarily spectatorial and...focused on the postulation of inner causes' (all quotes from Hutto)--that fall short of bailing out on beliefs and desires.

For the Churchlands, by contrast, nothing at all answers to the terms 'belief' and 'desire', and so, a fortiori, nothing answers to the name of CSP, however you cash out what it is that CSP amounts to, so long as it retains essential reference to 'belief' and 'desires' and other propositional attitudes.

So, it is not in fact true that, 'if this guy Ratcliffe is right,' then the Churchlands' is a 'weak' (relative to Ratcliffe's) version of eliminativism, at least with regard to what the Churchlands are eliminativists about. Though this is quite independent, of course, of how weak eliminativism might be as a philosophical position.


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