An Explication and Critique of Churchland’s Eliminative Materialism
Human beings have the amazing capacity to predict and explain behavior by usingcommon sense perceptions. When we make predictions or explain behavior, we apply acommon-sense theory which includes taking into consideration intentional states such as believing, hoping, feeling, and desiring. This common sense approach to understanding behavior is called folk psychology. Since folk psychology is used in every day predictions, the suggestionthat it ought to be eliminated seems fairly radical and would most certainly face opposition. One person who has called for the elimination of folk psychology is Canadian philosopher PaulChurchland. Churchland’s argument against folk psychology is based on his eliminativematerialism position which denies the existence of the aforementioned intentional (propositional)attitudes. Churchland contends that folk psychology is critically flawed and will eventually bereplaced by neuroscience. In the following essay I shall explicate Churchland’s version of eliminative materialism and raise objections to his position; the objections raised which will notonly shed light on falsities within his argument, but also prove that his desire to eliminate folk psychology is extreme and unnecessary.While the introduction provided a compendious definition of folk psychology, a moredetailed description of folk psychology is in order before I explicate Churchland’s eliminativematerialism. In the article
Folk Psychology is Here to Stay
, co-authors Terrance Horgan andJames Woodward define folk psychology as “a network of principles which constitutes a sort of common-sense theory about how to explain human behavior” (HW, p. 197)
. Standardformulations of the theory of folk psychology generally follow along the lines of the following
1 Throughout this essay I will use the initials “HW” when citing Horgan and Woodward’s article and “PC” whenciting Paul Churchland’s. Refer to the bibliography for source details.