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Eliminative Materialism. The Case Against Folk Psychology. Intertheoretic Reduction. Certain (usually older) theories can be seen as special cases of other (usually newer) theories We say the older theory reduces to, or is reduced by, the newer theory

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Eliminative Materialism


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    1. Eliminative Materialism The Case Against Folk Psychology

    2. Intertheoretic Reduction • Certain (usually older) theories can be seen as special cases of other (usually newer) theories • We say the older theory reduces to, or is reduced by, the newer theory • Kepler’s planetary astronomy reduces to Newton’s Laws of Motion • Newton’s Laws of Motion reduce to Einstein’s General Relativity • Common sense theory of sound reduces to physical theory of compression waves in a plastic medium • Common sense theory of heat reduces to kinetic theory • A genuine reduction occurs when, in the newer theory, we can derive a set of claims about certain objects and their relations which are relevantly isomorphic to (sufficiently mirror) the claims of the old theory • Note that this is a matter of degree • Within Newton’s system, one can basically deduce Kepler’s system • Within General Relativity, Newton’s Laws turn out only to be very close approximations requiring the assumption of low masses, low velocities, and short distances • Not every aspect of common sense theory of sound/heat reduces to physical theory

    3. Intertheoretic Reduction • When a Reduction occurs, the language of the old theory may be dispensed with, but (a significant amount of) the structure of the old theory lives on within the new theory • Thus reduced theories are NOT eliminated • They are, in a sense, given legitimacy • They are incorporated into a new and more encompassing theory • Identity Theorists think that FP will reduce to Neurology • Functionalists and Classical AI theorists think that FP will reduce to a more abstract theory of formally specified symbols and operations • Dennett Rejects the question of reduction as inappropriate, misunderstanding the function and success of FP

    4. Theory Elimination • When the resources of a new theory outstrip that of an old theory, and there is no portion of the new theory which sufficiently mirrors the old, the old theory is said to be eliminated • The New replaces the Old • The Old loses its legitimacy • Little to no structure of the old is preserved • Copernican/Newtonian (heliocentric) view of the Solar system eliminates the Ptolemaic/Aristotelian (geocentric) view • Kinetic theory of heat eliminates the caloric theory • Oxidation theory of combustion eliminates the phlogiston theory • Neuro-psychological theories of mental illness eliminate theories of humors and daemonic possession • We find is that we were seriously wrong about what objects existed and how they interrelated to produce the phenomena we were theorizing about

    5. Eliminative Materialism • Folk Psychology is a “radically false” and “radically misleading” conception of human cognition and the causes of human behavior • FP will be replaced by a “completed neuroscience” • “Our mutual understanding and even our introspection may then be reconstituted within the [more powerful] conceptual framework of completed neuroscience”

    6. The Case Against FP • Serious Explanatory, Predictive, and Manipulative poverty • History of Stagnation and Retreat • Little Hope of Integration into Overall Physical Theory • 1.–3. combine for a story of failure, stagnation, retreat, lack of promise • A priori, the likelihood of elimination is greater than that of reduction

    7. 1. Explanatory, Predictive, and Manipulative Poverty • Normal mental processes poorly explained or not explained • Sleep, learning, memory, creativity, motor coordination, differences in intelligence • Abnormal mental processes poorly explained or not explained • Mental illness, effects of brain damage, intoxication, psychopharmacological effects • Special importance on explanation of learning

    8. 1.c. Special importance on explanation of learning • No account of pre- and non-linguistic learning • No good account of learning a first language • No good account of the underlying dynamics and kinematics of learning in general • No good account of conceptual change in the individual

    9. 2. History of Stagnation and Retreat • Virtually every other folk theory has been eliminated—motion, heaven, fire, life, etc.—unlikely we got this one right on the first try • Many domains of phenomena once explained via the intentional categories of FP, now explained in physical terms—behavior of seasons, weather, animals, geology—intentional categories of FP are in retreat • FP has not significantly advance in 3–4 millennia

    10. 3. Little Hope of Integration into Overall Physical Theory • Biology, physiology, evolutionary theory, neurology—all show a high degree of integration into our basic physics • FP shows little or no hope of such integration • FP shows little or no hope of progressing Further to address its failings (stagnation again)

    11. 4. Profile of of failure, stagnation, retreat, lack of promise • 1.–3. combine for a story of failure, stagnation, retreat, lack of promise

    12. A Priori Argument • A priori, the likelihood of elimination is greater than that of reduction • More ways for Neuroscience to be successful while eliminating FP, than way for Neuroscience to be successful while reducing FP • See pp. 46-47 of Matter and Consciousness • See Also p.45 for “The Vision”

    13. Some Standard Objections to EM • FP is not an empirical falsifiable theory • Rather it is the abstract descriptive core required to understand any system as intelligent and rational (no matter the instantiation) • Traditional functionalism, classical AI, Dennett’s intentional stance • Rather, its central core concerning Propositional Attitudes is normative, characterizing the ideal reasoner • Being normative it cannot be falsified (?) • Dennett? Fodor?

    14. Some Standard Objections to EM • I can Introspect Beliefs, Desires Qualia, How could I be wrong about what I most directly know? • Self-Effacing/Incoherent—see p. 48 • Mountains out of Molehills

    15. Clark’s Objections • Tension between the propositional modularity apparently required by our notion of mental causation and extreme holistic nature of neural nets • Could there be a deeper unity? • Deny that FP committed to inner propositions (Dennett, scattered causes) • Accept incompatibility and go eliminativist • (Not Noticed By Clark) Find a deeper unity, but of a structure which does not vindicate FP (Churchland, cf. p. 76 of Mindware)

    16. Clark’s Objections • Thought is systematic (Fodor and Pylyshyn) • So internal representations must be structured • Connectionist models lack structured internal representations • So connectionist models are not good models of human thought • Clark’s two suggested responses • Classical symbol systems not the only way of supporting structured representations (Churchland) • Human thought might gain what systematicity it displays from the structure of human language (Clark? Dennett) • Bag-of-tricks—no central code or processor, but a bunch of different (possibly multi-tasked and/or redundant) modules (somehow) working in concert (Dennett, Churchland)

    17. Clark’s Objections • Biological Reality • Artificiality of tasks • Choice of problem structure • Abstraction and over-simplification • Dimensionality of input • Lack of exploitation of real-world structure for problem solving • One-network-one-task attitude • Over-simplification of the structure and function of neurons