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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: June 2012

2 - Arguing For Eliminativism


I am sure I am not alone in reporting that the greater exposure I have to experimental work in scientific psychology and neuroscience the less value there seems to be in our commonsense psychological framework of belief, desire, and the other propositional attitudes. Commonsense psychological concepts hardly feature at all in cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience. Theorists in these areas either eschew psychological vocabulary altogether or appeal to shadowy neologisms such as “cognize” or “encode.” It is often difficult to see where the points of contact are between the serious scientific study of the mind and the apparent platitudes that philosophers tend to take as their starting point. And even when one can see where the points of contact are, scientific psychology and commonsense psychology are often in tension with each other. Many areas of scientific psychology place serious pressure on our image of ourselves as rational, consistent agents with stable character traits. Yet this image of ourselves is at the heart of commonsense psychology. Commonsense psychology tells one story about the “springs of action” – about how and why we behave the way we do – while the story (or rather, stories) told by scientific psychology and cognitive neuroscience seem completely different and in many ways incompatible with a commonsense understanding of human behavior.

In the face of all this some philosophers, most prominently of course Paul Churchland, have argued for a wholesale rejection of our commonsense ways of thinking about the mind.

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