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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: June 2012

6 - Reduction as Cognitive Strategy


The name ‘Paul Churchland’ is synonymous in many minds with eliminative materialism, the view that a materialist theory of mind will triumph, not by showing how the mental ascriptions of common sense or folk psychology reduce to neurophysiological conditions, but simply by eliminating the former as a bad theory and substituting its own, different concepts, principles, and data in its place. This looks nothing like reduction, which precisely saves the succeeded within the successor. Yet Churchland understood it as a process akin to reduction. To understand why, his treatment of reduction must be set within his larger vision of cognition and cognitive strategy. In his enthusiasm for a science-led revolution in our reconception of our world, ourselves included, Churchland is pursuing an agenda inspired by early-Feyerabend and his (Churchland's) contribution to reduction theory lies primarily in what he consequently taught us about its place among our epistemological strategies rather than any specific internal technical detail.

Churchland is an unrestrained radical scientific naturalist (see note), pushing hard the consequences of understanding this world as a single whole, avoiding the imposition by intellectual fiat of both divisions and unities (e.g, imposing a priori either a mind/body dualism or monism) and accepting only what can be scientifically grounded. That Churchland was an enthusiastic and stylish presenter of it cannot detract from the good intellectual sense with which he explored it and argued its merits.

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