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Title: Should eliminative materialism be eliminated?
Author: Gordon, John
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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The thesis consists of a critical evaluation of Paul Churchland's eliminative materialism. The first of the central claims of the thesis is that it is unclear how radical an eliminativism Churchland wishes to adopt, in that his published work appears to vacillate between a position which is too modest to be regarded as a genuinely eliminative form of materialism, and positions which, while radical in their eliminativism, are not supported by the empirical evidence which Churchland presents. I conclude that eliminative materialism is itself a candidate for elimination, on the grounds that the radical positions are unsupportable in principle, while the only eliminativist position which is defensible effectively fails to qualify as a form of 'eliminative materialism'. The early chapters of the thesis consider the negative element in Churchland's position - the claim that 'folk psychology' will not ultimately reduce to neuroscience, and that, this being a constraint on the acceptability of folk psychology as a putative source of mental explanation, folk psychology ought therefore to be eliminated. The positive element of Churchland's position is then considered: his claims that research programmes currently being undertaken in both parallel distributive processing, and neuroscience, converge in providing a more psychologically realistic account of human cognition than do more conventional accounts, which utilise the explanatory categories of fold psychology; and that, as this PDP model eschews the use of folk psychological categories, it thus entails elimination of folk psychology, as anticipated in the earlier, negative thesis. I consider the philosophical implications of the PDP model, and find it deficient with regard to two of the main areas of philosophical interest considered by Churchland: the operation of moral choice; and consciousness. My conclusion is that PDP does not serve to provide support for any but the most modest of eliminativist positions - so that what empirical plausibility PDP may have cannot rescue eliminative materialism from elimination.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available