Revisionary physicalism

Biology and Philosophy 7 (4):411-30 (1992)
The focus of much recent debate between realists and eliminativists about the propositional attitudes obscures the fact that a spectrum of positions lies between these celebrated extremes. Appealing to an influential theoretical development in cognitive neurobiology, I argue that there is reason to expect such an “intermediate” outcome. The ontology that emerges is a revisionary physicalism. The argument draws lessons about revisionistic reductions from an important historical example, the reduction of equilibrium thermodynamics to statistical mechanics, and applies them to the relationship developing between propositional attitude psychology and this potential neuroscientific successor. It predicts enough conceptual change to rule out a straightforward realism about the attitudes; but at the same time it also resists the eliminativist's comparison of the fate awaiting the propositional attitudes to that befalling caloric fluid, phlogiston, and the like
Keywords Cognitive Science  Intentionality  Ontology  Physicalism  Science
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DOI 10.1007/BF00130060
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