Bennett and Hacker on neural materialism

Acta Analytica 23 (3):273-286 (2008)
In their recent book Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, Max Bennett and Peter Hacker attack neural materialism (NM), the view, roughly, that mental states (events, processes, etc.) are identical with neural states or material properties of neural states (events, processes, etc.). Specifically, in the penultimate chapter entitled “Reductionism,” they argue that NM is unintelligible, that “there is no sense to literally identifying neural states and configurations with psychological attributes.” This is a provocative claim indeed. If Bennett and Hacker are right, then a sizeable number of philosophers, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, etc., subscribe to a view that is not merely false, but strictly meaningless. In this article I show that Bennett and Hacker's arguments against NM, whether construed as arguments for the meaninglessness of or the falsity of the thesis, cannot withstand scrutiny: when laid bare they are found to rest upon highly dubious assumptions that either seriously mischaracterize or underestimate the resources of the thesis.
Keywords Neural materialism  Neuroscience  Reductionism  Multiple realizability  Criteria of identity  Mereological fallacy
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DOI 10.1007/s12136-008-0031-3
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Donald Davidson (1970). Mental Events. In L. Foster & J. W. Swanson (eds.), Experience and Theory. Humanities Press 79-101.

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