Theoretical identity, reference fixing, and Boyd's defense of type materialism

Philosophia 34 (2):169-172 (2006)
Abstract
In his Materialism without Reductionism: What Materialism Does not Entail, Richard Boyd answers Kripke’s challenge to materialists to come up with a way to explain away the apparent contingency of mind-brain identities (such as ‘Pain=C-fiber firings’). Boyd accuses Kripke of an imaginative myopia manifesting itself as a failure to realize that the more theoretical term in the identity (‘C-fiber firings’) is fixed by contingent descriptions – descriptions that might pick out otherworldly kinds of neural events where C-fibres are absent. If this is something we can confuse in the imagination with actual C-fibre firings, then we have an explanation of the apparent contingency of the necessary identity ‘Pain=C-fiber firings.’ However, for this to succeed it must be the case that the reference of ‘C-fiber firings’ is fixed by some contingent description, which is false. Boyd, I submit, has failed to answer Kripke’s challenge after all
Keywords theoretical identity  Richard Boyd  materialism
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