The absolute network theory of language and traditional epistemology: On the philosophical foundations of Paul Churchland's scientific realism

Inquiry 33 (2):127 – 178 (1990)
Abstract
Paul Churchland's philosophical work enjoys an increasing popularity. His imaginative papers on cognitive science and the philosophy of psychology are widely discussed. Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind (1979), his major book, is an important contribution to the debate on realism. Churchland provides us with the intellectual tools for constructing a unified scientific Weltanschauung. His network theory of language implies a provocative view of the relation between science and common sense. This paper contains a critical examination of Churchland's network theory of language, which is the foundation of his philosophy. It is argued that the network theory should be seen as deriving its point from traditional empiricism. The network theory enables the empiricist to resist the phenomenalistic temptations inherent in his position, and to build a realist philosophy on the basis of the representative theory of perception. This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that the representative theory is presupposed by Churchland's main argument in favour of the network view. Churchland tends to conceive of himself as a naturalistic epistemologist. But the philosophical faction to which Churchland belongs is rather that of modern neo?Kantianism
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