Eliminativism and Evolutionary Debunking

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 8:496-522 (2021)
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Abstract

Eliminativists sometimes invoke evolutionary debunking arguments against ordinary object beliefs, either to help them establish object skepticism or to soften the appeal of commonsense ontology. I argue that object debunkers face a self-defeat problem: their conclusion undermines the scientific support for one of their premises, because evolutionary biology depends on our object beliefs. Using work on reductionism and multiple realizability from the philosophy of science, I argue that it will not suffice for an eliminativist debunker to simply appeal to some object-free surrogate theory of evolution that results from converting any scientific proposition about some object K into a proposition about simples arranged K-wise. In the process, I examine some hazards peculiar to eliminative reductions of scientific theories, and propose a trilemma for eliminativists who attempt to recoup generality for ontologically sparse reducing theories by appealing to pluralities of simples arranged K-wise. The paper is intended to define and develop the object debunker’s self-defeat problem for further study, and to clarify some of the ways sparse and abundant ontologies interact with scientific theory.

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Jeffrey N. Bagwell
Northern Virginia Community College

References found in this work

The Philosophy of Philosophy.Timothy Williamson - 2007 - Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Material beings.Peter Van Inwagen - 1990 - Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Objects: Nothing Out of the Ordinary.Daniel Z. Korman - 2015 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press UK. Edited by Dana Zemack.
Material Beings.Peter Van Inwagen - 1990 - Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

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