Attitude and image, or, what will simulation theory let us eliminate?

Stich & Ravenscroft (1994) have argued that (contrary to most people's initial assumptions) a simulation account of folk psychology may be consistent with eliminative materialism, but they fail to bring out the full complexity or the potential significance of the relationship. Contemporary eliminativism (particularly in the Churchland version) makes two major claims: the first is a rejection of the orthodox assumption that realistically construed propositional attitudes are fundamental to human cognition; the second is the suggestion that with the advancement of scientific understanding of the mind it will be possible to entirely eliminate the mentalistic and intentional from our ontology, thus dissolving the mind-body problem. The first claim (which has been argued in detail) supplies the principal grounds for accepting the second, much more ambitious and significant, claim. Robert Gordon's (1995, 1996, 2000) radical simulation theory of "folk psychology", proposed initially (Gordon, 1986) as an alternative to "theory theory" accounts of self and interpersonal understanding, but subsequently developing into a quite general challenge to symbolic computational accounts of mind, is not merely consistent with, but actually provides considerable additional support for, the first eliminativist claim. However, although radical simulationism has no use for reified propositional attitudes, it relies on another family of mentalistic and intentional notions, including perspective taking, "seeing as", pretending, imagery, and, most centrally, imagination. It is thus inconsistent with eliminativist metaphysical ambitions. Nevertheless, from this perspective the mind-body problem is transformed. Its solution no longer depends on accounting directly for the intentionality of the attitudes, but rather on accounting for the intentionality of imagination. Although standard accounts of imagination derive its intentionality from that of the attitudes, the recently proposed "perceptual activity" theory of imagery and imagination (Thomas, 1999) can provide a direct account of the intentionality of imagination that is consistent with physicalism..
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