I will introduce and motivate eliminativist super-relationism. This is the conjunction of relationism about spacetime and eliminativism about material objects. According to the view, the universe is a big collection of spatio-temporal relations and natural properties, and no substance (material or spatio-temporal) exists in it. The view is original since eliminativism about material objects, when understood as including not only ordinary objects like tables or chairs but also physical particles, is generally taken to imply substantivalism about spacetime: if (...) properties are directly instantiated by spacetime without the mediation of material objects, then, surely, spacetime has to be a substance. After introducing briefly the two debates about spacetime (§1) and material objects (§2), I will present Schaffer's super-substantivalism (§3), the conjunction of substantivalism about spacetime and eliminativism about material objects at the fundamental level. I shall then expose and discuss the assumption from which the implication from eliminativism to substantivalism is drawn, and discuss the compatibility of eliminativism with relationism: if spacetime is not a substance, and if material objects are not real, how are we to understand the instantiation of properties (§4)? And what are the relata of spatio-temporal relations (§5)? I then show that each argument in favor of super-substantivalism offered by Schaffer also holds for super-relationism (§6) and examine several metaphysical consequences of the view (§7). I conclude that both super-substantivalism and super-relationism are compatible with Schaffer's priority monism (§8). (shrink)
In this paper, I propose a general taxonomy of different forms of eliminativism. In order to do so, I begin by exploring eliminativism from a broad perspective, providing a comparative picture of eliminativist projects in different domains. This exploration shows that eliminativism is a label used for a family of related types of eliminativist arguments and claims. The proposed taxonomy is an attempt to systematise those arguments and claims.
Mereological nihilism is the thesis that there are no composite objects—i.e. objects with proper material parts. One of the main advantages of mereological nihilism is that it allows its supporters to avoid a number of notorious philosophical puzzles. However, it seems to offer this advantage only at the expense of certain widespread and deeply entrenched beliefs. In particular, it is usually assumed that mereological nihilism entails eliminativism about ordinary objects—i.e. the counterintuitive thesis that there are no such things as (...) tables, apples, cats, and the like. In this paper, I argue that this assumption is false—mereological nihilists do not need to be eliminativists about tables, apples, or cats. Non-eliminativist nihilists claim that all it takes for there to be a cat is that there are simples arranged cat-wise. More specifically, non-eliminative nihilists argue that expressions such as ‘the cat’ in sentences such as ‘The cat is on the mat’ do not refer to composite objects but only to simples arranged cat-wise and compare this metaphysical discovery to the scientific discovery that ‘water’ refers to dihydrogen oxide. Non-eliminative nihilism, I argue, is not only a coherent position, but it is preferable to its more popular, eliminativist counterpart, as it enjoys the key benefits of nihilism without incurring the prohibitive costs of eliminativism. Moreover, unlike conciliatory strategies adopted by eliminative nihilists, non-eliminative nihilism allow its supporters to account not only for how we can assert something true by saying ‘The cat is on the mat’ but also for how we can believe something true by believing that the cat is on the mat. (shrink)
Eliminativism about macroscopic material objects claims that we do not need to include tables in our ontology, and that any job – practical or theoretical – they have to do can be done by 'atoms arranged tablewise'. This way of introducing eliminativism faces the worry that if there are no 'atoms', that is, if there are no simples and the world is 'gunky', there are no suitable entities to be 'arranged tablewise'. In this article, I discuss various strategies (...) the eliminativist can have to face this objection, and I conclude by showing that the objection is actually misdirected and does not threaten eliminativism at all. (shrink)
Pluralist and eliminativist positions have proliferated within both science and philosophy of science in recent decades. This paper asks the question why this shift of thinking has occurred, and where it is leading us. We provide an explanation which, if correct, entails that we should expect pluralism and eliminativism to transform other debates currently unaffected, and for good reasons. We then consider the question under what circumstances eliminativism will be appropriate, arguing that it depends not only on the (...) term in question, but also on the context of discussion and details of the debate at hand. The resultant selective eliminativism is an appealing compromise for various ‘pluralists’ and ‘eliminativists’ who are currently locking horns. (shrink)
John Turri gives an example that he thinks refutes what he takes to be “G. E. Moore's view” that omissive assertions such as “It is raining but I do not believe that it is raining” are “inherently ‘absurd'”. This is that of Ellie, an eliminativist who makes such assertions. Turri thinks that these are perfectly reasonable and not even absurd. Nor does she seem irrational if the sincerity of her assertion requires her to believe its content. A commissive counterpart of (...) Ellie is Di, a dialetheist who asserts or believes that The Russell set includes itself but I believe that it is not the case that the Russell set includes itself. Since any adequate explanation of Moore's paradox must handle commissive assertions and beliefs as well as omissive ones, it must deal with Di as well as engage Ellie. I give such an explanation. I argue that neither Ellie's assertion nor her belief is irrational yet both are absurd. Likewise neither Di's assertion nor her belief is irrational yet in contrast neither is absurd. I conclude that not all Moore-paradoxical assertions or beliefs are irrational and that the syntax of Moore's examples is not sufficient for the absurdity found in them. (shrink)
Shaun Nichols has recently argued that while the folk notion of free will is associated with error, a question still remains whether the concept of free will should be eliminated or preserved. He maintains that like other eliminativist arguments in philosophy, arguments that free will is an illusion seem to depend on substantive assumptions about reference. According to free will eliminativists, people have deeply mistaken beliefs about free will and this entails that free will does not exist. However, an alternative (...) reaction is that free will does exist, we just have some deeply mistaken beliefs about it. According to Nichols, all such debates boil down to whether or not the erroneous folk term in question successfully refers or not. Since Nichols adopts the view that reference is systematically ambiguous, he maintains that in some contexts it’s appropriate to take a restrictivist view about whether a term embedded in a false theory refers, while in other contexts it’s appropriate to take a liberal view about whether a token of the very same term refers. This, according to Nichols, affords the possibility of saying that the sentence “free will exists” is false in some contexts and true in others. In this paper I argue that even if we grant Nichols his pluralistic approach to reference, there is still good reason to prefer eliminativism to preservationism with regard to free will. My argument focuses on one important difference between the concept of “free will” and other theoretical terms embedded in false theories—i.e., the role that the phenomenology of free agency plays in reference fixing. (shrink)
"New wave" reductionism aims at advancing a kind of reduction that is stronger than unilateral dependency of the mental on the physical. It revolves around the idea that reduction between theoretical levels is a matter of degree, and can be laid out on a continuum between a "smooth" pole (theoretical identity) and a "bumpy" pole (extremely revisionary). It also entails that both higher and lower levels of the reductive relationship sustain some degree of explanatory autonomy. The new wave predicts that (...) reductions of folk psychology to neuroscience will be located in the middle of this continuum; as neuroscientific evidence about mental states checks in, theoretical folk psychology will therefore be moderately revised. However, the model has conceptual problems which preclude its success in reviving reductionism, and its commitment to a syntactic approach wrecks its attempt to rescue folk psychology. Moreover, the architecture of the continuum operates on a category mistake that sneaks in an eliminativist conclusion. I argue that new wave reductionism therefore tends to be eliminativism in disguise. (shrink)
In this article, I am interested in an issue concerning eliminativism about ordinary objects that can be put as the claim that the eliminativist is guilty of postulating the existence of something (atoms arranged tablewise) but not of something that is identical to it (the table). But, as we will see, this turns out to be a problem for everybody except the eliminativist. Indeed, this issue highlights a more general problem about the relationship between an entity and the parts (...) the compose it. Furthermore, I am not interested in this issue only for its own sake and for the sake of understanding and defending eliminativism, but also for the way it allows me to discuss the differences and relationships there are between eliminativism and reductionism. What a difference does it make to eliminate an entity or to reduce it to something else? (shrink)
Eliminativism was targeted by transcendental arguments from the first. Three responses to these arguments have emerged from the eliminativist literature, the heart of which is that such arguments are question-begging. These responses are shown to be incompatible with the position, eliminativism, they are meant to defend. Out of these failed responses is developed a general transcendental argument against eliminativism (the "Paradox of Abandonment"). Eliminativists have anticipated this argument, but their six different attempts to counter it are shown (...) to be separately inadequate, mutually incompatible, and, again, incompatible with the position that they are seeking to defend. (shrink)
I argue for a cognitive architecture in which folk psychology is supported by an interface of a ToM module and the language faculty, the latter providing the former with interpreted LF structures which form the content representations of ToM states. I show that LF structures satisfy a range of key features asked of contents. I confront this account of ToM with eliminativism and diagnose and combat the thought that "success" and innateness are inconsistent with the falsity of folk psychology. (...) I show that, while my ensemble account of ToM and language refutes the culturalist presuppositions that tend to underlie eliminativist arguments, the falsity of folk psychology is consistent with the account. (shrink)
This paper develops a proposal about phenomenal consciousness that is (somewhat) eliminativist in two respects. First, regarded in the light of some common ways of conceiving of consciousness, the proposal is "deflationary". Second, it opens up space for a development in which what we now naturally think about as consciousness turns out to be many different things.
Traditional eliminativism is the view that a term should be eliminated from everyday speech due to failures of reference. Following Edouard Machery, we may distinguish this traditional eliminativism about a kind and its term from a scientific eliminativism according to which a term should be eliminated from scientific discourse due to a lack of referential utility. The distinction matters if any terms are rightly retained for daily life despite being rightly eliminated from scientific inquiry. In this article, (...) I argue that while scientific eliminativism for pain may be plausible, traditional eliminativism for pain is not. I discuss the pain eliminativisms offered by Daniel Dennett and Valerie Hardcastle and argue that both theorists, at best, provide support for scientific eliminativism for pain, but leave the folk-psychological notion of pain unscathed. One might, however, think that scientific eliminativism itself entails traditional eliminativism—for pain and any other kind and corresponding term. I argue that this is not the case. Scientific eliminativism for pain does not entail traditional eliminativism about anything. (shrink)
It has recently been claimed (1) that mental states such as beliefs are theoretical entities and (2) that they are therefore, in principle, subject to theoretical elimination if intentional psychology were to be supplanted by a psychology not employing mentalistic notions. Debate over these two issues is seriously hampered by the fact that the key terms 'theoretical' and 'belief' are ambiguous. This article argues that there is only one sense of 'theoretical' that is of use to the eliminativist, and in (...) this sense some kinds of "belief" (dispositional states, infra-conscious states and the Freudian unconscious) are indeed "theoretical" and hence possible candidates for elimination, while others (consciously occurring thoughts like judgements and perceptual Gestalten) are not theoretical and hence not candidates for elimination. (shrink)
Tuomela (this issue, pp. 96-103) raises several objections to the analysis and critique of methodological individualism in my (1986). In what follows I reply to those criticisms, arguing, among other things, that: (1) the alleged reductions provided by Tuomela and others fail, because they either presuppose rather than eliminate social predicates or do not avoid the problem of multiple realizations; (2) supervenience does not guarantee that the social sciences are reducible, because merely describing supervenieence bases leaves numerous questions unanswered, and (...) (3) the eliminativism that Tuomela favors verges on being self-refuting and is highly implausible short of a detailed empirical critique of the social sciences, something Tuomela does not provide and something there is little reason to think can be provided. (shrink)
One of Daniel Dennett's most sophisticated arguments for his eliminativism about phenomenological properties centers around the color phi phenomenon. He attempts to show that there is no phenomenological fact of the matter concerning the phenomenon of apparent motion because it is impossible to decide between two competing explanations. I argue that the two explanations considered by Dennett are both based on the assumption that a realist account of the phenomenon must include a neat mapping between phenomenological time and objective (...) time. Since this assumption is false, Dennett's argument is unsuccessful. Like most eliminativist arguments, Dennett's arguments may indicate that the subjective character of experience is different from how it is often described, but this leaves plenty of room for alternative models of consciousness. (shrink)
Stich and Ravenscroft (1994) distinguish between internal and external accounts of folk psychology and argue that this distinction makes a significant difference to the debate over eliminative materialism. I argue that their views about the implications of the internal/external distinction for the debate over eliminativism are mistaken. First, I demonstrate that the first of their two external versions of folk psychology is either not a possible target of eliminativist critique, or not a target distinct from their second version of (...) externalism. Second, I show that whether or not the second of their two external version of folk psychology is open to eliminativist critique depends on ‘internal’ factors. Finally, I argue that they are wrong to claim that eliminativists might, by attacking external versions of folk psychology, escape being put out of business if the simulation theory is correct. (shrink)
If physicalism is true (e.g., if every event is a fundamental-physical event), then it looks as if there is a fundamental-physical explanation of everything. If so, then what is to become of special scientific explanations? They seem to be excluded by the fundamental-physical ones, and indeed to be excellent candidates for elimination. I argue that, if physicalism is true, there probably is a fundamental-physical explanation of everything, but that nevertheless there can perfectly well be special scientific explanations as well, notwithstanding (...) eliminativist scruples concerning overdetermination and Ockham's Razor. (shrink)
The concept of vulnerability has been subject to numerous different interpretations but accounts are still beset with significant problems as to their adequacy, such as their contentious application or the lack of genuine explanatory role for the concept. The constant failure to provide a compelling conceptual analysis and satisfactory definition leaves the concept open to an eliminativist move whereby we can question whether we need the concept at all. I highlight problems with various kinds of approach and explain why a (...) satisfactory account of vulnerability is unlikely ever to be offered if we wish the concept to play a genuinely explanatory role in bioethical contexts. I outline why an eliminativist position should be taken with regard to this concept in light of these concerns but mitigate some of the severity of this position by arguing that we can still make sense of retaining our widespread use of the term by viewing it as nothing more than a useful pragmatic linguistic device that acts as a marker to draw attention to certain kinds of issue. These issues will be entirely governed by other, better understood ethical concepts and theories. (shrink)
Quine’s eliminativist theory has largely been ignored by the philosophical community. This is highly regrettable because Quine’s theory is probably close to correct. Now, the probable correctness of Quine’s theory has an important consequence since, according to the theory, there are no mental entities (events, states, phenomena, properties, etc.) nor do such entities play any role in a scientific account of the relevant phenomena. But the hundreds or probably thousands of publications that deal with issues such as mental causation, the (...) nature of qualia, supervenience of the mental, or multiple realizability, presume the existence of, or at least attribute a positive role to, mental entities. The probable correctness of Quine’s theory therefore suggests that all these publications are worthless and reading them is a waste of time just as reading studies about how crystal spheres can move planets is considered nowadays a waste of time. (shrink)
The philosophical debate over the nature of color has been governed by what we have learnt from color vision science and what color phenomenology suggests to us. It is usually thought that color eliminativism, which maintains that physical objects do not have any properties that can be identified with colors, can account for the former but not the latter. After all, what could be more obvious than the external world to be colored? Here I outline one color eliminativistic response (...) to the objections based on phenomenology. (shrink)
In trying to establish the view that there are no non-living macrophysical objects, Trenton Merricks has produced an influential argument—the Overdetermination Argument—against the causal efficacy of composite objects. A serious problem for the Overdetermination Argument is the ambiguity in the notion of overdetermination that is being employed, which is due to the fact that Merricks does not provide any theory of causation to support his claims. Once we adopt a plausible theory of causation, viz. interventionism, problems with the Overdetermination will (...) become evident. After laying out the Overdetermination Argument and examining one extant objection to it, I will explicate the relevant aspects of an interventionist theory of causation and provide a characterization of overdetermination that follows from such an account. From this, I will argue that the Causal Principle that undergirds the Overdetermination Argument is false and hence the argument is invalid; and I claim that the only other available characterization of overdetermination would render a key premise in the argument false. Thus, the Overdetermination Argument fails to provide us with any reason to deny the causal efficacy of macrophysical objects, and therefore provides no reason to doubt their existence. (shrink)
This paper argues that Wittgenstein holds that ethical propositions are nonsense, in that they lack any meaning whatsoever, that they are redundant, in that the work they are intended to do is already being done by other features of our language, and that they are harmful, insofar as they prevent us from appreciating what is of genuine ethical significance in our lives. Its aim is to outline a sense in which Wittgenstein can be seen to be trying, through the elimination (...) of “ethical propositions”, to reconnect us with the ethical commitments embodied in our ordinary “non-ethical” language, and so the ways in which ordinary language might be taken to be ethically revealing. (shrink)
This paper contests Lynne Rudder Baker's claim to have shown that eliminative materialism is bound to fail on purely conceptual grounds. It is argued that Baker's position depends on knowing that certain developments in science cannot occur, and that we cannot know that this is so. Consequently, the sort of argument Baker provides is question-begging. For similar reasons, the confidence that the proponents of eliminative materialism have in it is misplaced.
Two arguments are discussed which have been advanced in support of eliminative materialism: the argument from reductionism and the argument from functionalism. It is contended that neither of these arguments is effective if "non-scientific realism" is adopted with regard to commonsense propositional attitude psychology and its embedded notions. "Non-scientific realism," the position that commonsense propositional attitude psychology is an independently legitimate descriptive/explanatory framework, neither in competition with science nor vulnerable to being shown false by science, is defended.
Virtually everyone agrees that, even after having presented the arguments for their positions, proponents of revisionary philosophical theories are required to provide some sort of account of the conflict between their theories and what the folk believe. I examine various strategies for answering the challenge from folk belief. The examination proceeds as a case study, whose focus is eliminativism about ordinary material objects. I critically assess eliminativist attempts to explain folk belief by appeal to paraphrase, experience, and intuition.
The philosopher of science faces overwhelming disagreement in the literature on the definition, nature, structure, ontology, and content of scientific theories. These disagreements are at least partly responsible for disagreements in many of the debates in the discipline which put weight on the concept scientific theory. I argue that available theories of theories and conceptual analyses of theory are ineffectual options for addressing this difficulty: they do not move debates forward in a significant way. Directing my attention to debates about (...) the properties of particular, named theories, I introduce ‘theory eliminativism’ as a certain type of debate-reformulation. As a methodological tool it has the potential to be a highly effective way to make progress in the face of the noted problem: post-reformulation disagreements about theory cannot compromise the debate, and the questions that really matter can still be asked and answered. In addition the reformulation process demands that philosophers engage with science and the history of science in a more serious way than is usual in order to answer important questions about the justification for targeting a particular set of propositions (say) in a given context. All things considered, we should expect the benefits of a theory-eliminating debate-reformulation to heavily outweigh the costs for a highly significant number of debates of the relevant type. (shrink)
This paper argues that there is significant motivation for contemporary ethicists to affirm a view I call “moral property eliminativism.” On this eliminativist view, there are no moral properties, but there are moral truths that are made true by only nonmoral entities. Moral property eliminativism parallels eliminativist views defended in other domains of philosophical inquiry, but has gone nearly entirely overlooked by contemporary ethicists. I argue that moral property eliminativism is motivated by the claim that there cannot (...) be differences in moral truths without differences in nonmoral ontology—a claim widely endorsed by contemporary ethicists. Engaging with a variety of ways whereby one might resist the motivation I cite for moral property eliminativism, I argue that alternative contemporary metaethical views tend to purchase moral properties at the price of unnecessary theoretical complexity. (shrink)
Marc Ereshefsky argues that pluralism about species suggests that the species concept is not theoretically useful. It is to be abandoned in favor of several concrete species concepts that denote real categories. While accepting species pluralism, the present paper rejects eliminativism about the species category. It is argued that the species concept is important and that it is possible to make sense of a general species concept despite the existence of different concrete species concepts.
The paper considers our ordinary mentalistic discourse in relation to what we should expect from any genuine science of the mind. A meta-scientific eliminativism is commended and distinguished from the more familiar eliminativism of Skinner and the Churchlands. Meta-scientific eliminativism views folk psychology qua folksy as unsuited to offer insight into the structure of cognition, although it might otherwise be indispensable for our social commerce and self-understanding. This position flows from a general thesis that scientific advance is (...) marked by an eschewal of folk understanding. The latter half of the paper argues that, contrary to the received view, Chomsky's review of Skinner offers not just an argument against Skinner's eliminativism, but, more centrally, one in favour of the second eliminativism. (shrink)
The battle over the proper place of mental representation in cognitive science is often portrayed as a clash between realism and eliminativism. But this simple dichotomy belies the variety of different ontological positions available. This article investigates the various stances that one can adopt toward the ontology of mental representation, and in so doing, shows that eliminativism is in fact best understood as two distinct positions: a posteriori eliminativism and a priori eliminativism. Furthermore, I show that (...) a priori eliminativism faces two crippling challenges. I argue that once we put a priori eliminativism aside, determining the ultimate ontological status of representation can be postponed while we assess its utility across different domains of cognitive science—something all remaining positions can agree on. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue for three main claims. First, that there are two broad sorts of error theory about a particular region of thought and talk, eliminativist error theories and non-eliminativist error theories. Second, that an error theory about rule following can only be an eliminativist view of rule following, and therefore an eliminativist view of meaning and content on a par with Paul Churchland’s prima facie implausible eliminativism about the propositional attitudes. Third, that despite some superficial appearances (...) to the contrary, non-eliminativist error theory does not provide a plausible vehicle for understanding the ‘sceptical solution’ to the sceptical paradox about rule - following developed in Saul Kripke’s Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. (shrink)
In this commentary, I focus on Machery's criticism of Neo-Empiricism. I argue that Neo-Empiricism can survive Machery's critique, and I show that there is an empiricist strategy for forestalling eliminativism.
I argue that Machery stacks the deck against hybrid theories of concepts by relying on an unduly restrictive understanding of coordination between concept parts. Once a less restrictive notion of coordination is introduced, the empirical case for hybrid theories of concepts becomes stronger, and the appeal of concept eliminativism weaker.
In his book Objects and Persons, Trenton Merricks has reoriented and ﬁne-tuned an argument from the philosophy of mind to support a selective eliminativism about macroscopic objects.1 The argument turns on a rejection of systematic causal overdetermination and the conviction that microscopic things do the causal work that is attributed to a great many (though not all) macroscopic things. We will argue that Merricks’ argument fails to establish his selective eliminativism.
Recently some philosophers have urged that connectionist artificial intelligence is (potentially) eliminative for the propositional attitudes of folk psychology. At the same time, however, these philosophers have also insisted that since philosophy of science has failed to provide criteria distinguishing ontologically retentive from eliminative theory changes, the resulting eliminativism is not principled. Application of some resources developed within the semantic view of scientific theories, particularly recent formal work on the theory reduction relation, reveals these philosophers to be wrong in (...) this second contention, yet by and large correct in the first. (shrink)
This paper considers how best an eliminativist might argue for the radical falsity of commonsense psychology. I will be arguing that Paul Churchland’s “official” arguments for eliminative materialism (in, e.g., Churchland 1981) are unsatisfactory, although much of the paper will be developing themes that are clearly present in Churchland’s writings. The eliminativist needs to argue that the representations that feed into action are fundamentally different from those invoked by propositional attitude psychology. The “springs of action” are representations of features that (...) are much more finely grained than those encoded within the vocabulary that we employ to specify the content of propositional attitudes. The eliminativist’s most promising strategy is to argue that, whatever we might think about why we behave the way we do, careful experimental work will show that we are in fact acting in virtue of representations of properties and microfeatures that fall completely outside the ambit of propositional attitude psychology. The paper considers a number of examples of how this eliminativist strategy might be developed, ranging from the implications of the two visual systems hypothesis to research in social psychology into the role that situational factors play in controlling action. (shrink)