I usually don’t agree with Hiero5ant, but I think his comment based on what he heard Pat Churchland say is pretty significant. He said that Pat said that she would probably not call her position eliminativism if she were developing it today.
The point I am making here is that the Churchlands do propose to replace propositional attitude psychology with successor concepts, and that those concepts are intentional concepts. In fact, those successor concepts have play a role in propositional knowledge. Scientific knowledge is knowledge that f=ma, that humans evolved from primate ancestors, etc. Eliminativists think that they know that eliminativism is true. The challenge is to see how these successor concepts can really replace propositonal attitudes without being propositional attitudes.
The Churchlands wrote an essay entitled “Intertheoretic Reduction: A Neuroscientist’s Field Guide,” in On the Contrary: Critical Essays 1987-1997 (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1988) in which they distinguish three types of intertheoretic reductions: conservative, reforming, and eliminiative. The reduction of temperature in a gas to the mean kinetic energy of the gas’s molecules was a conservative reduction, in that it doesn’t require us to reconceive temperature in any radical way in order to view it as the MKE of the molecules. The secondary qualities of temperature, how it feels, are not denied, they are simply pronounced to be the way we react to temperature rather than something in temperature itself. If the concept of temperature was essential to the meaning of our lives, this type of reduction would not threaten us in any way.
The second type is a reforming reduction, which shows that an earlier theory had significantly misconceived the phenomena it covered. Newtonian mass is replaced in relativity theory with mass relative to a frame of reference, but we were not just dead wrong when we used the concept of mass.
The most radical is an eliminative reduction. In this, the old idea is so wide of the mark that it is simply deleted by the new theory. No single has does the work of phlogiston, but phlogiston is replaced by a theory that distinguishes between oxygen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide.
Now, what I have trouble understanding is what sense it makes to say that any reduction of mental states is can possibly be eliminative, because whatever the replacement theory is going to do, it is going to have to do the work that propositional attitudes do in any account of propositional knowledge. Second, are there any hard and fast rules for determining whether a reduction is eliminative or reforming? Bill Ramsey, a former student of Stich who last I heard taught at Notre Dame, while willing to defend eliminativism against my self-refutationist attacks in an exchange in Inquiry in 1990-91, nevertheless doesn’t really embrace eliminativism himself because of this problem. Isn’t the term eliminativism here just misleading?
Hasker maintains that functionalism is quasi-eliminiativism, in the sense that it removes important parts of what we ordinarily understand our mental lives to consist in.