Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A simple question for eliminative materialism

A good deal of political dialogue today depends on whether one affirms:

1) Senior Bush administration officials made false statements about weapons of mass distruction in Iraq.


2) Senior Bush administration officials lied about weapons of mass destruntion in Iraq.

Folk psychology would explain this difference by saying that in 2, but not 1, affirms that senior Bush officials believed these statements were false when they made them. How would an eliminative materialist explain the difference?

This is the Wikipedia entry for eliminativism

1 comment:

Blue Devil Knight said...

This one is pretty easy and follows trivially from my five-million other posts. When I say someone is lying, I am not committing myself to propositional attitude psychology (which I don't "believe").

To lie is to know X is false, but to assert X anyway. The EM advocate would just say that knowledge is a property of internal nonpropositional representational states that can be true or false, or if you prefer, can provide a better or worse fit to the world. This, of course, is the positive story Churchland has been developing with his state space semantics, or recently he's been calling it 'domain portrayal' semantics.

Victor, you keep giving indirect arguments. What about the contents of your visual experience: are they propositional?

No matter what your answer, I think I can capture you on two horns:
1) They are propositional. Since this isn't based on phenomenology (at least I don't see propositions), what is it based on? For people with arguments (e.g., Fodor), it is based on a theory of human vision that is used to explain behavior in various psychophysical experiments. So in this case you are stuck with your view being a theory that has to compete with other theories. I know you don't like that.

2) They are nonpropositional. In this case, what is to be feared if all contents are nonpropositional in a similar way? Our visual experience is extremely rich, much more thick and nuanced than can be described in a few words. Perhaps most of our brain uses a similar high-capacity, parallel, nonpropositional representational format, and linguistic tokens are anemic reflections of such rich internal contents.

Another option is to deny that your visual experience has any content. That would be weird. You could also say it has both propositional and nonpropositional contents, but in that case you must address both horns of the dilemma.