What Eliminative Materialism Isn’t

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In this paper my aim is to get clearer on what eliminative materialism actually does and does not entail. I look closely at one cluster of views that is often described as a form of eliminativism in contemporary philosophy and cognitive science and try to show that this characterization is a mistake. More specifically, I look at conceptions of eliminativism recently endorsed by writers such as Edouard Machery (2009), Paul Griffiths (1997), Valerie Hardcastle (1999) and others, and argue that although these views do endorse the elimination of something, they offer only what I will call a sort of category dissolution, and should be treated as something altogether different from traditional eliminativism. Spelling out the main contrast(s) between eliminative materialism proper and this alternative view, and defending the need to keep them distinct, is my primary objective. As I show, a central irony is that proponents of the problematic outlook often insist that divergent things should not be classified together under a single label. By characterizing their own views as a form of eliminativism, they commit a fundamental error that they themselves argue should not be made. While my focus here is on eliminative materialism, the error I intend to highlight appears across various discussions about alleged eliminativism of all sorts of things.


Eliminative materialism; Eliminativism; Ontologically radical theory change; Ontologically conservative theory change; Conceptual fragmentation; Kind-dissolution


Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Philosophy of Mind



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