Eliminative Materialim Eliminative Materialism Eliminativists believe that there is something fundamentally mistaken about the common-sense conception of the mind. Elimin-ativists suggest that for man to move forward in his understanding of the mind he must drop part or all of this common sense conception in favor of one which does not use notions such as belief, experience, sensations and the like. The rationale for this suggestion is that these notions are fraught with conceptual difficulties as well as being recalcitrant to any reduction to natural science. Eliminativist propose to replace common sense conception with a materialist or physicalist conception and for this reason they are referred to as eliminative materialists. W.V. Quine can be considered Eliminativist.
Many believe Quine is an Eliminativist since his remarks about materialism and the mind often seem to occur when his interest is in understanding and linguistic representation. Such Eliminativist remarks are found throughout his writings in States of Mind. One example would be A mental state is not always manifested in behavior. Physically construed, it is a state of nerves. In States of Mind Quine disagrees with the concept of dualisim which submits that the mind and body are two separate entities that interact and influence each other . Quine says we are all one substance and our mental state is also our physical state.
This means that our mental states are equal to our neural states/physical states. He clearly states his meaning here: The only change is that we reckon mental states as states of the body rather than as states of another substance, the mind, (pg. 287, The Nature of Mind). Where as dualists see that the physical and mental states as separate states or entities. Eliminativists use terms one associates with mental states to refer to bodily state.
Thus they are also physicalists. They believe that observed behavior of the body results in the naming of our mental states. Quine reflects on how we learn the mentalistic terms to give reinforcement to his beliefs. He tells us that when one is young and one is learning about ones mental states, one associates names with those mental states because one is told to. This means that when one is hit on the head as a young child and gets a sensation or rather, mental state, someone else comes a long, observes this behavior and says that because they were hit on the head the mental state that they are sensing must be pain. So naming our mental states is something learned.
As Quine says, Mental states, construed as states of nerves, are like diseases. A disease may be diagnosed in the light of observable signs though the guilty germ be still unknown to science. We may not know if we diagnosed the word pain as the correct mind state but the symptoms of hitting ones head would allow us to believe that as true. He is not telling us to just hand off what we have learned. He is only asking us to use more neural talk when we are discussing our minds so we arent miss labeling anything. Quine consistently denies that a distinction can be drawn between naming the mental states and identifying nervous sensations he reputes naming mental states in example pain etc. in favor of states of nerves(pg.
288, The Nature of Mind). Hence he is content to talk states of nerves identification but again in everyday life he thinks it is all right to use are normal linguistics structure to discuss what is happening to us or has happened to us. In Persons Without Minds, by Richard Rorty, another Elimin-ativist, looks at eliminative materialism from the point of view that we have traveled to the other side of the universe and found these aliens that are almost identical to us except for the fact that they dont understand the notion of a mind, (pg. 268, The Nature of Mind). Instead of feeling pain these aliens, known as Antipodeans, have neural state, such as C-fiber 692. We as humans try to analyze if Antipodeans really do have a mind or not.
Rorty approaches these Antipodeans very carefully, first analyzing them with Phenomenal Properties, coming up with questions like `When they report that their C-fibers seem to be firing, are they reporting a feeling (perhaps the same feeling that we report by pain!) or are they just making the noises which are triggered by their neurons being in certain states?` And if this so, since the role played in our lives by report of feelings is the same as the role played in Antipode lives by report of neurons, we face the further question: Are we reporting feelings or neurons when we use pain?(pg. 272, The Nature of Mind). This very materialistic view is what Rorty is trying to analyze. It is also very similar to Quines view that we really have no idea what is actually happening within the mind and what we do know is only the bodily behavior which we have labeled from our experiences of observed bodily behavior and the names we have heard others call it. .
Later in Rortys writings, he states that if we taught our children not to call the mental state pain not by pain but by the neural fiber instead, we may be able to find out if we really feel pain or if it is just a neural state. When it comes down to it though, Rorty does not whole heartily agree with the eliminativist because he does not support all of their ideas. This position seems to hold out hope of a sense in which the materialists metaphysical claim Mental states are nothing but neural states can be cheaply bought.(pg. 282, The Nature of Mind) He thinks it cheap because it defends itself without the need to do anything as laborious or as shady as philosophical analysis. This in turn meaning that philosophers dont have to do any work if they apply Eiminativism because they can say there is no such thing as sensations and at the same time what people call sensations viz., neural states, do in fact exist.
He also feels that eliminative and reductive materialism should be thrown out. I think that the reductive and eliminative version of identity theory are both merely awkward attempts to throw into current philosophical jargon our natural reaction to an encounter with the Antipodeans, I do not think that the difference between the two should be pressed.They both should be abounded He thinks this because in his opinion the proper reaction to the Antipodean analogy would be materialism which is not any where close to the identity theory and avoids an artificial conception one must wait on `an adequate theory of meaning (or reference)`before deciding issues in the philosophy of the mind. He thinks if one refer to this theory one will be avoiding ones job as a philosopher because one cant explain any thing about the mind and its states with out knowing the true neural states which at this time can not be differed. Rorty does think that it would be pointless to speak Antipodean because nothing would change in our lives, no matter what one has to relate ones mental states to something, whether it be the word pain or C-fiber and we would never be sure of what it really is, even if it is to Rorty only a neural state. Quine is a supporter of eliminative materialism and Rorty is intrigued with the idea but is not promote its practical use.
Quine is supportive of it because he thinks it would help us get through the language problems we have when describing our feelings and help us advance further in our quest of discovering more about the mind. Rorty on the other hand, thinks that even if we did change the way we speak it would not change anything that matters, so why do it. However he does indicate that eliminative materialism is a more favorable way to approach description our senses than the learned sensory terms that we now use. Philosophy Essays.