Practical eliminativist materialism

Eliminativist materialism is a perspective in the philosophy of mind that, in normal language, says beliefs, desires, consciousness, free will, and other pillars of subjective experience don’t actually, um, exist. It’s right there in the name: the materialisms are the philosophies of mind that are over The Soul and “eliminativist” is just what it sounds like. I’m actually sympathetic to the view, but reading the Wikipedia article makes me realize that I’ve got to refine my position a bit. Here’s what I think I believe right now:

  • To the extent that experiencing them makes it possible to account for them, there’s going to exist a way to account for them in terms of neural and biological processes.
  • I believe that we’ll probably never really understand that account. Even if we manage to create artificial entities that satisfy us that they are conscious, we won’t really know how we did it. This is already happening.
  • So, as far as humans are concerned, eliminativist materialism will turn out to be practically true, even if it somehow turns out not to be more true than the other materialisms.

Given all that, I think of eliminativist materialism as possibly right and probably less wrong than any other prominent philosophy of mind. Call it “practical eliminativist materialism.” If you think I’m full of crap, that’s totally OK, but unlike you, my stoner musings about the nature of consciousness have been legitimized by society with a doctorate in cognitive science. Those aren’t really good for anything else, so I’m gonna go ahead and keep musing about the nature of consciousness.