Saturday, December 19, 2009
Lycan on eliminative materialism
Take a look at William Lycan’s essay “A Particularly Compelling Refutation of Eliminative Materialism.” (Hat tip to Bill Vallicella.) It is a very good refutation indeed, and Aristotelian in spirit, though Lycan is himself a naturalist and not an Aristotelian.
I do have some minor complaints. Lycan’s criticism of eliminative materialism (EM) does not claim that EM is self-defeating, which is fine. But he also claims that such criticisms are “hopeless.” Why? He doesn’t tell us. Hopefully it isn’t merely because the proponent of EM needn’t be committed to “believing there are no beliefs,” for as we saw earlier (here and here), the incoherence problem for EM goes far deeper than that. And hopefully it isn’t because he thinks no prominent philosophical theory could plausibly be blatantly incoherent, for as we also saw earlier, that is indeed sometimes the case (e.g. the verificationist criterion of meaning).
Furthermore, while I agree with Lycan that metaphysics cannot overthrow common sense, that is emphatically not because metaphysics rests on mere “intuitions.” That contemporary academic philosophers are always appealing to what their “intuitions” tell them about this or that does not reflect anything more than the pathologies of contemporary academic philosophy, and tells us nothing about the nature of metaphysical inquiry as such. (You won’t find Aristotle or Aquinas appealing to their “intuitions.”)
But those are quibbles. After you read Lycan’s paper, take a look at his essay “Giving Dualism Its Due.” As these papers show, Lycan is no ideologue. He is the sort of naturalist dualists and other non-naturalists need to take seriously.