Contemporary Versions of Materialism: Psychophysical Identity, Supervenience, Eliminationism.

Stanisław Judycki

Zeszyty Naukowe KUL 38 / 1995 nr. 3-4 p. 46-61

Abstract

The paper describes several versions of contemporary materialism. The materialism which is referred to in the text is connected with a philosophy of mind and mainly problems of mind, its physical character and its mental states are being discussed. The author starts from the division (or rather topology) of the motives leading to the materialistic position: 1. Those which come from the general physical assumptions. 2. Motives which come from certain analysis regarding functions of our notion apparatus in other fields than psychology and neurophysiology and from the conveyance of the results of such analysis to the philosophy of mind. 3. Motives which base on the successful inter-theoretical reductions and which assumes that those reductions can also be applied in the relations between psychological and physical phenomena. 4. Empirical reasons which refer to the results of neurophysiologic researches. The topology applied above is not very clear but it is getting clearer when it is commented in details.

Physicalism, which is understood philosophically so that all the objects that subsist are of the physical character or are combined with the other physical objects, is briefly described in the paper. More attention is devoted to the notion analysis. It leads to the theory of mental identity which is known in two versions: type-type identity and token-identity. In reference to the successful inter-theoretical reductions the most often cited example is the reduction of the so called phenomenological thermodynamics to statistic mechanics. The reductions are divided by the author in two categories: “soft” and “hard”. “Soft” reductions, to the contrary of “hard” ones, do not eliminate the old, reduced theories, but explain better observables. The empirical reasons also give rise to the identity theory. The most important facts are the discovered correlations between the neuronal activity and mental events.

The identity theory is criticized on the basis of the notion of “identity” explained by Leibniz. The apologetics answer that the mental states are not “beings”, which identity can be asserted, but rather are of logical (abstractive) character like the functional states of the whole organism. Things like “mousetrap” are identified by the description of its function. The same refers to the psychological notions. The adversaries of the functionalism rise two arguments: Robots posses all the function required to say that they also have “consciousness” what sounds strange. The another is the so called “knowledge argument”.  We cannot describe, only by its functions the phenomenon of sight to the person which was born blind.

The different materialistic position is supervenience.  The author recalls D. Davidson and its theory. Supervenience does not eliminate the mental events but claims only that they built over the physical foundation. Each change in the foundation causes change in the mental events.

At the end of the text the character of the so called “folk psychology” is commented together with the problem of mind – body and mind-mind relations.

Commentary

On the basis of the text itself it is hard to indentify the position of the author. The text is purely descriptive and tries to present as comprehensible as possible the various ideas and solution of the contemporary problems of mind and body, emphasizing the materialistic approach. No conclusions are met at the end.

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