Deconstructing the Mind

Stephen P. Stich

in Deconstructing the Mind

Published in print January 1999 | ISBN: 9780195126662
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199868322 | DOI:

Series: Philosophy of Mind Series

Deconstructing the Mind

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Though many arguments have been offered for eliminativism, they all have a common structure. They begin with the premise that beliefs, desires, and other commonsense mental states are the posits of a widely shared, largely tacit psychological theory – “folk psychology.” The second premise of the argument, defended in many different ways, is that folk psychology is a seriously mistaken theory. From these premises, eliminativists draw the conclusion that commonsense mental states do not exist. However, the premises do not entail the conclusion, so some additional premise is necessary. One way to fill the gap is to appeal to a description theory of reference. But the description theory of reference has been challenged by the causal‐historical theory of reference. So in order to determine whether the eliminativist argument is sound, it appears we must determine which theory of reference is the correct one, and to do this, we must say what a theory of reference is supposed to do – what facts it is supposed to capture. Various accounts of what a theory of reference is supposed to do are considered, but none of them, it is argued, will help determine whether the eliminativist conclusion follows from the premises. Other ways of filling the gap are also considered and rejected; the most promising of these invokes the normative naturalism strategy.

Keywords: belief; causal‐historical theory of reference; description theory of reference; desire; eliminativism; folk psychology; normative naturalism; thought

Chapter.  44650 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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