Chapter

Eliminativism and the Problem of Epiphenomenalism

Helen Steward

in The Ontology of Mind

Published in print March 2000 | ISBN: 9780198250647
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191681318 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198250647.003.0010

Series: Oxford Philosophical Monographs

Eliminativism and the Problem of Epiphenomenalism

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In Chapter 8 it was argued that the token identity theory is not only false, but proves ultimately to be unintelligible, when it is conceived of as a general theory of the nature of mind, i.e., as a theory which is intended to encompass such psychological ‘states’ as beliefs, desires, intentions, and so on. This chapter traces two lines of thought which can be seen to be rooted in the token identity theory, in the sense that both, in their different ways, arose out of the perception that that theory was not satisfactory, despite its attractive simplicity, as an attempt to provide a physicalistically respectable understanding of the nature of psychological states. The first line of thought led to a radical conclusion and to what might justly be called a new position in the philosophy of mind — eliminativism; the second has not really resulted in the emergence of a new philosophical position, as such, since its end-point — the conclusion that mental properties have no causal relevance to anything (a conclusion referred to as ‘epiphenomenalism’) — has (rightly) normally been regarded as a reductio ad absurdum of its presuppositions.

Keywords: philosophy of mind; eliminativism; ephiphenomenalism; identity theory; states

Chapter.  7400 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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