Journal Article

Transcendental Arguments Against Eliminativism

Robert Lockie

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 54, issue 4, pages 569-589
Published in print December 2003 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online December 2003 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Transcendental Arguments Against Eliminativism

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Eliminativism was targeted by transcendental arguments from the first. Three responses to these arguments have emerged from the eliminativist literature—the heart of which is that such arguments are question-begging. These responses are shown to be incompatible with the position—eliminativism—they are meant to defend. Out of these failed responses is developed a general transcendental argument against eliminativism (the ‘Paradox of Abandonment’). Eliminativists have anticipated this argument, but their six different attempts to counter it are shown to be separately inadequate, mutually incompatible, and, again, incompatible with the position that they are seeking to defend.

The conception of eliminativism under consideration

Transcendental arguments and three eliminativist responses

First eliminativist response: ‘That's not an argument, that's my thesis’

3.1 Tacit theory

3.2 Future theory

3.3 Vindicating relationship

Second eliminativist response: reductio ad absurdum

Third eliminativist response: the ‘overdrawn’ objection

The paradox of abandonment and six eliminativist counters

6.1 Backwards intelligibility

6.2 Schizophrenia

6.3 A successor account of rationality

6.4 Internal coherence

6.5 Disagreement is on a continuum

6.6 Rational comparison is not transitive

His struggle with words was unusually painful and this for two reasons. One was the common one with writers of his type: the bridging of the abyss lying between expression and thought; the maddening feeling that the right words, the only words are awaiting you on the opposite bank in the misty distance, and the shudderings of the still unclothed thought clamouring for them on this side of the Abyss. He had no use for ready made phrases because the things he wanted to say were of an exceptional build and he knew moreover that no real idea can be said to exist without the words made to measure. So that (to use a closer simile) the thought which only seemed naked was but pleading for the clothes it wore to become visible, while the words lurking afar were not empty shells as they seemed, but were only waiting for the thought they had already concealed to set them aflame and in motion. (Nabokov [2001], p. 70)

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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