1PHYSICALISM, ONTOLOGY AND EXPLANATION
DOI link for 1PHYSICALISM, ONTOLOGY AND EXPLANATION
1PHYSICALISM, ONTOLOGY AND EXPLANATION book
The once incredible view that human beings are just complex collections of purely physical parts has by now gained very wide acceptance. Among workers in both the new and the traditional cognitive disciplines this is a natural attitude, which perhaps would be heuristically justified even if non-materialist background views were held. But the fundamental and sincere view of psychology, as well as the other disciplines in the protosubject of cognitive science, is thoroughly materialistic. A recent introduction to cognitive science, Philip Johnson-Laird’s The Computer and the Mind (Johnson-Laird (1988, p. 383)) provides an example of some interest since a putative opposition between what Johnson-Laird calls materialism and computationalism is presumed. However, even to obtain the appearance of opposition Johnson-Laird must implausibly construe materialism as strongly eliminative-there is not the slightest doubt that the computational processes that underlie human psychology are realized in the brain. The endorsement of materialism is no less prevalent among philosophers who concern themselves with the ‘world-knot’ of the mind-body problem, although there is currently a small but growing list of iconoclastic dissenters (see e.g. Jackson (1982), Hart (1988), Maddell (1988) and Robinson (1988)). These dissenters often echo my point; Wylbur Hart says of his own book: ‘orthodoxy needs devil’s advocates; they have a serious part in the play of ideas even if committed heterodoxy invites excommunication’ (1988, p. x). Amongst the general population there may yet remain a conviction that some sort of nonphysical and necessarily mysterious component separates human kind from the rest of nature. But, for what it’s worth, my informal surveys of college students would suggest otherwise. The admittedly biased sample that enrols in philosophy of mind courses is,virtually unanimously and quite unreflectively, agreed that ‘mind’ and ‘brain’ are interchangeable terms. Materialism, or as it is now more commonly labelled physicalism,1 is unquestionably the dominant starting-point for assaults on the mind-body problem.