Grant on eliminativism

Posted by | Chris | 24.9.11 | 1 Comment

What Iain Grant thinks about eliminativism:
In many ways, Schelling’s naturalistic realism offers a counterpoint to the eliminativist strategy in contemporary neurophilosophy: if ideation is electrochemistry, electrochemistry grounds, rather than undermines, all ideation. Therefore, to eliminate one ideation (that has its electrochemical grounds) in favour of another cannot be grounded in physics. (Philosophies of Nature After Schelling: 188)

[continued from the above in a footnote] This is because the metaphysics of eliminativism are complex, involving an epochal or futuralizing Nietzscheanism and a radically synthetic theory of constitutive identity construction: neurolinguistic identities do not simply represent the fruit of epistemological and empirical researches, but trigger a gestalt-shift and reinvent the world. Folk psychology is condemned therefore for its lack of physicalist imagination, rather than any missing physical grounds – what philosopher could disagree? (Ibid: 197)

Is it possible that there is a realism which is in some sense eliminativist? Because if so, then there are all sorts of ontological problems with that. If not, then, if nothing can be eliminated, then we have a situation where it no longer makes sense to ask, ‘What is the difference between a hobbit and a quark?’, or for that matter, between Rorty and Husserl! Actually, is there one? Or rather what are the differences? There are several differences between these entities, but to use a difference as a disqualification for their being ‘real’ or not is simply to beg the question about realism, fundamentally. And for that reason, it seems to me that a non-eliminative realism is committed to becoming a form of idealism, in which case we merely extend realism to the Ideas: In which case we no longer have the problem of the separativity, the subtraction, of ideation from nature, which you were suggesting might be a problem. (Collapse 3: 321)

So, for example, this is the method of eliminativism: I’m investigating an object, call it a car, and this car, it is alleged, drives by itself. Now my job is to explain how it is that the car drives, and at the end of the explanation it should be clear. The false explanations have been gotten rid of and a good explanation put in their place. So, let’s say all those criteria have been satisfied, let’s say that is achieved. What has the theory achieved at the epistemic level? It’s managed to produce exactly that explanation. What’s achieved ontologically? It’s managed to commit itself to an ontology which requires that things that do not exist exist in order that they be eliminated. So it’s ontologically inconsistent but epistemologically necessary. I can see its virtue, or I can see its requirement epistemologically. But the question must be put, I think, the other way around: If we work out what the ontology demands, then that provides a means of working out answers to the differences between good and bad explanations, whatever they might be. My suspicion is that otherwise we find ourselves backed into an unsustainable metaphysics of not-being. (Ibid:365)


One Response to “Grant on eliminativism”

  1. Michael-
    3/12/12 22:16

    all of that is barely, and I mean minimally, intelligible... So many hidden assumptions framing this sketch of what eliminativism is capable of that I hardly recognize it. Odd.

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