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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-W012-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

‘Eliminativism’ refers to the view that mental phenomena – for example, beliefs, desires, conscious states – do not exist. Although this can seem absurd on its face, in the twentieth century it has gained a wide variety of adherents, for example, scientific behaviourists, who thought that all human and animal activity could be explained in terms of the history of patterns of stimuli, responses and reinforcements; as well as some who have thought that neurophysiology alone is all that is needed.

Two immediate objections to eliminativism – for example, that it is incoherent because it claims there are no ‘claims’, and that it conflicts with data of which we are all immediately aware – arguably beg the question against the view. What is wanted is non-tendentious evidence for the mind. Contrary to behaviourism, this seems to be available in the intelligent behaviour of most higher animals.

Citing this article:
Rey, Georges. Eliminativism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-W012-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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