Churchland and Folk Psychology

I met Churchland’s article concerning Eliminative Materialism with mixed feelings. On one hand, I found many of his points to be valid, and he raised many good points in the beginning of his article; however, on the other hand his incessant attacks on some of the other approaches to explaining human behavior made me want to disagree with a lot of his ideas simply because he was so aggressive throughout his article when it came to proving his point.

One of the main notions that I had trouble agreeing with was Churchland’s belief that Neuroscience, once it becomes a fully actualized discipline, will effectively replace Folk Psychology. While I can see how Folk Psychology on its own will not be able to withstand the pressures of our evolving scientific community, I don’t think Neuroscience is going to be the thing that replaces it. I’m not familiar with Folk Psychology outside of this article, but the way it was explained made me think it was very reminiscent of early stages of what we have come to know as Psychology today. Given this, I would be comfortable stating that 1. Folk Psychology was the inspiration for the psychological discipline many of us are familiar with today, 2. Psychology developed from this early form of itself and 3. Psychology is the scientific discipline that will take/has taken the place of Folk Psychology.

Many of the mental phenomena that Folk Psychology fails to even address, let alone effectively explain (e.g., the nature and dynamics of mental illness, perceptual illusions, sleep, or memory and retrieval), are addressed and explained in most introductory Psychology courses (if you take Psyc 110 here you’ll get an answer to most of these questions). Additionally given the timeline that underlies Churchlands article in terms of the lack of development within Folk Psychology over the past twenty five centuries, it seems plausible that Psychology has its earliest roots in Folk Psychology, from which it has since branched off and become much more of an empirical discipline than Folk Psychology ever was. Because of these two reasons, it makes more sense, to me at least, that Churchland would cite Psychology not Neuroscience as Folk Psychology’s inevitable demise.

Leave a Reply