All posts by Malcolm James Robinson

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.

The Only Certainty is Uncertainty

What am I?

What is “I”?

These two fundamental questions that Descartes grapples with throughout his two meditations present the reader with some interesting logic to follow. I can agree with Descartes’ desires to re-lay his foundation of beliefs so as to have a more authentic base to build future knowledge upon. However, as he continues through his first meditation, the tone of doubt that permeates his logic made me ask a few questions:

1. Why is this alleged great deceiver, if there is one actually working against man and God, going through such great lengths to construct this idea of being alive? What would be the point of that?

2. If all belief is discounted based upon the abovementioned assumption by Descartes, then what is he looking for to “counter-balance the weight of old opinion”? (3)

I found the reasoning in the first meditation to be a bit too aggressive. To completely discount every belief on this quest for enlightenment seemed a bit too hasty for me. I’m of the mindset that our beliefs keep us alive. They’re the reasons we continue going through life. We believe that if we do certain things consequences whether desirable or undesirable will follow. This is the ebb and flow of life (in my opinion). If you don’t believe in anything what do you do?

The second meditation was a bit more rational because of the supposition that as beings we could believe at least one thing: We are thinking things that exist, comprised of doubts, understanding, affirmation, denial, desires, refusals, imagination and awareness. But this was the only thing Descartes was willing to believe beyond the shadow of a doubt. If this was to be his new foundation to build upon, what else was there out in the universe to believe? He had discredited everything else other than this singular notion.

I can understand and appreciate where Descartes is coming from with these meditations, but overall I found these two together to be a bit egocentric in the sense that it was focused so much on him. The only belief he allowed to exist at his core was the belief that he existed, and everything else, according to him, was a product of some great deception. What if someone else were to come to this same conclusion. Would both of them be right (they were each individually the only thing that existed and they each individually were just products of great deception in the mind of the other)? How could this be explained? I’m sure with the rest of the meditations Descartes’ logic is flushed out more extensively, but these are my first impression of reading him.