Can Folk Psychology be defended from Paul Churchland’s criticisms of it? The nature and status of Folk Psychology (FP) in philosophy circles is controversial. In this essay I shall begin by briefly defining what folk psychology is. Followed by an outline on eliminativism where some of the controversy lies. My main focus will be on Paul Churchland’s views and his arguments against FP, as this will enable me to facilitate an assessment of his criticisms. Subsequent to that I will search for my own view in the defence of FP in the light of its proponents such as Horgan and Woodward or Dennet. By doing this I will then be able to gauge the plausibility of Churchland’s criticisms of FP. Folk psychology (FP) is the name given by eliminativists to the common sense understanding of the mind (Mind and Bodies p82). A common sense view which accepts that we all have desires and emotions such as fear, lust, beliefs, desire, pain, pleasure ,love, hate, joy attraction and so forth. These different states of being are utilized in what are called propositional attitudes which show intent. An example of a propositional attitude is Brenda ‘believes’ she can win the lottery, therefore ‘believes’ is the intentionality in this propositional attitude. The view of FP encapsulated by Paul Churchland is that it “embodies our baseline understanding of the cognitive, affective, and purposive nature of person. Considered as a whole, it constitutes our conception of what a person is”. (Churchland in Guttenplan, 1994, p.308) Before we go on to examine Churchlands criticism of FP, I think it would be useful to give a brief overview of the eliminativists viewpoint regarding FP. Eliminative materialism (also called eliminativism) is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Its primary claim is that people's common-sense understanding of the mind (or folk psychology) is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist (Wilkinson, Mind and...
Bibliography: Churchland P. M. (1981). ‘Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes’, Journal of Philosophy, vol. 78, no. 2.
Dennett D. C. (1981) ‘Three kinds of intentionality’ First published in Henley (1981); reprinted in Dennett (1987).
Horgan, T. And Woodward, J. (1985) ‘Folk psychology is here to stay’, Philosophical Review, 94, pp.197–225.
Wilkinson, Mind and Bodies Book 5 Open University Milton Keynes
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