Eliminativism is a relatively new and controversial branch of philosophy of mind. This theory had its true start in the mid twentieth century. Eliminativism holds that there is no such thing as mental states as we commonly think of them. These theorists believe that folk psychology is wrong and will be proven false in the future.  

Eliminativism as a philosophy of mind is a form of materialism. The eliminativist purports that there is no such thing as mental events. One may think that by this they mean to say that there are only correlated neurological events, but they do not believe this either. Eliminativists believe that there is no correlation between neurological events and mental events, and that is simply because the latter do not exist. It is a hard idea to grasp, as it seems almost impossible to imagine that we do not feel, belief, or have any sort of emotions about what is going on in our life, but that is what the eliminativist suggests. 

Arguments for eliminativism draw mainly on contesting folk psychology.  Folk psychology is how we think of mental states of ourselves and other people. We draw conclusions based on past experience and knowledge, which is disturbing to the eliminativist. The eliminativist believes that folk psychology will be deemed wrong in the future, just as folk psychosis and medicine was. These ways of life (psychosis, medicine, etc.) may have been accepted at one point in history, but they were debunked as information proved them false.

Eliminativism is reminiscent of Dennett’s instrumentalist argument that mental states are just a way of handling with a complex system. Eliminativism holds this view too, but in a more extreme matter. Proponents of this theory of mind believe that mental states such as beliefs, desires, and emotions do not exist at all, and that we only hold onto such ideas as mental states because of the folk psychology.

Eliminativists believe however that to understand the true nature of reality, we must go beyond Dennett’s “intentional stance”, that of common sense, and “design stance”, that of mental events and sub-functions, and only worry ourselves in neuroscience or the “physical stance”. The eliminativist theory purports that there are no such thing as mental events, but rather only neurological events that do not correlate to the so-called mental events.

As said before, this philosophy of mind seems very hard to grasp, but if we look at past examples it becomes clearer. People used to believe that the Sun revolved around the Earth, which is where the phrases “sunset” and “sunrise” came from. Now, however, we know very well that the Sun does not revolve around the Earth, but rather the opposite. To people during the time of this discover, it surely came as a shock the Earth was not the center of the universe, and that the Sun was. However, since scientific evidence showed proof for this fact, it was accepted as a truth. This is how it may be in the future with further neuroscience research. It may be discovered that the brain is just that, and we will have to say goodbye to psychology as a whole, including folk psychology. But just as we still say sunset and sunrise, semantically speaking, eliminativists realize that speak of the mind will not cease for a long while even if such a discovery is made.

Though the eliminativist philosophy of mind may be a hard one to accept or even attempt to accept, it does base its evidence on observation of the past and how folk areas of study have as a majority been debunked. There will most likely never be an extremely large following for eliminativism as it gets rid of what most humans believe makes us ourselves, and that is our minds.


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