Eliminative materialism

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Eliminative materialism, also referred to as philosophical illiteracy or p-zombification, posits that common understanding of mental/subjective phenomena is false, taking drastic steps when it comes to the mind-body issue. Some positions within eliminative materialism argue that some or even all mental states do not exist.[1] It is a form of materialism. Duh. Analytical philosopher Patricia ChurchlandWikipedia is eliminativist about propositional attitudes such as beliefs,[2] whilst Daniel Dennett and Georges ReyWikipedia are eliminativist about qualia such as pain and emotions.[3][4]


If this seems self-refuting, as Paul Boghossian argued,[5][6] as well as anti-axiomatic, it's because it is, although eliminativists can respond to this by saying intuitive ideas can be wrong.[7] When an eliminative materialist questions the existence of mind, what are they doing? To the eliminative materialist, there is neurons and the illusion of mind. The question now is how mind and “illusion of mind” are different. Where is the illusion? What is an illusion? This has been criticized by William G. Lycan.[8] While a dualist would say mind cannot be explained by physicalistic means at this time, therefore ghosts live in the pineal gland, an eliminative materialist would say mind cannot be explained by physicalistic means, therefore mind doesn’t exist. The half-assing eliminators who eliminate only some mental characteristics but not others are very arbitrary in their selections. "Hmmm, should I pick beliefs, desires, emotions, feelings, thoughts, identities, goat hair, or knowledge? So many choices!"


  1. Eliminative Materialism. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  2. Churchland, Patricia; Churchland, Paul (1998). On the contrary : critical essays, 1987-1997. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262531658. OCLC 42328879.
  3. Ramsey, William, "Eliminative Materialism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/materialism-eliminative/> Section 4.2.
  4. Dennett, D. (1988) "Quining Qualia" in: Marcel, A and Bisiach, E (eds), Consciousness in Contemporary Science, 42-77. New York, Oxford University Press.
  5. Boghossian, P. (1990). "The Status of Content."Philosophical Review. 99: 157-84.
  6. Boghossian, P. (1991). "The Status of Content Revisited." Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. 71: 264-78.
  7. Churchland, P.M. and Churcland, P. S. (1998). Intertheoretic Reduction: A Neuroscientist's Field Guide. On the Contrary Critical Essays, 1987-1997. Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press: 65-79.
  8. Lycan, W. "A Particularly Compelling Refutation of Eliminative Materialism" ((online)). Retrieved Sept. 26, 2006.