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The Philosopher’s Magazine Interviews Patricia Churchland

Julian Baggini of The Philosopher’s Magazine interviews Patricia Churchland (UC-San Diego). The interview can be found here. Most of the discussion revolves around her new book Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality. Here is an excerpt from their discussion, when Baggini asked why she (and her husband Paul Churchland) called their position ‘eliminative materialism’:

Churchland: I can tell you why we did that. It was a conscious decision. The expression wasn’t new with us. It came from Richard Rorty. Who is Richard Rorty? He was a big gun at Princeton. Who were we? Very little fish in this nothing place in Canada. And we had this very self- conscious conversation, where we said, well, look, what are we going to do with this? We talked about calling it revisionary materialism, and Paul said, look, if we introduce a whole new term here (a) people aren’t going to recognise it, so they aren’t going to read it, and (b) they’re going to say who the fuck are these upstarts, and we will simply be dismissed. So we thought better to take something that’s recognisable and go with it. In the end I think that was a mistake. I’d call it revisionary materialism if I had to do it all over again, I’d call it really nice guy materialism if I had that opportunity, I’d give it a really nice name.

Baggini: Because really nothing’s eliminated at all, is it? It’s about the level of explanation.

Churchland: Of course. And that was always the idea. It wasn’t that real things are going to be eliminated. It was that you might re-organise. In the way that impetus fell out, maybe the will will fall out, maybe they’ll be other things…

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