Wrongheaded Reduction Redounds

When you explain something away, the explanation is no longer about anything, for the explanation has deleted the thing explained from among the things that are real, and that are therefore amenable to explanation. But this means that the explanation itself signifies nothing. Statements of the form, “x is nothing but y,” then, are strictly meaningless. If there is no such thing as x, but only y, then there is no relation between x and y, and so no way to explain such relations. If there are no unicorns, then we might be able to discuss and explain the *idea* of unicorns, but not unicorns themselves, there being no such thing to explain. Explanations of fabulous things are all themselves fabulous.

So, technically, eliminative materialism is just meaningless noise. Thoroughgoing eliminative materialists do not disagree with this statement.

Proper reduction never explains away; rather, it increases the specificity and concreteness of our understanding of things. So, not, nor anything like, “thoughts are nothing but neuronal firings,” but rather something like “thoughts are manifest in neuronal activity.” That thoughts are manifest in neuronal activity deletes no jot of the ontological facticity of thoughts. On the contrary; it fleshes out that facticity.

4 thoughts on “Wrongheaded Reduction Redounds

  1. Pingback: Wrongheaded Reduction Redounds | Neoreactive

  2. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/04/10) | The Reactivity Place

  3. >But this means that the explanation itself signifies nothing. (…) So, technically, eliminative materialism is just meaningless noise.

    These two are very different statements. Meaningless statements are useless statements, but explanations that in themselves do not signify anything, that simply kill a certain class of questions or concepts are pretty useful, as long as we concede this concept-killing can be a useful thing, if we are bit of an Occamists, who don’t want to be burdened with a million conceptual entities, but would rather have fewer but more versatile ones. If you plan to write an essay about 10 things and then realize you can cut it down to 6 because other 4 are just variations of these 6, don’t you feel lightened?

    • Statements of the form, “x is really the same thing as y when you examine them carefully” can indeed be useful, and meaningful. But when we take them to mean that x does not exist at all, they can lead us astray.

      E.g., “2 + 3 = 5.” But “2 + 3” denotes an operation, whereas “5” denotes a quantity. That 2 + 3 = 5 does not mean that there is no such thing as either 5 or the operation “2 + 3.”

Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s