Monday, May 24, 2010

Introduction, Part I

The twenty-three papers in this volume, both individually and collectively, help to show why and in what ways materialism is on the wane. By saying that materialism is on the wane, we do not mean that materialism is in the process of being eclipsed—nor do we mean that materialism is likely to be eclipsed at any point in the foreseeable future. Indeed, there is good reason to think that materialism is a perennial fixture of philosophy (not to mention cognitive science). After all, materialism is a readily intelligible monistic worldview, appealing in its apparent simplicity, and a natural complement to the impressive ongoing successes in the natural sciences.

In spite of this, materialism is waning in a number of significant respects—one of which is the ever-growing number of major philosophers who reject materialism or at least have strong sympathies with anti-materialist views. It is of course commonly thought that over the course of the last sixty or so years materialism achieved hegemony in academic philosophy, and this is no doubt right by certain measures—for example, in absolute number of self-identified materialist philosophers of mind or in absolute number of books and journal articles defending materialism. It is therefore surprising that an examination of the major philosophers active in this period reveals that a majority, or something approaching a majority, either rejected materialism or had serious and specific doubts about its ultimate viability. The following is just a partial sampling of these philosophers, more or less in order of birth.

Bertrand Russell, Rudolf Carnap, Alonzo Church, Kurt Gödel, Nelson Goodman, Paul Grice, Stuart Hampshire, Roderick Chisholm, Benson Mates, Peter Strawson, Hilary Putnam, John Searle, Jerrold Katz, Alvin Plantinga, Charles Parsons, Jaegwon Kim, George Myro, Thomas Nagel, Robert Adams, Hugh Mellor, Saul Kripke, Eli Hirsch, Ernest Sosa, Stephen Schiffer, Bas van Fraassen, John McDowell, Peter Unger, Derek Parfit, Crispin Wright, Laurence BonJour, Michael Jubien, Nancy Cartwright, Bob Hale, Kit Fine, Tyler Burge, Terence Horgan, ColinMcGinn, Robert Brandom, Nathan Salmon, Joseph Levine, TimothyWilliamson, Mark Johnston, Paul Boghossian, Stephen Yablo, Joseph Almog, Keith DeRose, Tim Crane, John Hawthorne, Richard Heck, David Chalmers.

For all the people listed, we have documentation that they either rejected materialism or harbored serious and specific doubts about its ultimate viability. All the living philosophers listed (Putnam, Searle, Plantinga, Parsons, Kim, Nagel, and all those following) have given us explicit permission to include them on the list (under the description used in the sentence preceding this one). Limitations on space prevent us from giving a thorough presentation of citations; in the Bibliography, however, we cite relevant works by many of these philosophers. A comment about Russell and Carnap will be helpful here. Russell espoused, at different times, phenomenalism and robust neutral monism, each of which is antithetical to Reductive Materialism and also to the thesis that physical properties are metaphysically prior to—and hence are a supervenience base for—mental properties. See, e.g., Russell (1956). The young Carnap (of the Aufbau) was a phenomenalist. The mature Carnap (of ‘Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology’) endorsed a form of anti-realism incompatible with the sort of materialism prominent over the course of the last sixty or so years. Like the young Carnap, Nelson Goodman and Benson Mates were also phenomenalists, not materialists.

Materialism plainly has not achieved hegemony when it comes to philosophers of this high caliber.

Here, then, is one respect in which materialism has been on the wane. We will identify two further respects in a moment. But, first, it will be useful to say a few more words about what we mean by materialism.

1 comment:

  1. Just came across this. As I told George by email, Carnap would have been unhappy with his inclusion on this list. His physicalism is manifest in e.g. "Psychology in Physical Language", "Physical Language as the Universal Language of Science", and "Logical Foundations of the Unity of Science". Of course Carnap's deflationism about metaphysics complicates the question of what his physicalism comes to, but the preface of the second edition of the Aufbau makes it quite clear that he considered himself a physicalist at least from 1931 through the time of writing in 1961. (The earlier Carnap of the Aufbau was neutral between physicalism, phenomenalism, and other views.)