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Excerpt from Dreams

Eliminative Materialism (p. 224)

From chapter "Materialism"

Poking around a bit more, we learn of the existence of a philosophical cult, I mean, school, called eliminative materialism, which holds that “mental phenomena simply do not exist and will eventually be eliminated from people’s thinking about the brain in the same way that demons have been eliminated from people’s thinking about mental illness and psychopathology.”Yes, they’re saying what you think they’re saying. Or rather, I guess since thinking is a mental phenomenon, this means you’re not really thinking what you’re thinking, which means they’re saying what you’re not thinking they’re saying, but what you would think if thinking existed. “Some eliminativists argue that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire, since they are poorly defined. Rather, they argue that psychological concepts of behavior and experience should be judged by how well they reduce to the biological level.”Please note the assumptions, the stupidity, and indeed the stupid assumptions in this sentence. First, that beliefs and desires are psychological concepts (maybe, maybe not). Second, that a coherent neural basis exists for every psychological concept (maybe, maybe not). Third, that even if such a basis exists, it could necessarily be found (maybe, maybe not). Fourth, that the failure to find a neurological basis for some process proves (or for that matter even strongly suggests) that the process does not exist (it may suggest that, it may not). Fifth, that behavior and experience can be “reduced to the biological level” (maybe, maybe not). (Summing that part up: the inability to find a neural basis, or even the nonexistence of a neural basis, means that what we experience does not exist. This is nonsense, of course, in every meaning of the word. So, we should allow neuroscientists to define our experience—but who benefits from that?) Sixth, that “belief” and “desire” are poorly defined. And seventh, if the words “belief” and “desire” are poorly defined, then this somehow implies that belief and desire themselves don’t exist, as opposed to meaning the words are poorly defined. Idiots. Ronald Reagan defining “vegetable servings” to include french fries and ketchup implies nothing about the nutritional value of french fries and ketchup. Likewise, Plum Creek or the Forest Service defining some form of deforestation as “sustainable forestry” does not make it so. Abraham Lincoln is famously attributed as saying, “How many legs does a dog have if you call a tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.” The map is not the territory, and definitions aren’t the things themselves. You peeing on my leg and telling me that the liquid has the same chromatographic signature as the purest rainwater doesn’t make it so. It could be that chromatography does not always accurately portray reality. It could be that you’re a liar. It could be that you’re a member of the cult of the scientific, materialist, instrumentalist, mechanistic, managerial perspective. But I repeat myself.

The trauma continues: “Eliminativism maintains that the common sense understanding of the mind is mistaken, and that the neurosciences will one day reveal that the mental states that are talked about in every day discourse, using words such as ‘intend,’ ‘believe,’ ‘desire,’ and ‘love’, do not refer to anything real. Because of the inadequacy of natural languages, people mistakenly think that they have such beliefs and desires.”Thank you so much for telling me that my feelings don’t actually exist. I’m reminded of R. D. Laing, who says, “Our behaviour is a function of our experience. We act according to the way we see things. If our experience is destroyed, our behaviour will be destructive. If our experience is destroyed, we have lost our own selves.And thank you for letting me know that natural languages are inadequate, as opposed to, let me guess . . . the language of neuroscience! So I should not trust my own experience, but I should trust God, I mean Science. All of this of course leads to that classic comedy line (this time played out as both tragedy and farce), “So, what are you going to trust, my scientific, materialist, eliminative philosophy, or your lying eyes?” Well, they give us the answer to that, as well, when they say, “Other versions [of eliminative philosophy] entail the non-existence of conscious mental states such as pain and visual perceptions.”

Reflect on that for a moment.

Seriously, how do philosophers reproduce? Why would anyone want to get close enough to help them do that?

“Eliminative materialism is the relatively new (1960s–70s) idea that certain classes of mental entities that common sense takes for granted, such as beliefs, desires, and the subjective sensation of pain, do not exist.”Okay, on the count of three, let’s all simultaneously scream in intellectual (nonexistent) agony.

What is wrong with these people? They are effectively attempting to conjure subjective reality entirely out of existence, just as the insane culture that both supports and arises from them destroys the real, physical, living planet.

And I’m also not clear on whether these philosophers actually believe this stuff. Not only is their belief system counterexperiential, implausible, and insane, but doesn’t their belief system disallow belief?

Their rebuttals to this last question are as absurd as the rest of their cult’s beliefs. One rebuttal is simply to replace the word “belief” with the phrase “dispositions to utter certain sentences in certain circumstances.”As Wikipedia notes without judgment: “Sentences, on this view, are just sequences of certain sounds, and theories just sets of sentences.”See, all better now. Another rebuttal is something called—and I’m not making this up—“the deflationary theory of truth,” “a family of theories which all have in common the claim that assertions that predicate truth of a statement do not attribute a property called truth to such a statement.”Just for the record, the people who make this shit up are not poor mistreated residents of Bedlam, and no uncouth visitors pay a penny a piece to poke them and gawk at their antics. Rather, these are the madmen and madwomen who run the show. These crackpots get paid to write this: they’re heads of philosophy departments, and sadly their insanity influences the larger culture.

Oh, my aching head.

The deflationary theory of truth reveals much about how much philosophy works (or rather, doesn’t). In 1918, the German mathematician and philosopher Gottlob Frege noticed that the phrase is true is often redundant, or as he put it, “It is worthy of notice that the sentence ‘I smell the scent of violets’ has the same content as the sentence ‘It is true that I smell the scent of violets.’ So it seems, then, that nothing is added to the thought by my ascribing to it the property of truth.”So far, so good, kind of, at least superficially, and without context.

But then philosophers did what philosophers do, and abstracted this fairly simple and extremely context-specific statement, and wound it inside out and backwards until it was worse than useless. “There are sentences . . . in which the word ‘truth’ seems to stand for something real; and this leads the speculative philosopher to enquire what this ‘something’ is. Naturally he fails to obtain a satisfactory answer, since his question is illegitimate. For our analysis has shown that the word ‘truth’ does not stand for anything, in the way which such a question requires.”And on and on, through “disquotationalism” and “prosententialism,” and all sorts of other bits of nonsense that I couldn’t have gotten away with as a child. “Is it true that I ate two pieces of pie and left none for my sister? Well, since I could not express an answer to this question without a truth predicate along the lines of those defined by deflationary theories, it is the role of the truth predicate in forming such generalizations that characterizes all that needs to be characterized about the concept of truth. Can I go outside and play now? What? You’re still asking if it’s true that I ate two pieces of pie and left none for my sister? Well, then, I must say that I strongly reject the idea that truth is a property of some sort.” Honestly, that would have been a total non-starter.

“It is true” is only redundant if we remove all context. Let’s say I’m temporarily color blind, and let’s say a generic contextless someone says to me, “The tree’s leaves are green.” Sure, it might be redundant for another generic contextless person to say, “It is true that the tree’s leaves are green.” But let’s say that the first person is nicknamed Lying Steven. Then it’s certainly not redundant for Honest Diane to let me know that for once in his life Lying Steven isn’t lying. She can tell me, “It is true that the tree’s leaves are green.” Now, I recognize that she could simply have told me the color of the leaves herself, but this way she’s not only commenting on the leaves, but by implication on Steven breaking pattern. What if, for example, I didn’t know that his nickname was Lying Steven? In that case if she had simply followed him by saying, “The tree’s leaves are green,” I would have looked at her oddly and wondered if she repeats everything Steven says. But in following him by saying, “It is true that the tree’s leaves are green,” she is clueing me in to give Steven a hard stare that lets him know I suspect he’s a liar, maybe even a materialistic philosopher. Or she could have just said, “For once, Steven is not lying.” But maybe Steven has a gun, and a quick temper . . . There are countless ways “it is true” could be not redundant, if only we include context.

And whether or not “it is true” is redundant in that particular sentence says nothing about the nature of truth. Look at it this way. If I say, “I think these philosophers are idiots” (or, as R. D. Laing put it, “imbeciles with high IQs”), the words “I think” are redundant, because if I didn’t think that I wouldn’t write it. But those words being redundant in that sentence does not imply that no such thing as thinking exists. I could also say, “I think these philosophers are idiots. I feel they are sociopaths. I know they are full of shit.” In this case I think does convey different information.

Another problem with this whole abstractive philosophizing, apart from the fact that its lack of groundedness makes it both untrue and insane, is that what we just witnessed also in one sense forms the foundation for the scientific method, in that it’s based on reducing or eliminating all context from a scenario (that’s what an experiment does: attempt to eliminate all variables but one) and then on attempting to generalize or abstract from what may have been true in that one circumstance toward some sort of universality. This creates a terribly distorted misrepresentation of reality, which, as we can see, leads to terribly destructive behavior.

Back to eliminativism, where, finally, and we’ll come back to this later, we learn that “all forms of materialism are eliminativist about the soul.”

Now that we can at least see land at the far edge of this stinking pit of philosophy, it’s time to briefly describe the history of this philosophy that has been progressively conjuring reality out of existence—first other sides, then nonhuman sentience, then nonhuman subjective existence, then life itself (as it was replaced with a mechanistic view of the universe), and now at last human subjective existence. Blink. There go the muses. Blink. There go the dreamgivers. Blink. There goes everyone else on other sides. Blink. There go the other sides. Blink. There goes the intelligence of rocks, stars, rivers. Blink. There goes the intelligence of plants. Blink. There goes the intelligence of fungi. Blink. There goes the intelligence of nonhuman animals. Blink. There goes the subjective existence of all nonhumans, as they are now labeled as resources. Blink. There goes a living universe. Blink. There goes human intelligence. Blink. The last one to go needs to make sure and turn out the lights.

And of course the first to go was common sense.


None of this is abstract at all. Nor is it simply some parlor game played by the criminally insane. Remember, belief affects behavior, and if you’ve been taught since birth that nonhumans do not subjectively exist, you may very well end up perceiving them and then treating them as objects. If you’re taught from birth that truth correlates to forcing others to jump through hoops on command, you may be inclined to attempt to force others to jump through hoops on command. If you’re taught from birth that “Nature is not to be trusted,” you may very well not trust “Nature,” or the natural world, or your nonhuman neighbors. And if you’re taught to not trust someone, you may be more likely to try to control and/or kill this other whom you do not trust. And if you’re taught from birth that “Nature is not to be trusted,” and at the same time that “GE brings good things to life,” you may act upon those beliefs. You may end up trusting corporations (and certainly this culture) and not the natural world.

If you’re taught from birth that dreams are not to be trusted, you may not trust dreams. If, on the other hand, you’re taught that dreams are important ways that those on other sides (and the other sides themselves) speak to us and help us understand how to live, then you may listen more closely to dreams.

If from birth you are inculcated into the cult of the scientific, materialist, instrumentalist, mechanistic, managerial perspective, you may come to accept this religion as your own, and you may come to believe that its tenets describe the real world. If you believe deeply enough in the tenets of this religion—most especially that the world consists of objects to be exploited—you may murder the world. As we see.