Via Ed Feser, I see that that Paul Churchland's Matter and Consciousness has appeared in a third edition. Just what the world needs. I concur with Ed's judgment:
The only thing more outrageous than Churchland’s persistence in superficiality and caricature would be the continued widespread use of his book as a main text for introductory courses in philosophy of mind -- at least if it were not heavily supplemented with readings that correct his errors, and actually bother to present the main arguments for dualism.
To 'celebrate' this great event in the publishing world, I post a revised version of an entry from about five years ago:
The most obvious objection to eliminative materialism (EM) is that it denies obvious data, the very data without which there would be no philosophy of mind in the first place. Introspection directly reveals the existence of pains, anxieties, pleasures, and the like. Suppose I have a headache. The pain, qua felt, cannot be doubted or denied. Its esse is its percipi. To identify the pain with a brain state makes a modicum of sense, at least initially; but it makes no sense at all to deny the existence of the very datum that gets us discussing this topic in the first place. But Paul M. Churchland (Matter and Consciousness, rev. ed. MIT Press, 1988, pp. 47-48) has a response to this sort of objection:
The eliminative materialist will reply that that argument makes the same mistake that an ancient or medieval person would be making if he insisted that he could just see with his own eyes that the heavens form a turning sphere, or that witches exist. The fact is, all observation occurs within some system of concepts, and our observation judgments are only as good as the conceptual framework in which they are expressed. In all three cases — the starry sphere, witches, and the familiar mental states — precisely what is challenged is the integrity of the background conceptual frameworks in which the observation judgments are expressed. To insist on the validity of one's experiences, traditionally interpreted, is therefore to beg the very question at issue. For in all three cases, the question is whether we should reconceive the nature of some familiar observational domain.
Even if we grant that "all observation occurs within some system of concepts," is the experiencing of a pain a case of observation? If you know your Brentano, you know that early on in Psychology From an Empirical Standpoint he makes a distinction between inner observation (innere Beobachtung) and inner perception (innere Warhnehmung). Suppose one suddenly becomes angry. The experiencing of anger is an inner perception, but not an inner observation. The difference is between living in and through one's anger and objectifying it in an act of reflection. The act of inner observation causes the anger to subside, unlike the inner perception which does not.
Reflecting on this phenomenological difference, one sees how crude Churchland's scheme is. He thinks that mental data such as pains and pleasures are on a par with outer objects like stars and planets. It is readily granted with respect to the latter that seeing is seeing-as. A medieval man who sees the heavens as a turning sphere is interpreting the visual data in the light of a false theory; he is applying an outmoded conceptual framework. But there is no comparable sense in which my feeling of pain involves the application of a conceptual framework to an inner datum.
Suppose I feel a pain. I might conceptualize it as tooth-ache pain in which case I assign it some such cause as a process of decay in a tooth. But I can 'bracket' or suspend that conceptualization and consider the pain in its purely qualitative, felt, character. It is then nothing more than a sensory quale. I might even go so far as to abstract from its painfulness. This quale, precisely as I experience it, is nothing like a distant object that I conceptualize as this or that.
Now the existence of this rock-bottom sensory datum is indubitable and refutes the eliminativist claim. For this datum is not a product of conceptualization, but is something that is the 'raw material' of conceptualization. The felt pain qua felt is not an object of observation, something external to the observer, but an Erlebnis, something I live-through (er-leben). It is not something outside of me that I subsume under a concept, but a content (Husserl: ein reeller Inhalt) of my consciousness. I live my pain, I don't observe it. It is not a product of conceptualization -- in the way a distant light in the sky can be variously conceptualized as a planet, natural satellite, artificial satellite, star, double-star, UFO, etc. -- but a matter for conceptualization.
So the answer to Churchland is as follows. There can be no question of re-conceptualizing fundamental sensory data since there was no conceptualization to start with. So I am not begging the question against Churchland when I insist that pains exist: I am not assuming that the "traditional conceptualization" is the correct one. I am denying his presupposition, namely, that there is conceptualization in a case like this.
Most fundamentally, I am questioning the Kantian-Sellarsian presupposition that the data of inner sense are in as much need of categorial interpretation as the data of outer sense. If there is no categorization at this level, then there is no possibility of a re-categorization in neuroscientific terms.
What is astonishing about eliminative materialists is that they refuse to take the blatant falsity of their conclusions as showing that they went wrong somewhere in their reasoning. In the grip of their scientistic assumptions, they deny the very data that any reasonable person would take as a plain refutation of their claims.
Andrew Ferguson writes on the the explosion of hostility toward Thomas Nagel after the publication of his 2012 book, Mind and Cosmos. Here is my overview of the book. More detailed posts on the same book are collected under the Nagel rubric.
For a non-philosopher, Ferguson's treatment is accurate. Here are a couple of interesting excerpts in which he relates the thoughts of Daniel Dennett:
Daniel Dennett took a different view. While it is true that materialism tells us a human being is nothing more than a “moist robot”—a phrase Dennett took from a Dilbert comic—we run a risk when we let this cat, or robot, out of the bag. If we repeatedly tell folks that their sense of free will or belief in objective morality is essentially an illusion, such knowledge has the potential to undermine civilization itself, Dennett believes. Civil order requires the general acceptance of personal responsibility, which is closely linked to the notion of free will. Better, said Dennett, if the public were told that “for general purposes” the self and free will and objective morality do indeed exist—that colors and sounds exist, too—“just not in the way they think.” They “exist in a special way,” which is to say, ultimately, not at all.
What amazes me is that people like Dennett fail to appreciate the utter absurdity of what they are maintaining. He obviously believes that civilization and civil order both exist and are worth preserving. This is why he thinks the sober materialist truth ought not be broadcast to hoi polloi. And yet the preservation of civilization and its order require the widespread acceptance of such illusory notions as that of moral responsibility and freedom of the will. But if these notions are illusory, then so are Dennett's value judgment that civilization is worth preserving and his factual judgment that civilization exists.
It is absurd (self-contradictory) to maintain both that civilization is valuable and that every value-judgment is illusory.
It is also absurd to urge that the truth ought to be withheld from the ignorant masses. There is no room for 'ought' in Dennett's eliminativist scheme. Nor is there any room for rational persuasion. Rational persuasion requires that there be reasons, and that people are sensitive to them. But in Dennett's world reasons must be as ultimately illusory as consciousness and free will and all the rest of Wilfrid Sellars' Manifest Image.
It is absurd to attempt to persuade rationally if reasons are illusory.
It is also absurd to put forth 'truths' on a scheme that allows no place for truth.
When all of the following are consigned to the junk heap, then the very eliminativist project consigns itself to the junk heap: consciousness, intentionality, purposiveness, qualia, truth, meaning, , moral responsibility, personhood, free will, normativity in all its varieties . . . .
It's nonsense and the various emperors of this Nonsense are naked. And yet Dennett and Co. can't see it:
“I am just appalled to see how, in spite of what I think is the progress we’ve made in the last 25 years, there’s this sort of retrograde gang,” he said, dropping his hands on the table. “They’re going back to old-fashioned armchair philosophy with relish and eagerness. It’s sickening. And they lure in other people. And their work isn’t worth anything—it’s cute and it’s clever and it’s not worth a damn.”
There was an air of amused exasperation. “Will you name names?” one of the participants prodded, joking.
“No names!” Dennett said.
The philosopher Alex Rosenberg, author of The Atheist’s Guide, leaned forward, unamused.
“And then there’s some work that is neither cute nor clever,” he said. “And it’s by Tom Nagel.”
There it was! Tom Nagel, whose Mind and Cosmos was already causing a derangement among philosophers in England and America.
Dennett sighed at the mention of the name, more in sorrow than in anger. His disgust seemed to drain from him, replaced by resignation. He looked at the table.
“Yes,” said Dennett, “there is that.”
Around the table, with the PowerPoint humming, they all seemed to heave a sad sigh—a deep, workshop sigh.
Tom, oh Tom . . . How did we lose Tom . . .
Thomas Nagel may be the most famous philosopher in the United States—a bit like being the best power forward in the Lullaby League, but still. His paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” was recognized as a classic when it was published in 1974. Today it is a staple of undergraduate philosophy classes. His books range with a light touch over ethics and politics and the philosophy of mind. His papers are admired not only for their philosophical provocations but also for their rare (among modern philosophers) simplicity and stylistic clarity, bordering sometimes on literary grace.
I say that there are beliefs. An eliminativist contradicts me, insisting that there are no beliefs. He cannot, consistently with what he maintains, hold that I have a false belief. For if there are no beliefs, then there are no false beliefs. But he must hold that I am wrong. For if there are no beliefs, as he maintains, and I maintain that there are, then I am wrong.
But if my being wrong does not consist in my holding a false belief, what does it consist in? The eliminativist might say that my being wrong in this instance is my uttering or otherwise tokening of the sentence type 'There are beliefs' or being disposed to utter or otherwise token the sentence-type 'There are beliefs.' But a parrot could do that and you wouldn't say that a parrot is wrong about the philosophy of mind.
A reader, recently deployed to Afghanistan, finds time to raise an objection that I will put in my own words to make it as forceful as possible:
You endorsed William Lycan's Moorean refutation of eliminative materialism, but then you criticized him for thinking that Moorean appeals to common sense are also effective against standard idealist claims such as Berkeley's thesis that the objects of ordinary outer perception are clusters of ideas. You maintained that there is a crucial difference between the characteristic claims of eliminativists (e.g., that there are no beliefs, desires, intentions, pleasures, pains, etc.) and the characteristic claims of idealists (e.g., Berkeley's thesis just mentioned, McTaggart's thesis of the unreality of time, Bradley's of the unreality of relations.) The difference is that between denying the existence of some plain datum, and giving an account of a plain datum, an account which presupposes, and so does not deny, the datum in question. In effect, you insisted on a distinction between identifying Xs as Ys, and denying the existence of Xs. Thus, you think that there is an important difference between identifying pains with brain states, and denying that there are pains; and identifying stones and physical objects generally with collections of ideas in the mind of God and denying that there are physical objects. But in other posts you have claimed that there are identifications which collapse into eliminations. I seem to recall your saying that to identify God with an unconscious anthropomorphic projection, in the manner of Ludwig Feuerbach, amounts to a denial of the existence of God, as opposed to a specification of what God is. Similarly, 'Santa Claus is a fictional character' does not tell us what Santa Claus is; it denies his very existence.
Now why couldn't Lycan argue that this is exactly what is going on in the idealist case? Why couldn't he say that to identify stones and such with clusters of ideas in the mind of God is to deny the existence of stones? Just as God by his very nature (whether or not this nature is exemplifed) could not be an anthropomorphic projection, so too, stones by their very nature as physical objects could not be clusters of ideas, not even clusters of divine ideas.
It seems you owe us an account of why the reduction of physical objects to clusters of ideas is not an identification that collapses into an elimination. If you cannot explain why it does not so collapse, then Lycan and Co. will be justifed in deploying their Moorean strategy against both EM-ists and idealists. They could argue, first, that idealism is eliminationism about common sense data, and then appeal to common sense to reject the elimination.
I lately endorsed William Lycan's Moorean refutation of eliminative materialism (EM). But I disagreed with Lycan on one point. Lycan thinks that Moorean arguments refute Bradley and McTaggart and that there is no essential difference between the characteristic claims of the British Idealists and the characteristic claims of eliminativists in the philosophy of mind: both deny what common sense must affirm. I believe he is wrong about this, and I will now try to show why. It seems that there are three main positions on this issue. To have some handy labels, I will call them R, L, and V.
R. Just as Berkeley cannot be refuted by kicking a stone, the eliminativist cannot be refuted in any simple Moorean manner. Idealist and eliminativist claims are in the same logical boat, a boat that cannot be sunk by Moorean torpedoes.
L. British and other idealists can be refuted in Moorean ways, and so can eliminativists in the philosophy of mind. Idealist and eliminativist claims are in the same logical boat, a boat that is exposed to Moorean attack.
V. The 'same logical boat' assumption made by R and V must be rejected. There is a crucial difference between what eliminativists are doing and what idealists are doing. The idealist does not deny the existence of physical objects, or time, or relations. Berkeley, for example, does not deny the existence of stones and other meso-particulars. He offers a theory of their ontological constitution. His question is not whether they are, but what they are. His answer, roughly, is that stones and trees and the like are bundles or collections of ideas. Thus he gives an immaterialist account of ordinary particulars. They exist all right, but their status is mind-dependent, the ultimate mind in question being God's.
The eliminativist, however, flatly denies the existence of mental items such as pains, desires, and beliefs. It should be obvious, then, that there is an important difference between what idealists do and what eliminativists do. Idealist accounts are not existence-denying, but they do have an ontologically demoting upshot. If physical object are mind-dependent in the Berkeleyan manner, then they cannot exist in themselves, but only in relation to another, God, who exists in himself. Idealism thus reduces the being-status of physical objects from what it would be on a realist approach. The eliminativist, by contrast, is not engaged in ontological demotion, but in flat-out denial. He does not say of beliefs that they are mind-dependent, or mere appearances, or less than ultimately real; what he says is that they don't exist at all. If the eliminativist said that mental items exist as appearances he would be giving up the game. A pain, e.g., is such that to be = to appear. If you admit the appearance of a mental event such as a pain, you admit its reality.
Whatever the objections that can be lodged against Berkeleyan idealism, it cannot be refuted by kicking a stone. But eliminative materialism can be refuted by simply noting that one desires a beer. Moorean arguments are worthless when deployed against the positions of the great idealists, and this for the reason that the prosaic Moore simply did not understand what they were arguing. But when someone denies a plain datum, then he does run up against common sense in an objectionable way.
I've made it clear that I think eliminative materialism (EM) is a "lunatic philosophy of mind" to borrow a phrase from A. W. Collins. Peter Lupu basically agrees though he may not care to put the point in such an intemperate way. What follows is an excerpt from a recent e-mail of his. Since I want to be fair to EM-ists, I want to suggest a way they may be able to counter the following objection Peter raises.
[. . .] I contend that the Eliminativist is refuted by Moore's technique, in just the same way as was the temporal idealist. The argument will now be quite straightforward: Numerous common-sense mental ascriptions, such as that Granny wants a beer and believes there is one under the sofa, are individually more plausible, and always will be more plausible, than are the purely philosophical premises of any argument designed to convince us to the contrary. As Moore saw, purely philosophical assumptions have very weak epistemic credentials and cannot by themselves outweigh simple common-sense facts.
The Eliminativist may protest that her/his case is not purely philosophical, but rests on scientific considerations of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, connectionist modelling, and the like. Indeed, that flaunted feature is what often makes Eliminativism sound so hip. But this is to misunderstand the Moorean argument a third time. Moore would not deny that arguments for Eliminativism contain premises that are endorsed, perhaps simply established, by science. The point is that each argument also contains at least one purely philosophical premise. Make no mistake: In order to reach the staggering conclusion that there has never been a belief, a desire, or any other propositional attitude, any argument for Eliminativism will have to rest on one or more a priori principles connecting scientific truths to negative ontology. And it is terminally unlikely that any such principle could be more credible for me than that Granny wants beer. Come to think of it, I want beer.
8. Notice that my Moorean argument is immune to the customary Churchland-Churchland counterblow, a comparison to alchemy, witchcraft, and other folk but false theories. However beloved such theories were to their proponents, they do not qualify as Moorean common sense. To count as Moorean-commonsensical, a belief must be the sort of belief that every normal human being holds every day of her/his life, such as "Here is one hand and here is another" or "I had breakfast before I had lunch" or "The sun is shining." Thus, to address the Conference topic directly: Whatever science can show about the mind, it cannot show that there is none.
Lycan thinks that Moorean arguments refute Bradley and McTaggart and that there is no essential difference between the characteristic claims of the British Idealists and the claims of eliminativists in the philosophy of mind. I believe he is very wrong about that, but that's a different story. The above Moorean argument, however, does in my opinion decisively refute eliminativism in the philosophy of mind. For those of you who protest that no refutation can be so quick and easy, I will ask, Why not? The more preposterous the thesis, the quicker and easier the refutation! Lunacy can and ought to be dispatched laconically. Indeed, the simplicity of Lycan's argument makes it all the stronger. It is a case of simplex sigillum veri. He who maintains what is plainly false ought to be prepared for an unceremoniously facile reply. And please don't call such a reply 'puerile' or 'sophomoric' since the very fact that any boy or sophomore can make it is precisely what makes the objection so powerful.
A comment to mull over regarding your premise (A) in your recent post about Eliminative Materialism.
A. If a proposition is true, then it is possibly such that it is believed by someone.
Premise (A) says that in order for a proposition to be true, it is a necessary condition that it can be the content of someone's belief. But there may be true propositions that cannot be for one reason or another the content of our beliefs. For instance, perhaps there are true mathematical propositions that are so complicated or so long or require such a complicated proof that it would be simply impossible for the human mind to believe. Perhaps some other mind, for instance God's mind, can comprehend them, know them, and hence believe them: but no mortal mind can do so. Thus, it seems that premise (A) requires the existence of a deity in order to make it work.
Good point. (A) is subject to scope ambiguity as between:
A*. If a proposition p is true, then there exists a subject S such that, possibly, S believes that p.
A**. If a proposition p is true, then, possibly there exists a subject S and S believes that p.
Given Peter's point above, (A*) would seem to require for its truth that there be a divine mind. But all I need for my argument against eliminative materialism is (A**), which does not require for its truth that there exist any mind, let alone a divine mind. What (A**) says is that a necessary condition of a proposition's being true as that it be possible that there exist a believer of it.
My point was that the concept of truth is the concept of something that cannot be coherently conceived except in relation to the epistemic concepts of belief and knowledge. Now there needn't be any beliefs for there to be true (or false) propositions. But if beliefs are not possible, then neither are true propositions. Now eliminative materialism implies not only that there are no beliefs, but that there cannot be any. But then there cannot be any true propositions either.
Recall the argument against beliefs. It went like this: (1) If beliefs are anything, then they are brain states; (2) beliefs exhibit original intentionality; (3) no physical state, and thus no brain state, exhibits original intentionality; therefore (4) there are no beliefs. Since each of the premises is a necessary truth if it is a truth, the conclusion, which validly follows, is a necessary truth if it is a truth.
Thus the EM-er does not merely claim that, as a matter of fact, there are no beliefs; his claim is that there cannot be any. Of course, that renders his position even more absurd. But that's not my problem!
CORRECTION (12/18): Peter rightly points out that (A**) needs tweaking. Consider its contrapositive which is logically equivalent: If it is not possible that there exist a subject S such that S believes that p, then it is not the case that p is true. Unfortunately, the consequent of the contrapositive conditional could be taken to mean that p is not true, and thus (assuming Bivalence) false, when the idea is rather that p lacks a truth-value. So (A**) ought to be replaced by
A***. If a proposition p has a truth-value, then, possibly there exists a subject S such that S believes (disbelieves, entertains, etc.) that p.
When one is in the grip of a desire one typically knows it. He who wants a cold beer on a hot day knows what he wants and is likely to deem unhinged anyone with the temerity to deny that there are desires. Anywhere on the scale from velleity to craving, but especially at the craving end, there is a qualitative character to desire that makes it phenomenologically undeniable. If the beer example doesn't move you, think of lust. Lust is an intentional state: one cannot lust unless one lusts after someone or something. But although lust flees itself, voids itself in a rush towards its object — as Sartre might have said — there is nonetheless something 'it is like' (T. Nagel) to be in the state of lust. In this respect, desire is more like the non-intentional state of pain than it is like the intentional state of belief. There is most decidedly something it is like for me to desire X; but what is is like for me to believe that you desire X? Is it like anything? Not so clear.
In an earlier post, I provided a rough characterization of eliminative materialism (EM). Here is a more technical exposition for the stout of heart. If EM is true, then there are no beliefs. But what about the belief that EM is true, a belief that one would expect eliminative materialists to hold? If we exfoliate this question will we find an objection to EM? Let's see.
1. 'Every generalization is false' is self-referential: because it itself is a generalization, it refers to itself or comes under its own scope. Hence it refutes itself. If true, then false; if false, then false; so, necessarily false. But 'There are no beliefs' is not self-referential. Neither this sentence, nor the proposition it expresses is a belief. So we must abandon hope of a quick knock-out along self-referential lines.
Scientism is my label for what any one who takes science seriously shouldbelieve, and scientistic is just an in-your face adjective for accepting science’s description of the nature of reality. You don’t have to be a scientist to be scientistic. In fact, most scientists aren’t.
A guest post by Peter Lupu. Minor edits by BV. His comments in blue at the end.
Suppose I am a naturalist. Then I take science seriously just as Alex Rosenberg counsels.I also provisionally trust Rosenberg's argument, thereby, I find myself inclined to believe the conclusions of Rosenberg’s argument. One of these conclusions is
This [eliminative materialism] looms as a lunatic philosophy of mind, as behaviorism does not, because it does not merely attack the thought that beliefs and desires are inner realities . . . but it also attacks the idea that people have beliefs and desires, which seems to be an ineliminable truth and a truth which is not attacked by analytical behaviorism. The only excuse for this outrageous thesis is that it stems from a recognition that mental phenomena are not going to be identified successfully by any theory. Having accepted the mistaken preliminary notion that beliefs and the like would have to be inner realities of some kind, the eliminativist materialist heroically, if ill-advisedly, concludes that there are no beliefs at all, that no one actually believes anything.
In the ComBox to the article linked to above, Rosenberg, responding to critics, says this among other things:
If beliefs are anything they are brain states—physical configurations of matter. But one configuration of matter cannot, in virtue just of its structure, composition, location, or causal relation, be “about” another configuration of matter in the way original intentionality requires (because it cant [sic] pass the referential opacity test). So, there are no beliefs.
This is a valid argument. To spell it out a bit more clearly: (1) If beliefs are anything, then they are brain states; (2) beliefs exhibit original intentionality; (3) no physical state, and thus no brain state, exhibits original intentionality; therefore (4) there are no beliefs.
But anyone with his head screwed on properly should be able to see that this argument does not establish (4) but is instead a reductio ad absurdum of premise (1) according to which beliefs are nothing if not brain states. For if anything is obvious, it is that there are beliefs. This is a pre-theoretical datum, a given. What they are is up for grabs, but that they are is a starting-point that cannot be denied except by lunatics and those in the grip of an ideology. Since the argument is valid in point of logical form, and the conclusion is manifestly, breath-takingly, false, what the argument shows is that beliefs cannot be brain states.
Now why can't a smart guy like Rosenberg see this? Because he is in the grip of an ideology. It is called scientism, which is not to be confused with science. (Rosenberg talks nonsense at the beginning of his piece where he implies that one does not take science seriously unless one embraces scientism.) Rosenberg thinks that natural-scientific knowledge is the only knowledge worthy of the name and, to cop a line from Wilfrid Sellars, that "science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not, that it is not." (Science, Perception and Reality, p. 173). That is equivalent to the view that reality is exhausted by what natural science (physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology) says exists. This is why Rosenberg thinks that, if beliefs are anything, then they are brain states. Given scientism, plus the assumption (questioned by A. W. Collins in The Nature of Mental Things, U of ND Press, 1987) that beliefs need to be identified with something either literally or figuratively 'inner,' what else could they be? Certainly not states of a Cartesian res cogitans.
The trouble with scientism, of course, is that it cannot be scientifically supported. 'All genuine knowledge is natural-scientific knowledge' is not a proposition of any natural science. It is a bit of philosophy, with all the rights, privileges, and debilities pertaining thereunto. One of the debilities is that it is self-vitiating. For if all genuine knowledge is scientific knowledge, then that very proposition, since it is not an item of scientific knowledge, cannot count as a piece of genuine knowledge. Nor can it ever come to be known.
That won't stop people like Rosenberg from believing it as they are entitled to do. But then scientism it is just one more philosophical belief alongside others, including others that imply its negation.
I think it is clear what a reasonable person must say. The (1)-(4) argument above does not establish (4), it reduces to absurdity (1). The only support for (1) is scientism which we have no good reason to accept. It is nothing more than a bit of ideology.
The most obvious objection to eliminative materialism (EM) is that it denies obvious data, the very data without which there would be no philosophy of mind in the first place. Introspection directly reveals the existence of pains, beliefs, desires, anxieties, pleasures, and the like. Suppose I have a headache. The pain, qua felt, cannot be doubted or denied. Its esse is its percipi. To identify the pain with a brain state makes a modicum of sense; but it makes no sense at all to deny the existence of the very datum that got us discussing this topic in the first place. But Paul M. Churchland (Matter and Consciousness, rev. ed. MIT Press, 1988, pp. 47-48) has a response to this sort of objection:
A reader inquired about eliminative materialism. In this post I will explain what eliminative materialism is. In later posts, I will indicate why I consider it to be not only false, but irremediably incoherent.
1. An eliminativist about X is simply one who denies the existence of X. Atheists are eliminativists about God; hard determinists are eliminativists about free will; Hume (on one interpretation) and occasionalists (al-Ghazzali, Malebranche) are eliminativists about (productive event) causation; nominalists are eliminativists about universals, and so on. Eliminative materialism(physicalism) is a doctrine in the philosophy of mind according to which the items we phenomenologically classify as mental simply do not exist. It is the most radical or extreme position in the philosophy of mind.