In the body-mind-problem, I myself stand on the side of eliminative physicalism.

I find this position to be the easiest to argue for: We saw persons changing their minds when their brains changed, we saw persons losing their conciousnes when damaging their brains, we've seen changed personalities after brain damage and so on. Also, I myself see that things we once thought to be "obviously true", turned out to be false, e.g. the phlogistin-theorem or ether in physics and so on.

But then, I have no direct evidence for that position: I just have some clues that might show correlation, but no causation. Also, all of the things I said might just be true about our percepted world, not necessarily the reality (e.g. if idealism is true or solipsism).

So, what speaks for and against eliminative physicalism, or is any other position better to be argued for?


1 Answer 1


The best argument I know that takes the same evidence into account, but argues counter to your position, is called the "radio analogy".

In brief, consider encountering a radio without having previous familiarity with it or knowing how it works. You note that if you change the dial, the music changes. If you damage the radio physically, the sound quality gets worse. If you break the radio, the music stops. You might, upon observing the radio, reasonably conclude that the music is constructed and/or contained in the radio itself, but that would be false.

The above phenomena can be mapped as analogies to changing the brain to change the mind, damaging the brain to produce personality degradation, and to the disappearance of the mind after the death of the physical body. To the extent that the analogy is valid, the conclusion that the mind is constructed and/or contained in the physical brain is accordingly called into question.

This, of course, does not disprove eliminative physicalism, but it does demonstrate that the evidence in favor of it is not necessarily decisive.

  • This is also the best argument I know, but it is not a very good argument when you know more about radios and nervous systems. In brief, that a radio has an antenna and a brain has neurons that engage in just the right kind of computations to have a reasonable chance to explain the output of a mind rather weakens the strength of the demonstration.
    – Rex Kerr
    Commented Nov 26, 2013 at 8:43

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