Towards a Critical Materialism
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For more than a decade there has taken place an intensive discussion in Anglo-American philosophy on what may be characterized as a materialist approach to the Mind-Body problem. More specifically, the discussion has centered around the question, “Can sensations be reduced to brain-events or brain-processes?” or “Can psychological events be identical with physical events?”1 This present paper is a critique of much of this discussion, not because it is materialist but because it represents a systematically inadequate materialism. My critique will proceed, first, from a characterization of the Problematik to which this recent materialism addresses itself; then, to a discussion of the historical and social contexts in which philosophical problems arise, and specifically, the contexts of the mind-body problem. This raises the question of how to address oneself to a philosophical problem, and in particular to the problem of a materialist resolution of the mind-body problem. Finally, I will counterpose what I call critical materialism to the contemporary forms of what I call analytical materialism, in a discussion of the question of the identity and the materiality of mental events.
KeywordsIdentity Theory Mental Event Philosophical Problem Analytical Materialism Critical Materialism
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- 1.Many of the important essays in this discussion are collected in Materialism and the Mind-Body Problem, David M. Rosenthal, (ed.), (Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1971), which also contains a thorough bibliography of the discussion.Google Scholar
- 2.I have discussed this in several other contexts. See, e.g., my ‘Diderot and the Development of Materialist Monism’, Diderot Studies II, Fellows and Torrey, (eds.), (Syracuse University Press, 1953), pp. 279–329Google Scholar
- 2a.‘Spinoza on the Passions — Towards a Scientific Psychology’, Spinoza, M. Grene, ed., (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1973), pp. 329–353; and more recently, in ‘Matter, Action and Interaction’, Proceedings of the XV International Congress of Philosophy, Varna, 1973.Google Scholar
- 4.J. Priestley, The Doctrine of Bodily Resurrection Upheld.Google Scholar
- 6.M. Grene, ‘People and Other Animals’, Philosophical Forum, III, 2 pp. 157–172, (1972).Google Scholar
- 7.Charles Dickens, Hard Times, (The New American Library, New York, 1963), p. 198.Google Scholar
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