Connectionism, Eliminativism, and the Future of Folk Psychology

  • William Ramsey
  • Stephen Stich
  • Joseph Garan
Part of the Studies in Cognitive Systems book series (COGS, volume 3)


In the years since the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the term ‘scientific revolution’ has been used with increasing frequency in discussions of scientific change, and the magnitude required of an innovation before someone or other is tempted to call it a revolution has diminished alarmingly. Our thesis in this paper is that if a certain family of connectionist hypotheses turn out to be right, they will surely count as revolutionary, even on stringent pre-Kuhnian standards. There is no question that connectionism has already brought about major changes in the way many cognitive scientists conceive of cognition. However, as we see it, what makes certain kinds of connectionist models genuinely revolutionary is the support they lend to a thoroughgoing eliminativism about some of the central posits of common sense (or ‘folk’) psychology. Our focus in this paper will be on beliefs or propositional memories, though the argument generalizes straightforwardly to all the other propositional attitudes. If we are right, the consequences of this kind of connectionism extend well beyond the confines of cognitive science, since these models, if successful, will require a radical reorientation in the way we think about ourselves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Ramsey
    • 1
  • Stephen Stich
    • 2
  • Joseph Garan
    • 3
  1. 1.Dept. of PhilosophyUniversity of Notre DameUSA
  2. 2.Dept. of PhilosophyRutgers UniversityUSA
  3. 3.Dept. of PhilosophyUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA

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