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The Churchlands on Methodological Solipsism and Computational Psychology

Ausonio Marras
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 52, No. 2 (Jun., 1985), pp. 295-309
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/187512
Page Count: 15
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The Churchlands on Methodological Solipsism and Computational Psychology
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Abstract

This paper addresses a recent argument of the Churchlands against the "linguistic-rationalist" tradition exemplified by current cognitive-computational psychology. Because of its commitment to methodological solipsism--the argument goes--computational psychology cannot provide an account of how organisms are able to represent and "hook up to" the world. First I attempt to determine the exact nature of this charge and its relation to the Churchlands' long-standing polemic against 'folk psychology' and the linguistic-rationalist methodology. I then turn my attention to the Churchlands' account of what it is for computational psychology to be methodologically solipsistic. I argue that there is no reason to suppose that methodological solipsism commits one to a purely syntactic theory of the mind (of the kind that Stephen Stich has recently advocated): the formality constraints that methodological solipsism imposes on psychological explanation do not exclude 'essential' reference to the representational content of mental states, as long as this content is construed in the 'narrow' sense. I conclude by raising a problem for computational psychology that may provide some real cause for concern.

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