Paul Churchland

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Paul Churchland
Born Paul Montgomery Churchland
(1942-10-21) October 21, 1942 (age 74)[not verified in body]
Vancouver, B.C., Canada[not verified in body]
Alma mater University of Pittsburgh
Era 20th, 21st-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Analytic Philosophy
Institutions University of Pittsburgh
Main interests
These include:[not verified in body] Neurophilosophy, Philosophy of science, Philosophy of mind, Artificial intelligence, Epistemology
Notable ideas
Eliminative materialism

Paul Churchland (born October 21, 1942)[not verified in body] is a Canadian philosopher known for his studies in neurophilosophy and the philosophy of mind. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh under Wilfrid Sellars (1969), Churchland rose to the rank of full professor at the University of Manitoba before accepting the Valtz Family Endowed Chair in Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and a joint appointments in that institution's Institute for Neural Computation and on its Cognitive Science Faculty. As of this February 2017, Churchland is recognised as Professor Emeritus at the UCSD, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Moscow Center for Consciousness Studies of Moscow State University. Churchland is the husband of philosopher Patricia Churchland, with whom he collaborates, and The New Yorker has reported the similarity of their views, e.g., on the mind-body problem, are such that the two are discussed as if they are one person.

Early life and education[edit]

Paul Montgomery Churchland[1] was born in Vancouver, B.C.,[citation needed] Canada,[2] on October 21, 1942.[citation needed] He graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts.[clarification needed][when?][2]

He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1969,[3] his dissertation entitled "Persons and P-Predicates" written with Wilfrid Sellars as his advisor.[2][1]

Career[edit]

Churchland lectured at the University of Toronto from 1967–69,[citation needed] and began his independent professional career as an instructor at the University of Pittsburgh in 1969.[citation needed] In 1969, Churchland took a position at the University of Manitoba,[2] where he would teach for fifteen years: as an assistant professor (1969–74) and associate professor (1974–79),[citation needed] and then, from 1979-1984,[citation needed] as a full professor.[3] He spent a part of 1983-1984 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton,[citation needed] and joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego in 1984.[2] There, he served as Department Chair from 1986-1990.[4]

As of this February 2017, Churchland is recognised as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Diego,[4] where he earlier held the Valtz Family Endowed Chair in Philosophy (through 2011),[5][better source needed][6] and continues to appear as a philosophy faculty member on the UCSD Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Cognitive Science[7] and with the affiliated faculty of the UCSD Institute for Neural Computation.[8] As of February 2017, he is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Consciousness Studies of the Philosophy Department, Moscow State University.[9]

Philosophical views[edit]

Churchland's work is in the school of analytic philosophy in western philosophy, with interests in epistemology and the philosophy of science, and specific principal interests in the philosophy of mind and in neurophilosophy and artificial intelligence.[citation needed] His work has been described as being influenced by the work of W.V.O. Quine, Thomas Kuhn, Russell Hanson, Wilfred Sellars, and Paul Feyerabend[2] as well as by Karl Popper.[citation needed]

Along with his wife, Churchland is a major proponent of eliminative materialism,[10] the belief that

everyday, common-sense, ‘folk’ psychology, which seeks to explain human behavior in terms of the beliefs and desires of agents, is actually a deeply flawed theory that must be eliminated in favor of a mature cognitive neuroscience.[3]

where by folk psychology is meant everyday mental concepts such as beliefs, feelings, and desires, which are viewed as theoretical constructs without coherent definition, and thus destined to be obviated by a scientific understanding of human nature.[according to whom?][citation needed] From the persective of Zawidzki, Churchland's concept of eliminativism is suggested as early as his book Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind (1979), with its most explicit formulation appearing in a Journal of Philosophy essay, "Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes" (1981, see Written works section below).[3]

Churchland holds that beliefs are not ontologically real; that is, he maintains that a future, fully matured neuroscience is likely to have no need for "beliefs" (see propositional attitudes), in the same manner that modern science discarded such notions as legends or witchcraft.[according to whom?][citation needed] According to Churchland, such concepts will not merely be reduced to more finely grained explanation and retained as useful proximate levels of description, but will be strictly eliminated as wholly lacking in correspondence to precise objective phenomena, such as activation patterns across neural networks.[this quote needs a citation] He points out that the history of science has seen many posits once considered real entities, such as phlogiston, caloric, the luminiferous ether, and vital forces, thus eliminated.[citation needed]

Moreover, in The Engine of Reason, The Seat of the Soul Churchland hypothesizes that consciousness might be explained in terms of a recurrent neural network with its hub in the intralaminar nucleus of the thalamus, and feedback connections to all parts of the cortex.[full citation needed] He acknowledges that this proposal will likely be found in error with regard to the neurological details, but states his belief that it is on the right track in its use of recurrent neural networks to account for consciousness.[citation needed] This has been described, notably,[by whom?] as a reductionist rather than eliminativist account of consciousness.[citation needed]

Written works[edit]

Popular writing[edit]

  • Churchland, Patricia Smith & Churchland, Paul (1990). "Could a Machine Think?". Scientific American. 262 (1; January). Retrieved 11 February 2017. [Subtitle:] Classical AI is unlikely to yield conscious machines; systems that mimic the brain might.  [subscription required][page needed]

Scholarly Work[edit]

Books[edit]

Professor Churchland has authored several books in philosophy, which have been translated into many languages.[2] Some of the notable of these are:[citation needed]

His book Matter and Consciousness has been frequently and extensively reprinted.[11] Both Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind and A Neurocomputational Perspective have also been reprinted.[12]

Essays[edit]

Professor Churchland has written a number of published articles, some of which have been translated into other languages, including several that have had a substantial impact in philosophy.[citation needed] Essays which have been reprinted include:[citation needed]

Churchland's most famous essay is his 1981 Eliminative Materialism and the Propositional Attitudes, which has been translated into five languages and reprinted over twenty times.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Churchland is the husband of philosopher Patricia Churchland, and it has been noted that, "Their work is so similar that they are sometimes discussed, in journals and books, as one person."[13]

The Churchlands are the parents of two children, Mark Churchland and Anne Churchland,[citation needed] both of whom are neuroscientists.[14][citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Pitt ULS Staff [George, J. & Lugar, L.] (2011) [2007]. "Wilfrid S. Sellars Papers [§Biography, and §Subseries 3. Dissertations, 1942-1987, Box 137]". University of Pittsburgh, University Library System, Guides to Archives and Manuscript Collections at the University of Pittsburgh Library System. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Keeley, Brian L. (2006). "Introduction: Becoming Paul M. Churchland (1942–) [Ch. 1]". In Keeley, Brian L. Paul Churchland (PDF). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–31, esp. 1–2. ISBN 0521537150. Retrieved 11 February 2017. [Quote:] PMC was born a Canadian and earned a B.A. from the University of British Columbia, and in 1969, he was awarded a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. There, he wrote a dissertation under the direction of Wilfrid Sellars. He spent the first 15 years of his career at the University of Manitoba, taking advantage of its relative isolation to further develop his own approach to the ideas to which he was exposed during his graduate education. ... His second book, Matter and Consciousness (1984, revised and updated 1988; translated into five languages), has become one of the most popular textbooks in the philosophy of mind.  Note, this link presents only an excerpt of the chapter, the first 10 pages.
  3. ^ a b c d Zawidzki, Tadeusz (May 2004). "Churchland, Paul". Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  4. ^ a b UCSD Staff (11 February 2017). "UC San Diego, Philosophy Department, Faculty". University of California–San Diego. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Arneson, Richard J. (11 February 2017). "UCSD Philosophy: Richard J. Arneson". University of California–San Diego. Retrieved 11 February 2017. [self-published source?]
  6. ^ As of February 2017, the UCSD Philosophy webpage reports Richard J. Arneson as the Valtz Chair, and Arneson reports his having assumed that position in July, 2011.
  7. ^ UCSD Staff (11 February 2017). "UCSD Cognitive Science: IDP Faculty". University of California–San Diego. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  8. ^ UCSD Staff (11 February 2017). "Institute for Neural Computation: Affiliated Faculty". University of California–San Diego. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  9. ^ MCfCS Staff (11 February 2017). "The Moscow Center for Consciousness Studies: People". HardProblem.ru. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  10. ^ Ramsey, William (2013) [2003]. "Eliminative Materialism". In Zalta, Edward N. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (revision of 16 April 2013, based on 8 May 2003 original). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. Retrieved 11 February 2017. [Quote:] In more recent history, eliminative materialism has received attention from a broader range of writers, including many concerned not only with the metaphysics of the mind, but also the process of theory change, the status of semantic properties, the nature of psychological explanation and recent developments in cognitive science. Much of this attention has been fostered by the husband-wife team of Paul and Patricia Churchland, whose writings have forced many philosophers and cognitive scientists to take eliminativism more seriously. 
  11. ^ See, for instance: (1) "Eliminative Materialism" in Introducing Philosophy (R.C. Solomon, Pages 449 - 453);[full citation needed] (2) "Behaviorism, Materialism, and Functionalism" in Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, Seventh Edition (Edited by J. Feinberg, Wadsworth Press);[full citation needed] and (3) "Eliminative Materialism" in Introductory Readings in Philosophy (Edited by J. Pojman, Wadsworth Press).[full citation needed]
  12. ^ See (1) "The Mind-Body Problem" in Philosophy of Mind (Polish), by the Alethia Foundation (1995);[full citation needed] and (2) "Knowing Qualia: A Reply to Jackson" in The Nature of Consciousness: The Philosophical Debates edited by N. Block, O. Flanagan and G. Guzeldere (MIT Press - 1997).[full citation needed]
  13. ^ MacFarquhar, Larissa (February 12, 2007). "Two Heads: A marriage devoted to the mind-body problem". The New Yorker. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 
  14. ^ Churchland, Mark M. (2014). "Movement Generation Laboratory: Laboratory of Mark M. Churchland". New York, NY: Columbia University. Retrieved 11 February 2017. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]