Philosphical Theory: Carruthers Reductive Physicalism

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What is Reductive Physicalism?

Carruthers is a proprietor of the philosophical belief of reductive physicalism. His identity thesis states that, “all mental states and events are in fact physical states and events.” These so called mental states can be reduced down to physical brain states. The bottom line of this thesis is that mental states equal brain states. Conscious states and events are causally necessary for the occurrence of physical ones. What this means are that mental states are reduced down to brain activity (a physical process) and are in fact the same process. The study of brain activity is a science called “Neuro-physiological Science.” Patricia Churchland is a supporter of this science. The argument for identity theory is very appealing due to the fact that in neuroscience there is no need to avert to anything other than physical-physical causality. To picture this imagine the word pain. Pain is a brain state in an observable location in the physical organ of brain. Pain in a physical sense is C-fibers firing in the brain.  Other emotions can be traced back to sections of the brain. It has been observed in science. In conclusion, conscious states and events are identical with physical brain states according to Carruthers. There is no need to include the “mind” as a separate entity because the physical brain is responsible for consciousness and the emotions that human’s experience. The “mind” is an illusion the brain is so powerful that it only seems like there has to be something more to it. Supporters of reductive physicalism closely hold this thesis.


The objection to Identity theory comes from Leibnitz Law. The law states, “If two things are identical, they have all properties in common.” Leibnitz makes the point that brain states and mental states do not share the same characteristics. In order for brain states to be identical they must be indiscernible when observed and compared. The brain takes up space, it has a location and it’s activity can be observed by us, this is a fact to us. Mental states are private, take up no space, have colored “felt” qualities (Qualia), and mental states are certain to exist. (A staple idea of Descartes) So, mental and brain states are truly much different in many aspects.  According to Leibnitz X and Y are identical if any predicate held by X is also held by Y. A way to picture this law in action is to imagine Batman. His real identity is Bruce Wayne. He is also the super hero Batman, but people do not know this fact. They think that Bruce Wayne does not have super human reflexes, but they think that Batman has super human reflexes. Batman has a trait that Bruce Wayne does not have. Therefore Bruce Wayne and Batman are not identical and the law holds true. The brain and mind contain different traits when put into this situation therefore are not identical which concludes they are separate entities.

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