Scientific materialism is the direction of Western analytical philosophy of the second half of the 20th century in solving a psychophysical problem in intersubjective language. The external factor of its appearance was the development of new areas of knowledge – neuroscience, cognitive sciences, psycholinguistics, the theory of artificial intelligence, etc. His philosophical sources are the non-behaviourism of B. Skinner, the logical behaviorism of J. Reil, the physicalism of R. Carnap, the concept of L. Wittgenstein’s private language. The leading representatives – G. Feigl, J. Smart, D. Armstrong, R. Rorty, P. Feyerabend, W. Sellars, J. Fodor, K. Wilkes, P. Churchland, M. Bunge, J. Kim, D. Dennet .
Discussions in scientific materialism, in general, are conducted within the framework of the physicalist paradigm, which includes physicalistic monism and determinism (“everything is physical and everything is subject to physical laws”). The philosophical specificity of this direction consists in the discussion of all questions in the “linguistic key”: on the methods of speaking, about the mental and physical and arising at the same logical, semantic and epistemological difficulties. The subject of analysis is the branched bush sub-problems that are part of the problem of consciousness – intentionality, self, personal, free will, language, ideal, but the central question is the relationship between the mental and the body (the mind-body problem). In the formulation of this problem, scientific materialism is close to Hobbes, Holbach or Lametry: “If we recognize the consciousness of a different ontological entity from the body, how to explain the interaction of a heterogeneous body with spatial and temporal characteristics and a consciousness that does not have such characteristics?” – a refutation of Cartesian dualism. New semantic nuances manifest themselves in the formulation of the issues discussed. Does the existence of consciousness confirm the direct introspection of its inner self?
Because you can not directly feel someone else’s pain, does this mean that we can not know the meaning of mental terms used by other people, such as “pain”, “joy”, “desire,” and the mental language cannot be intersubjective? Is intersubjectivity achieved in the description of a person’s mental states in the “public” language of neurophysiology and behavioral sciences? Is language a tool of consciousness, or what is called this last term, there is only linguistic-communicative activity? Is it possible to design a physical system, let’s say a computer, so that he perceives himself as a self-conscious self, feeling pain? The structures that make up the backbone of scientific materialism exclude idealism and irrationalism, but they are broad enough to offer more radical (the theory of identity, eliminative materialism, etc.) and less radical versions (functional materialism, attributive materialism, etc.) within their framework.
R. Karnap (1931) gave a physical impulse to this trend, within the framework of the concept of unified science he put forward the idea of translating the language of psychology into the language of physics. G. Feigl (1958) considered this idea unrealistic and proposed a thesis about the identity of the spiritual and physical, according to which the mental terms of the ordinary language and the neurophysiological terms used in science to describe consciousness, are semantically different, but refer to the same referent. This identity is not empirical or logical, it is similar to the identity of the terms “Morning Star” and “Evening Star”, referring to the same object – the planet Venus. Australian philosophers JJ Smart (1963) and D. Armstrong (1968) proposed a different interpretation of identity: statements about mental states can be translated into what J.Rail called “objectively neutral” statements, which we use, for example, when we say: “Something causes cancer,” not knowing the true causes of cancer. The philosopher may assume that this is “something” and there are brain processes, but only empirical studies of scientists can serve as a confirmation. The logical difficulties of this position are connected with the identification of the heterogeneous: the sense of the smell of the rose and the neurophysiological processes are not the same thing.
Eliminativism proposes a more radical strategy: to completely remove the category of “consciousness” from the philosophical language. P. Feyerabend (1963), one of the first to express this idea, argued that with the creation of a perfect materialistic language, mental terms will change their meaning and be replaced by scientific ones. R. Rorty (1965) supported this idea: the replacement of the mentalistic language by the scientific will occur in the same way as in medicine, in the explanation of diseases, the elimination of the medieval “language of witches” occurred. Any being in order to be recognized as an object of intersubjective discussion must be fixed in the language; the concept of consciousness does not have a referent, it is linguistically inexpressible, it is based on a false premise about the introspective access of the one who is conscious to his consciousness, therefore it can not be considered a special reality. The “nature of consciousness” is exhausted by sociolinguistic communication and people’s behavior (1979). P.Cherchland (1984) considers strategies to translate languages (R.Carnap) or identity (G.Feigl, J.J. Smart, D.Armstrong) to be false because of the possibility of intertheoretical reduction of “folk-psychology” statements in them to the statements of scientific psychology, which uses the neurophysiological language.
In the field of “folk-psychology” explanations are based on premises that do not have intersubjective significance: they express information from the first person – “I feel pain”, which another person can have a qualitatively different basis. Since the terms “folk-psychology” do not have exact correlates in the scientific language, its conception awaits the same fate of elimination that befell the physical concepts of “phlogiston”, “moving celestial spheres”, etc. The main difficulty of the thesis of eliminating the category “consciousness” is in its the contradiction of man’s subjective confidence in the reality of his consciousness and direct access to his self. The possibility, without resorting to a mental language, to express a rich range of human feelings (Dzh.Serl, T. Nagel), is questionable. Without denying the competition of the language of folk psychology and the scientific language, many critics see in it the process of mutual correction, rather than repression.
The strategy of more moderate functionalist theories is based on the use of computer analogies. Consciousness is seen as an integrated system of individual psychological states, each element of which corresponds to all other aspects and each new information – with its beliefs in the past. It is believed that the potential causal relationships of psychological states can in principle be actualized in different physical structures – in the human body, the “hard” computer program, etc. Supporters of the functionalist theory of H.Patnam (1960), D.Dennett (1978) argue that the mental states are realized in the body in the same way as a “soft” computer program is implemented in “hard”. The difficulty of functionalism is that, if you drop computer analogies, it reproduces old behaviorism, i.e. a position that identifies the mind with the disposition of the organism to behave in a certain way in response to the appropriate stimuli. There are other versions of scientific materialism – emergent materialism (M. Bunge, J. Margolis), theoretical materialism (J. Cornman).
The mystery of the relationship between the spiritual and the corporeal has activated not only the anti-Cartesian, but also the Cartesian tradition of philosophical thought, just as appealing to science, but also insisting on the uniqueness and irreducibility of the phenomenon of consciousness. In modern dualism, some positions: interactionism (K. Popper, J. Eccles), the dualism of properties, epiphenomenalism, psychophysical parallelism, etc. Recognition of reality or unreality of consciousness ultimately depends on which hypothesis is taken as strategic: a disposition to the assimilation of language, or the hypothesis of the pure sociality of language. In other words, the dispute between monists and dualists rests on the solution of the fundamental problem of the biological and social attitude.