Can Ockham's Razor Cut Through the Mind-Body Problem? A Critical Analysis of the Raze Dualism Argument for Materialism.

Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, Vol. 21, pp. 46-60, 2001

15 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2006

Abstract

Notes that the question of materialism's adequacy as a solution to the mind-body problem is important in psychology as fields supported by eliminative materialism (e.g. neuropsychology and sociobiology) aim to cannibalize psychology (E. O. Wilson, 1999). A common argument for adopting a materialistic worldview, termed the Raze Dualism argument in reference to Ockham's razor, is based on the principle of parsimony. It states that materialism is to be considered the superior solution to the mind-body problem because it is simpler than the dualist alternative. In this paper, a prominent version of this argument (P. Churchland, 1988) is critiqued via an analysis of each of its premises. Illustrative in general of the limitations of materialism, this argument is undermined by assumptions which do not withstand scrutiny. First, Ockham's razor is shown to be a problematic principle. Second, the question of empirical superiority or equality is unresolved. Finally, there are other alternatives to materialism that are equally parsimonious, such as idealism. The result of the argument is to reopen the case for idealism and dualism and to force the issue to be determined on other grounds.

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Christopher J., Can Ockham's Razor Cut Through the Mind-Body Problem? A Critical Analysis of the Raze Dualism Argument for Materialism.. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, Vol. 21, pp. 46-60, 2001 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=895730
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