JUD EVANS

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FOLK ONTOLOGY

JUD EVANS

A commentator coming to eliminative determinism for the first time might be forgiven for perceiving the ontology to be an impoverished doctrine that has to annihilate most beings and most modes of being, i. e. deny the existence of many phenomena that plainly show themselves, such as moods and actions.



Eliminative Determinism


Eliminative determinists have no need to annihilate the useful fictions we employ to describe the modes of being human.  Eliminativists merely wish to draw attention to the fact that modes of being human or anything else  - like pigs that fly - do not exist, and therefore could never be annihilated or eradicated.  Existence does not exist - only that which exists - exists. Depression, suicidal thoughts, angst etc., do not exist - it is the depressed person, the would-be suicide, the troubled melancholiac that exists. Such verbal descriptions are simply useful fictions we use to particularise the way, manner or mood in which that person exists at the time.

In a similar sense we can say that a person is sunburned - but sunburn does not exist - only the burned skin exists, being those areas of the human epidermis which have been damaged by the suns ultraviolet radiation. So it is not a question of ontological impoverishment because we are not robbing the people of afflictions or pain - but simply pointing to the ontic (physical)  painful or infected area of the body referred to by such terms which is the body of the afflicted human being.

A similar misunderstanding in relation to descriptive alteration (rather than physical) happened when in  certain Catholic countries it was decided to change the Julian calendar and replace it by the more accurate Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar lost 11 minutes and 15 seconds a year, but those minutes and seconds had been piling up for centuries. By 1582, the vernal equinox was 10 days off from where it should have been on the calendar, and if the vernal equinox fell on the wrong date, so did Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays. To the Pope and his advisers it seemed obvious a change was long overdue. But in a similar way that you believe that a change in the way we ontologically identify abstractions like disease or sunny days, the public wasn't so sure. They believed that someone was stealing ten days from their lives  People rioted in the streets, and many others were equally unhappy. It wasn't that the rioters objected to having a new calendar-- like folk ontology fails to comprehend that which exists they didn't much understand calendars anyway. But the pope had decreed that the day after Thursday, October 4, 1582, would become Friday, October 15, 1582!  

Eliminative materialists are attempting to pose as medical benefactors in denying the existence of depression, madness, suicidal thoughts, angst, sunburn and chronic inflammation of the liver, but simply pointing out that (like the ignorant publics lost ten-days)  they mental and physical disease  does not exist in the first place and that  only those unfortunates whose brains and bodies  daily suffer in these ways can be found in the world. It is the sick human that exists - not the sickness.

Does it sound a bit spoil-sport to claim that even a sunny day cannot exist in the ontology of eliminative determinism?

At first it might seem to be silly but the claim is absolutely true. What exists is our area of the earth's surface which, due to its seasonal rotational presentation to the sun, and the absence of clouds is [in Britain anyway] more than usually and more intensely warmed and illuminated by the rays of the sun as compared to that which appertains on a cloudy or winters day
.It goes without saying that the weather does not exist either.  The term weather is no more than a useful fiction or reification for the presence of absence of rain, clouds, air moving at speed (wind) and all the other physical environmental  variables that we call ( for convenience) a weather system.

In other words only the universe, the sun, the electrons (ultra violet)  that it emits, the earth and that which forms a part of it, and that which can be found upon it exists - including the human epidermis which turns brown when exposed to such welcome phenomena.

But, that does not mean that there is any need to drop the term sunny day which is a pretty and useful fiction that is far more sonorous to the ear and much more shorter than the more roundabout, rather necessarily dry and terse language of science which is necessary in order to describe with exactitude the actual [rather than the more folksy] ontological reality.

But is not the sense of "physical" something "made up" of (causally concatenated) atoms, molecules, neurones, synapses, etc.", where each of these terms is itself a theoretical construct, i. e. an "idea," a "concept" depending on the science of physics and other natural sciences?

Atoms, molecules, neurones, synapses, etc." themselves are not theoretical constructs, nor are they ideas or concepts. They in no way depend on the science of physics and other natural sciences and they existed for millions of years before humankind even developed on this planet. They existed in those far off days before our primitive ancestors had any knowledge of the science of physics and other natural sciences, and they would continue to exist if every human being was wiped from the face of the earth. Just because you close your eyes at noon does not mean that it is night. [thanks to Dylan Thomas and Under Milk Wood for this allusion.]

If included in the existential category of beings are the verbal descriptives like sunny day or the behaviour of hares at mating time then they do not exist as beings for the true denotata of such expressions are the illuminated and warmed earth and the jumping hare. There is no relegation taking place, but rather a semantic reordering and redefinition of the traditional crudity of the old classifications of folk ontology. There is no intention of abolishing our sunny days by the seaside, or relegating away the anticipatory joy of the sexed-up jumping hare.


The elimination of actions and abstract nouns and gerunds from the category of existents consists of a referential packaging or merging of act and actor into an ontological singularity. Modal description then becomes a question of selecting a perceived intrinsic existential modality of a given object and tacking-on an antecedently agreed adjective or adverb which describes the way the object appears to exist to the observer. Thus we point to the erupting volcano or the wheelchair-bound man without any of the residual intrusion of any suggestion by folk ontology that such purely descriptive abstractions as: eruption or wheelchair boundlessness actually exists, and it remains quite clear that only volcanoes, disabled persons and wheelchairs exist.

The basic ground [Grundbegriffe] of eliminative determinism] is that cause and effect do not really exist, and that what actually exists are causal and effected objects [which are actually two terms to describe the same thing,) objects which DO NOT generate ideas but simply ideate or think.

In other words there is no product called an idea. The results human ideation manifest themselves as changes in the way that the neurobiological ideative equipment itself - the neurological networks of fluids, chemicals, electrically stimulated neurons and synaptic gates which open and close to shut off or allow access to various pathways.

For the doctrinaires of Platonic  flying-piggywiggery  a form exists for each matching type of object in the cosmos. There are forms for human beings, forms for pigs,  trees, boats, apples, colours, beauty, piety, goodness and knowledge - you name it - there is a Platonic template for it!  For Christians the Form of the Good equals God, and the location where souls come into existence and Forms exist is in a Platonic heaven - a spiritual dimension where the souls of the dead experience a renewed conjugation with the Forms. Particulars are objects that are involved in a Form which provides the requisite existential condition for a particular to exist, and compose the possibleness of things.

Does Beauty in the Platonic sense of the word exist - as a form in the western zone of heaven as far as the Bush women of South Africa are concerned? A form for Beauty certainly exists in the African quarter of the Platonic paradise, for the large buttocks of the womenfolk are considered of great beauty - to male Khoisanid. The larger and more protuberant  the better - whilst sadly the form has no formal beauty value for the pale-faced recipients  forms of beauty which cater for the western districts of the celestial city of property-templates.

Perhaps when Plato had the heavenly-builders  employed errecting his huge warehouse of forms in the sky- he possibly underestimated the amount of space required for the storage of his metaphysical models? Maybe it didn't occur to the great quartermaster in the sky - that there would be additional warehouses required to cater for the more exotic appetites of various nationalities and human sub-groups?

Whilst the Hottentots, Korana, and Bushmen are certainly regarded as people adapted by natural selection to desert life, anthropologists insist that it is improbable that the enlarged buttocks of female Khoisanids evolved as a backup of nutriment on which the body may call in times of scarcity. They attribute the bounteous bottoms to natural selection based upon male preference.

The great authority on the history of the Khoisanids, George Stow, has written, In the days of undisturbed occupation by the early Bushmen, the country literally swarmed with game, both large and small. It is far more likely that the buttocks became enlarged in response to sexual selection. This is what Darwin implied in the case of Hottentot women, in whom the posterior part of the body projects in a wonderful manner. He mentions the admiration felt for this peculiarity by the males of their tribe.

Thus Forms, ideas, sunny days and sunshine do not exist - what exists is the self-modifying, re-patterning, template - the meaty thinking unit we call the ideating  brain. So, like the causal object we call a flower that opens its own petals, the causal somatogenetic object of the brains thinking is the non-psychogenic brain itself, in the sense that it excogitates by rummaging through old data retrieved from memory by way of meditation, rumination and contemplation. Other causal objects are the other humans with which we come into contact who do or say things which stimulate us to ideate. Deterministically of course, even old stored antecedally sensed data in the brain was caused by some causal object in the past and so our brains like everything else in the cosmos are links in the causal chain which comprises the links of catenulate cosmic change. All this opening of petals and thinking of brains is of course part and parcel of the existential exigent physical process of the imperative - the natural physical laws of ubiquitous, continuing, and eternal pan-cosmic change.

But we must not forget that whilst for the eliminative materialist thinking brains exist, we reject the notion that they produce ideas or concepts. Perhaps you can now see [though you may not yet agree] that the concepts or ideas such as causal objects or any other muted idea or belief, cogitation, construct, figment, guess, idealisation, inspiration, meaning, misconception, opinion, theorem whim or whimsy ever enunciated, written, drawn, pictured, communicated, or projected with strobe-lights onto the facade of Buckingham Palace has ever existed or ever WILL exist in the whole history of mankind, from the featureless savannah of Homo rhodesiensis to the chrome and plastic laboratories of Homo sapiens sapiens.

What exists are the sapient human ideators - the thinking theorisers, extantally engaged in a constant reorganisation of their neurophysical networks.

If observing an apple I announce: That apple is green, I am in fact only announcing that I myself exist in a modality that corresponds to my personal classification of the reflected light-waves as appearing to me to correspond with the colour I know as green.

The apple itself just exists noumenally in the way that it [ex-homo-sapiensically] exists. Viewed strictly ontologically rather than commonsensically, it is NOT A GREEN APPLE! It is a noumenal existent which in the sight of humans appears to exist in modes which are contingent upon the sensorial equipment of that species. To the sensorial equipment of a dog, and elephant, a flea, a bear or an inhabitant of Ursa Minor it may appear to exist quite differently.

Bottom line? Existential modality [Beauty] is in the eye of the beholder and everybody has different eyes.

The fact that eliminative determinism examines and existentially defines objects in a close-up analytical manner under an ontological microscope [so to speak] does not mean that when the field of epistemological focus reverts to or is widened to an ontological macro-view that impoverishment or existential curtailment has been wrought to the philosophical activity of wisdom-seekers in search for Alethea or in the confrontational [Heideggerian] polemos or Auseinandersetzung so beloved of transcendentalists.

Eliminative determinism has no agenda to blow up the semantico-epistemological toolshed in the garden of philosophical floriculture.  The metaphysical terminology we employ need not be weeded out but floodlit under the luminance of reality-connectedness.  In these dangerous times for man we merely seek to help draw-aside the obstructive gauze of ontological indeterminacy and assist in  liberating mankind from the transcendental internalisations with which we have been imprinted for over two thousand years.

Jud Evans. 2 Sept 2006

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