Tsou, J.Y. (2022). Philosophical naturalism and empirical approaches to philosophy. In M. Rossberg (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of Analytic Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
[Abstract]This chapter examines the influence of the empirical sciences (e.g., physics, biology, psychology) in contemporary analytic philosophy, with focus on philosophical theories that are guided by findings from the empirical sciences. Scientific approaches to philosophy follow a tradition of philosophical naturalism associated with Quine, which strives to ally philosophical methods and theories more closely with the empirical sciences and away from a priori theorizing and conceptual analysis.
In contemporary analytic philosophy, ‘naturalism’ is an ambiguous and equivocal term (Papineau, 2020) that can be distinguished into weaker and stronger methodological commitments:
N1. Philosophy should be constrained by scientific results. Philosophical theories should not be inconsistent with the findings of empirical science (e.g., the positing of supernatural entities).
N2. Philosophy is continuous with science. Philosophical standards (e.g., the assumption that knowledge is fallible) and methods (e.g., empirical and experimental methods) should not be different in kind from those adopted in the natural sciences. Moreover, genuine philosophical problems should be tractable with naturalistic empirical methods.
N3. Philosophy should be empirically driven. Philosophical theorizing should be guided by the results of science and empirical science provides the most promising route to formulating sound philosophical theories.
N1 implies that philosophical theories should be consistent with scientific theories. N2 implies that philosophical standards and methods should be continuous with those adopted in science. N3 implies that the empirical scientific findings should be utilized to direct philosophical inquiry. Whereas N1 is a platitude among many contemporary analytic philosophers, fewer are committed to N2 or N3. This chapter examines philosophical theories (e.g., theories of mind and ethics) that are committed to N2 and N3, with particular emphasis on N3.

[Citing Place (1956)]  
Citing Place (1956) in context (citations start with an asterisk *):
Section Empirical Approaches to Philosophy
Subsection Eliminative Materialism
* For the Churchlands, traditional metaphysical theories of mind are misguided insofar as they aim to account for distinctive psychological (or ‘mental’) states implied by our ordinary psychological terms (e.g., ‘perception,’ ‘belief,’ ‘desire,’ ‘pain,’ ‘memory,’ ‘fear’). Dualists (e.g., Chalmers, 1996) argue that that these ‘mental states’ possess special metaphysical properties (e.g., they are non-physical, they are only accessible in introspection) that differentiate them from physical states. The main challenge facing dualist accounts (e.g., causal interactionism, epiphenomenalism) is the mind-body problem: how are (non-physical) mental states causally related to (physical) brain states? For identity theorists (e.g., Place, 1956; Smart, 1959), the mind-body problem is a pseudo-problem since psychological states are assumed to be identical to brain states. However, identity theorists (and materialists more generally) face the challenge of explaining how apparently non-physical psychological states (e.g., the perception of red, the belief that it is raining) are actually brain states. This problem is addressed by showing how psychological states (e.g., ‘pain’) can be reduced to brain states (e.g., c-fiber firings). This framework suggests a generic method for evaluating the correctness of dualism against identity theory. If different folk psychological states (e.g., ‘pain,’ ‘memory,’ ‘beliefs’ ‘intention’) are reducible to brain states, then identity theory is correct; if these states are irreducible, then dualism is correct. Eliminativists reject this framework for its assumption that folk psychology provides an accurate taxonomy of psychological states. On behalf of materialism, eliminativists argue that irreducibility of a folk psychological concept should not count as evidence in favor of dualism. If folk psychology provides a misleading or false theory of our inner psychological states, then questions about reducibility should be framed with reference to targets of reduction (i.e., distinct psychological states) individuated by neuroscience, not folk psychology. Against the identity theorists’ strategy of reducing folk psychological concepts to brain states, eliminative materialists recommend ignoring folk psychology altogether. In the correct theory of mind, commonsense concepts of mentality (e.g., ‘pain,’ ‘memory’) may need to be radically revised, and some folk psychological concepts (e.g., ‘beliefs,’ ‘intentions’) may be eliminated entirely. Along these lines, Stich (1983) argues that the folk concept of ‘belief’ has no place in the scientific study of psychology, Griffiths (1997) argues that folk concepts of ‘emotions’ should be replaced with neuroscientific concepts, and Hardcastle (1999) argues that the folk concept of ‘pain’ fails to capture the neurobiological complexity of pain sensations.