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Forrest P. Materialism, Australian. 2010.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://e-publications.une.edu.au/1959.11/7002
By 'Australian materialism' I mean the physicalist theory that J. J. C. Smart (1959b) inspired by U. T. Place (1956), and D. M. Armstrong (1968) inspired by Smart (1959b), argued for in the 1960s. It was significant in three ways: as a misunderstood and now under-rated philosophical thesis, as one important instance of the resurrection of metaphysics, and as marking the glory days of Australian philosophy. Australian materialism, Central State Materialism or the identity theory, as it was variously called, was based upon two ideas. The first was to give a 'topic-neutral' description of mental states in terms of their causes and effects. Thus itches are that kind of state, whatever it might be, that tends to result in scratching and is caused by certain kinds of irritation. This may be contrasted with the Rylean behaviourist account, dominant until then, according to which the statement 'I have an itch' is to be analysed in terms of various conditionals, such as 'If it were socially appropriate I would scratch furiously'. It may also be contrasted, though not so starkly, with the functionalist account of David Lewis (1970), according to which all the mental states are jointly analysed in terms of their causes and effects, without circularity. Lewis' account was accepted by Armstrong as a friendly amendment. The second idea was to argue that the types of states characterised in this topic-neutral fashion were in fact types of brain processes, so that types of mental state are identified with types of brain process, rather than being treated as special mental types as they would on, say, property dualism.