Volume 3, 1977
Incorrigibility, the Mental, and Materialism
This paper constitutes a thoroughgoing critique of Rorty's interesting attempt to characterize the mental and its elimination within materialism in terms of the incorrigibility of mental reports. I elucidate, criticize, and improve the concept of incorrigibility his position requires. Then I argue: (1) that although mental-state reports are as corrigible as physical reports, this reflects contingent matters which do not affect the boundary of the mental and the physical; (2) that even if the familiar paradigm mental-event reports ("I am in pain") are incorrigible, there are mental events for which our language does not provide descriptions plausibly considered as incorrigible; (3) even the familiar mental-event reports are not incorrigible which I show through examples that explain how and why persons maintain false beliefs about their most simple sensations, thoughts, indeed anything, I then suggest that Rorty’s conception of the triumph of materialism is simplistic and inadequate in a number of respects. Finally, I attempt to show how difficult if not impossible it is to define or eliminate the mental without presupposing it; in trying to get the barest sense of Rorty's materialist world, the mental forces itself into our mind at every turn.