Organisms, Artifacts, and Eliminativism
Hershenov (David)
Source: Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. (Resubmission Requested).
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. There is a long, though not very popular tradition, in which artifacts are viewed as the poor cousins of organisms - i.e., the former are ontologically suspect in a way that the latter are not.
  2. This paper is a contribution to the ontological demotion of artifacts. Positing the existence of artifacts gives rise to a number of intractable metaphysical puzzles.
  3. Organisms can evade such quandaries for they are unlike artifacts in two significant ways.
    1. First, their existence and their nature are not essentially dependent upon the intentions of others.
    2. Secondly, they possess the internal power to acquire, assimilate, maintain, and remove matter.
  4. An eliminativist stance towards artifacts commits me to maintaining that the reader is not seated in a chair, near a table, perusing a paper. In fact, the reader is not wearing any clothes. This might lead you to suggest that the clothes I should be wearing are a hospital gown and straightjacket. Before you have me committed or medicated, let me say I do believe that this room contains atoms arranged chairwise, atoms arranged table-wise, atoms arranged paper-wise and atoms arranged clothes-wise, it is just that these do not compose any chairs, tables, papers or clothes. In other words, in a spatial region where there are only X number of atoms arranged chair-wise, there wouldn’t exist X+1 number of things - those atoms and a chair.


For the full text, see Hershenov - Organisms, Artifacts, and Eliminativism.

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