Churchland Love?


Paul and Patricia Churchland are a husband and wife team of scholars in the field of neurophilosophy. Both are physicalists holding to the belief that only the physical world exists.

For example, Paul writes:

” The important point about the standard evolutionary story is that the human species and all of it’s features are the wholly physical outcome of a purely physical process…there seems to be no need, nor room, to fit any nonphysical substances or properties into our theoretical account of ourselves. We are creatures of matter. And we should learn to live with that fact.”

So according to the Churchlands, we have no soul and everything we do is determined by physics and biology. The funny question that arises is this: “What is their marriage like?” Was Paul biologically determined marry or “care for” Patricia, such that he really had no choice in the matter? When he buys her flowers, does she think “he was determined to do that.”? When he says “I love you, Patricia” is that really just a comment on steroid chemistry and neurochemistry?

If so, Paul does not really love Patricia. He is just biologically determined to act in a certain way towards her. And this, I would argue, is no more noble than a rock tumbling down a hill or a series of dominoes falling.  I wonder if they are really consistent between their academic life and their home life. If they are, how truly romantic. For if their views are correct, thousands of years of reflection on the nature of love (i.e. poetry, prose, painting, etc.) are a sham.


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