top of page

Patricia Churchland

The Continuity

“Researches on artificial intelligence are living an age of revolution: there is a strong link between cerebral phenomena and mental processes.”

Are emotions the result of neuronal processes? Churchland believes it is so although she also acknowledges that there are many variables and that the context is extremely complex. However, something is certain in this point of view: chemicals play a vital role. This neuroscientist is one of the key figures in eliminativism and all of her research follows this path, basically uniting together areas of knowledge that are traditionally kept separate.


Patricia Churchland was born in Canada in 1943. She studied at the British University in Columbia, at the Pittsburgh University and at Oxford.  From 1969 to 1984 she taught philosophy at the University of Manitoba. In 1984 she started working at the University of California, in San Diego, where she currently is a teacher at the Philosophy Department. She worked also as an adjunct teacher at the Salk Institute for biological studies where she also was an associate of the Computational Neuroscience Laboratory. 
Very soon Patricia Churchland started focusing on studies on the relationships between neurosciences and philosophy, analysing typically philosophical issues like intentionality and responsibility employing the latest innovations in neurology. She believes that in order to fully understand the human mind one has to fully understand how the brain works. In 1986 she published her first book, Neurophilosophy. In this book the professor claims that there should be a close cooperation between disciplines usually regarded as independent. Psychology, anthropology, evolutionist biology and neurosciences together all contribute to finding the answer to the most important questions, reducing the scope of philosophy as we traditionally conceive it in favour of an "integrated" science.
Churchland is also the President of the American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division) and of the Psychology and Philosophy Society. In 1991 she was awarded the MacArthur prize, an award usually granted not only for exceptional merits (that are in any case required) but also for a study's potential for future developments and further in-depth research.
All of her later publications theorize the prevalence of neuronal processes on our decisions. Churchland is in fact a supporter of eliminativism. Eliminativism is a school of thought that claims that perceptions, ideas and feelings are elements that should be viewed as chemical and mechanical processes. This does not mean that no other values may be involved but that in making scientific hypotheses we cannot refuse to take into account the objective data provided by new scientific discoveries.

bottom of page