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4.5c. Multiple Realizability (Multiple Realizability on PhilPapers)

See also:
Aizawa, Kenneth & Gillett, Carl (online). Multiple realization and methodology in the neurological and psychological sciences.   (Google)
Abstract: The reigning picture of special sciences, what we will term the ‘received’ view, grew out of the work of writers, such as Jerry Fodor, William Wimsatt, and Philip Kitcher, who overturned the Positivist’s jaundiced view of these disciplines by looking at real cases from the biological sciences, linguistics, psychology, and economics, amongst other areas.1 Central to the received view is the ontological claim that the ‘multiple realization’ of properties is widespread in the special sciences which we may frame thus
Aizawa, Kenneth & Gillett, Carl, Multiple realization and methodology.   (Google)
Abstract: ABSRACT: An increasing number of writers (for example, Kim ((1992), (1999)), Bechtel and Mundale (1999), Keeley (2000), Bickle (2003), Polger (2004), and Shapiro ((2000), (2004))) have attacked the existence of multiple realization and wider views of the special sciences built upon it. We examine the two most important arguments against multiple realization and show that neither is successful. Furthermore, we also defend an alternative, positive view of the ontology, and methodology, of the special science. In contrast to the claims of recent critics, we show that methodological connections between the neurosciences and psychology are plausibly often the result of multiple realization
Aizawa, Ken (2009). Neuroscience and multiple realization: A reply to Bechtel and Mundale. Synthese 167 (3).   (Google)
Abstract: One trend in recent work on topic of the multiple realization of psychological properties has been an emphasis on greater sensitivity to actual science and greater clarity regarding the metaphysics of realization and multiple realization. One contribution to this trend is Bechtel and Mundale’s examination of the implications of brain mapping for multiple realization. Where Bechtel and Mundale argue that studies of brain mapping undermine claims about the multiple realization, this paper challenges that argument
Aizawa, Kenneth & Gillett, Carl (2009). The (multiple) realization of psychological and other properties in the sciences. Mind and Language 24 (2):181-208.   (Google)
Abstract: Abstract: There has recently been controversy over the existence of 'multiple realization' in addition to some confusion between different conceptions of its nature. To resolve these problems, we focus on concrete examples from the sciences to provide precise accounts of the scientific concepts of 'realization' and 'multiple realization' that have played key roles in recent debates in the philosophy of science and philosophy of psychology. We illustrate the advantages of our view over a prominent rival account ( Shapiro, 2000 and 2004 ) and use our work to rebut recent objections to the long-standing claim that psychological properties are multiply realized. For we use scientific evidence, in combination with our more precise theoretical framework, to show that we have strong reason to believe that psychological properties are indeed multiply realized both at the biochemical and neuronal levels
Antony, Louise M. (2008). Multiple realization : Keeping it real. In Jakob Hohwy & Jesper Kallestrup (eds.), Being Reduced: New Essays on Reduction, Explanation, and Causation. Oxford University Press.   (Google)
Antony, Louise M. (1999). Multiple realizability, projectibility, and the reality of mental properties. Philosophical Topics 26:1-24.   (Cited by 11 | Google)
Antony, Louise M. (2003). Who's afraid of disjunctive properties? Philosophical Issues 13 (1):1-21.   (Cited by 6 | Google | More links)
Bailey, Andrew R. (ms). Multiple realizability, qualia, and natural kinds.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Are qualia natural kinds? In order to give this question slightly more focus, and to show why it might be an interesting question, let me begin by saying a little about what I take qualia to be, and what natural kinds. For the purposes of this paper, I shall be assuming a fairly full-blooded kind of phenomenal realism about qualia: qualia, thus, include the qualitative painfulness of pain (rather than merely the functional specification of pain states), the qualitative redness in the visual field that typically accompanies red discriminations, the taste of lemon (independently of the fact that such states are normally caused by lemons and give rise to puckering of the lips, etc.), and so on. In other words, I am assuming the falsity of functionalism with respect to qualia, though I am not for a moment assuming dualism
Batterman, RW (2000). Multiple realizability and universality. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (1).   (Google)
Abstract: This paper concerns what Jerry Fodor calls a 'metaphysical mystery': How can there by macroregularities that are realized by wildly heterogeneous lower level mechanisms? But the answer to this question is not as mysterious as many, including Jaegwon Kim, Ned Block, and Jerry Fodor might think. The multiple realizability of the properties of the special sciences such as psychology is best understood as a kind of universality, where 'universality' is used in the technical sense one finds in the physics literature. It is argued that the same explanatory strategy used by physicists to provide understanding of universal behavior in physics can be used to explain how special science properties can be heterogeneously multiply realized
Bechtel, William P. & Mundale, Jennifer (1999). Multiple realizability revisited: Linking cognitive and neural states. Philosophy of Science 66 (2):175-207.   (Cited by 55 | Google | More links)
Abstract: The claim of the multiple realizability of mental states by brain states has been a major feature of the dominant philosophy of mind of the late 20th century. The claim is usually motivated by evidence that mental states are multiply realized, both within humans and between humans and other species. We challenge this contention by focusing on how neuroscientists differentiate brain areas. The fact that they rely centrally on psychological measures in mapping the brain and do so in a comparative fashion undercuts the likelihood that, at least within organic life forms, we are likely to find cases of multiply realized psychological functions
Bickle, John (1995). Connectionism, reduction, and multiple realizability. Behavior and Philosophy 23 (2):29-39.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Bickle, John (online). Multiple realizability. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.   (Google)
Bickle, John (1992). Multiple realizability and psychophysical reduction. Behavior and Philosophy 20 (1):47-58.   (Cited by 10 | Google)
Block, Ned (ms). Anti-reductionism slaps back.   (Cited by 41 | Google | More links)
Abstract: For nearly thirty years, there has been a consensus (at least in English-speaking countries) that reductionism is a mistake and that there are autonomous special sciences. This consensus has been based on an argument from multiple realizability. But Jaegwon Kim has argued persuasively that the multiple realizability argument is flawed.1 I will sketch the recent history of the debate, arguing that much --but not all--of the anti-reductionist consensus survives Kim's critique. This paper was originally titled "Anti-Reductionism Strikes Back", but in the course of writing the paper, I came to think that the concepts used in the debate would not serve either position very well
Bolender, John (1995). Is multiple realizability compatible with antireductionism? Southern Journal of Philosophy 33 (2):129-42.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Jaegwon Kim attempts to pose a dilemma for anyone who would deny mind/body reductionism, namely that one must either advocate the wholesale reduction of psychology to physical science or the sundering of psychology into distinct fields each one of which is reducible to physical science. Supposedly, the denial of mind/body reduction is not an option. My aim is to show that this is not a genuine dilemma, and that antireductionism is an option, if one recognizes that natural-kind individuation is not wholly a matter of metaphysics but is, at least to some degree, a matter of convention as well. The central point is that physical sciences and mental sciences have somewhat different criteria for individuating kinds
Boyd, Robert (1999). Kinds, complexity, and multiple realization. Philosophical Studies 95 (1-2):67-98.   (Cited by 18 | Google | More links)
Clapp, Leonard J. (2001). Disjunctive properties: Multiple realizations. Journal of Philosophy 98 (3):111-136.   (Cited by 28 | Google | More links)
Couch, Mark B. (2004). Discussion: A defense of Bechtel and Mundale. Philosophy of Science 71 (2):198-204.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Kim claims that Bechtel and Mundale's case against multiple realization depends on the wrong kind of evidence. The latter argue that neuroscientific practice shows neural states across individuals and species are type identical. Kim replies that the evidence they cite to support this is irrelevant. I defend Bechtel and Mundale by showing why the evidence they cite is relevant and shows multiple realization does not occur
Couch, Mark (2009). Functional explanation in context. Philosophy of Science 76 (2).   (Google)
Abstract: The claim that a functional kind is multiply realized is typically motivated by appeal to intuitive examples. We are seldom told explicitly what the relevant structures are, and people have often preferred to rely on general intuitions in these cases. This article deals with the problem by explaining how to understand the proper relation between structural kinds and the functions they realize. I will suggest that the structural kinds that realize a function can be properly identified by attending to the context of functional explanation. *Received June 2006; revised June 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Seton Hall University, 400 South Orange Ave., South Orange, NJ 07079; e‐mail:
Couch, Mark B. (2009). Multiple realization in comparative perspective. Biology and Philosophy 24 (4):505-519.   (Google)
Abstract: Arguments for multiple realization depend on the idea that the same kind of function is realized by different kinds of structures. It is important to such arguments that we know the kinds used in the arguments have been individuated properly. In the philosophical literature, though, claims about how to individuate kinds are frequently decided on intuitive grounds. This paper criticizes this way of approaching kinds by considering how practicing researchers think about the matter. I will consider several examples in which the practice of researchers on comparative vision conflicts with the standard account of these issues
Endicott, Ronald P. (1994). Constructival plasticity. Philosophical Studies 74 (1):51-75.   (Cited by 1 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Some scientists and philosophers have claimed that there is a converse to multiple realizability. While a given higher-level property can be realized by different lower-level properties (multiple realizability), a given lower-level property can in turn serve to realize different higher-level properties (this converse I dubbed the unfortunately obscure "constructival plasticity" to emphasize the constructive metaphysics involved when realizing properties generate realized properties in the stated way). I begin by defining multiple realizabilty in a formal way, then turn to the relation in question. By my analysis, for the converse claim to be true, a lower-level property G1 that realizes a higher-level F must be taken in conjunction with some other base condition G2 so that a difference in G2 allows G1 to determine some other higher-level property E but not F (otherwise there would be violations of supervenience). The realization law thus has the form: (G1 & G2) => F. As such, the base property G1 is insufficient by itself to produce F. It is an insufficient but necessary part of a sufficient condition. I also point out that this makes the realization base property an INUS condition, if combined with multiple realizability. Specifically, if F is multiply realized by properties other than the pair G1 and G2, then G1 is an insufficient but necessary part of an unnecessary but sufficient condition.
Endicott, Ronald P. (1998). Many-many mappings and world structure. American Philosophical Quarterly 35 (3):267-280.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Endicott, Ronald P. (1991). MacDonald on type reduction via disjunction. Southern Journal of Philosophy 29:209-14.   (Google)
Endicott, Ronald P. (forthcoming). Multiple realizability. In Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Macmillan Press.   (Google)
Abstract: Multiple realizability is a key issue in debates over the nature of mind and reduction in the sciences. The subject consists of two parts:
Endicott, Ronald P. (1989). On physical multiple realization. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 70 (3):212-24.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Endicott, Ronald P. (2001). Post-structuralist angst - critical notice: John Bickle, Psychoneural Reduction: The New Wave. Philosophy of Science 68 (3):377-393.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Abstract: I critically evaluate Bickle’s version of scientific theory reduction. I press three main points. First, a small point, Bickle modifies the new wave account of reduction developed by Paul Churchland and Clifford Hooker by treating theories as set-theoretic structures. But that structuralist gloss seems to lose what was distinctive about the Churchland-Hooker account, namely, that a corrected theory must be specified entirely by terms and concepts drawn from the basic reducing theory. Set-theoretic structures are not terms or concepts but the structures that they describe. Second, and more serious, a familiar problem for classical positivist account of reduction resurfaces within this newest wave of thinking, namely, commitment to property identities and inter-theoretic bridge laws (a problem I discussed at more length in "Collapse of the New Wave"). Indeed, this problem is exacerbated by Bickle’s conciliatory treatment of property plasticity, since he is willing to grant that a large number of special science terms denote multiply realized properties, at least if realistically construed. Still, in the end, Bickle sidesteps the reduction of properties by appealing to Hooker’s "function-to-structure token reduction." This is an interesting move with an intriguing concept of reduction. But problems remain. For, third, Bickle and Hooker's function-to-structure token reduction is actually a guised form of eliminative materialism. But that should be unacceptable since the position extends well beyond any modest revisionism for suspect items from a folk theory, say, in folk psychology or folk biology. Instead, it applies to functional terms and concepts employed throughout well-developed and explanatorily successful sciences.
Endicott, Ronald P. (2005). Multiple Realizability. In D. Borchert (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition. Thomson Gale, Macmillan Reference.   (Google)
Abstract: Multiple realizability has been at the heart of debates about whether the mind reduces to the brain, or whether the items of a special science reduce to the items of a physical science. I analyze the two central notions implied by the concept of multiple realizability: "multiplicity," otherwise known as property variability, and "realizability." Beginning with the latter, I distinguish three broad conceptual traditions. The Mathematical Tradition equates realization with a form of mapping between objects. Generally speaking, x realizes (or is the realization of) y because elements of y map onto elements of x. The Logico-Semantic Tradition translates realization into a kind of intentional or semantic notion. Generally speaking, x realizes (or is the realization of) a term or concept y because x can be interpreted to meet the conditions for satisfying y. The Metaphysical Tradition views realization as a species of determination between objects. Generally speaking, x realizes (or is the realization of) y because x brings about or determines y. I then turn to the subject of property variability and define it in a formal way. I then conclude by discussing some debates over property identity and scientific theory reduction where the resulting notion of multiple realizability has played a central role, for example, whether the nonreductive consequences of multiple realizability can be circumvented by scientific theories framed in terms of narrow domain-specific properties, or wide disjunctive properties.
Endicott, Ronald P. (1993). Species-specific properties and more narrow reductive strategies. Erkenntnis 38 (3):303-21.   (Cited by 6 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Figdor, Carrie (2010). Neuroscience and the multiple realization of cognitive functions. Philosophy of Science 77 (3).   (Google)
Abstract: Many empirically minded philosophers have used neuroscientific data to argue against the multiple realization of cognitive functions in existing biological organisms. I argue that neuroscientists themselves have proposed a biologically based concept of multiple realization as an alternative to interpreting empirical findings in terms of one‐to‐one structure‐function mappings. I introduce this concept and its associated research framework and also how some of the main neuroscience‐based arguments against multiple realization go wrong. *Received October 2009; revised December 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, 260 English‐Philosophy Building, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242; e‐mail: carrie‐
Fodor, Jerry A. (1997). Special sciences: Still autonomous after all these years. Philosophical Perspectives 11:149-63.   (Cited by 203 | Google | More links)
Francescotti, Robert M. (1997). What multiple realizability does not show. Journal of Mind and Behavior 18 (1):13-28.   (Cited by 1 | Annotation | Google)
Funkhouser, Eric (2007). A liberal conception of multiple realizability. Philosophical Studies 132 (3):467-494.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: While the concept of multiple realizability is widely used, it is seldom rigorously characterized. This paper defends a liberal conception of multiple realizability as sameness of type through _any_ differences in the (lower-level) conditions that give rise to instances of that type. This kind of “sameness through difference” is contrasted with another type of asymmetric dependency relation between properties, multiple _specification_. This liberal conception is then defended from objections, and it is augmented by a concept of relativized multiple realizability. The last section presents a survey of the ontological, explanatory, and methodological consequences of this analysis of multiple realizability
Funkhouser, Eric (2007). Multiple realizability. Philosophy Compass 2 (2):303–315.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: b>: This article explains the concept of multiple realizability and its role in the philosophy of mind. In particular, I consider what is required for the multiple realizability of psychological kinds, the relevance of multiple realizability to the reducibility and autonomy of psychology, as well as further refinements of the concept that would prove helpful
Gillett, Carl (2003). The metaphysics of realization, multiple realizability, and the special sciences. Journal of Philosophy 100 (11):591-603.   (Cited by 11 | Google | More links)
Harnad, Stevan (1995). Grounding symbols in sensorimotor categories with neural networks. Institute of Electrical Engineers Colloquium on "Grounding Representations.   (Cited by 8 | Google | More links)
Abstract: It is unlikely that the systematic, compositional properties of formal symbol systems -- i.e., of computation -- play no role at all in cognition. However, it is equally unlikely that cognition is just computation, because of the symbol grounding problem (Harnad 1990): The symbols in a symbol system are systematically interpretable, by external interpreters, as meaning something, and that is a remarkable and powerful property of symbol systems. Cognition (i.e., thinking), has this property too: Our thoughts are systematically interpretable by external interpreters as meaning something. However, unlike symbols in symbol systems, thoughts mean what they mean autonomously: Their meaning does not consist of or depend on anyone making or being able to make any external interpretations of them at all. When I think "the cat is on the mat," the meaning of that thought is autonomous; it does not depend on YOUR being able to interpret it as meaning that (even though you could interpret it that way, and you would be right)
Heil, John (1999). Multiple realizability. American Philosophical Quarterly 36 (3):189-208.   (Cited by 26 | Google)
Heil, John (2003). Multiply realized properties. In Sven Walter & Heinz-Dieter Heckmann (eds.), Physicalism and Mental Causation. Imprint Academic.   (Cited by 4 | Google)
Horgan, Terence E. (2001). Multiple reference, multiple realization, and the reduction of mind. In Reality and Humean Supervenience: Essays on the Philosophy of David Lewis. Lanham: Rowman &Amp; Littlefield.   (Cited by 3 | Google)
Jaworksi, W. (2002). Multiple-realizability, explanation, and the disjunctive move. Philosophical Studies 108 (3):298-308.   (Google)
Jaworski, William (2002). Multiple-realizability, explanation and the disjunctive move. Philosophical Studies 108 (3).   (Google)
Abstract:   The multiple-realizability argument has been the mainstay ofanti-reductionist consensus in philosophy of mind for the past thirty years. Reductionist opposition to it has sometimes taken the form of the Disjunctive Move: If mental types are multiply-realizable, they are not coextensive with physical types; they might nevertheless be coextensive with disjunctionsof physical types, and those disjunctions could still underwrite psychophysical reduction. Among anti-reductionists, confidence is high that the Disjunctive Move fails; arguments to this effect, however, often leave something to be desired. I raise difficulties for one anti-reductionist response to the DisjunctiveMove, the Explanatory Response
Jones, Todd (2004). Reduction and anti-reduction: Rights and wrongs. Metaphilosophy 25 (5):614-647.   (Google)
Jones, Todd (2004). Special sciences: Still a flawed argument after all these years. Cognitive Science 28 (3):409-432.   (Google)
Jones, Todd (2003). The virtues of non-reduction, even when reduction is a virtue. Philosophical Forum 34 (4):121-140.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Keeley, Brian L. (2000). Shocking lessons from electric fish: The theory and practice of multiple realization. Philosophy Of Science 67 (3):444-465.   (Cited by 11 | Google | More links)
Kim, Jaegwon (1992). Multiple realization and the metaphysics of reduction. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (1):1-26.   (Cited by 128 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Kim, Sungsu (2002). Testing multiple realizability: A discussion of Bechtel and Mundale. Philosophy of Science 69 (4):606-610.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Bechtel and Mundale (1999) argue that multiple realizability is not plausible. They point out that neuroscientists assume that psychological traits are realized similarly in homologous brain structures and contend that a biological aspect of the brain that is relevant to neuropsychological state individuation provides evidence against multiple realizability. I argue that Bechtel and Mundale adduce the wrong sort of evidence against multiple realizability. Homologous traits do not provide relevant evidence. It is homoplasious traits of brains that can provide evidence for or against multiple realizability
Kistler, Max (1999). Multiple realization, reduction and mental properties. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (2):135 – 149.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Abstract: This paper tries to remove some obstacles standing in the way of considering mental properties as both genuine natural kinds and causally efficacious rather than epiphenomena. As the case of temperature shows, it is not justified to conclude from a property being multiply realizable to it being irreducible. Yet Kim's argument to the effect that if a property is multiply realizable with a heterogeneous reduction base then it cannot be a natural kind and possesses only derivative “epiphenomenal” causal efficacy is not conclusive either. The fact that temperature is, but jade is not, a natural kind cannot be established by comparing the heterogeneity of their respective reduction bases, but rather by the fact that the former is and the latter is not embedded in laws of nature
Klein, Colin (2008). An ideal solution to disputes about multiply realized kinds. Philosophical Studies 140 (2).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Multiply realizable kinds are scientifically problematic, for it appears that we should not expect discoveries about them to hold of other members of that kind. As such, it looks like MR kinds should have no place in the ontology of the special sciences. Many resist this conclusion, however, because we lack a positive account of the role that certain realization-unrestricted terms play in special science explanations. I argue that many such terms actually pick out idealizing models. Idealizing explanation has many of the features normally associated with explanation by MR kinds. As idealized models are usually mere possibilia, such explanations do not run afoul of the metaphysical problems that plague MR kinds
Lyre, Holger (2009). The “Multirealization” of Multiple Realizability. In A. Hieke & H. Leitgeb (eds.), Reduction - Abstraction - Analysis. Ontos.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Multiple Realizability (MR) must still be regarded as one of the principal arguments against type reductionist accounts of higher-order properties and their special laws. Against this I argue that there is no unique MR but rather a multitude of MR categories. In a slogan: MR is itself “multi-realized”. If this is true then we cannot expect one unique reductionist strategy against MR as an anti-reductionist argument. The main task is rather to develop a taxonomy of the wide variety of MR cases and to sketch possible reductionist answers for each class of cases. The paper outlines some first steps in this direction.
Macdonald, C. (1992). Psychological type-type reduction via disjunction. Southern Journal of Philosophy 30 (1):65-69.   (Google)
McClamrock, Ron (1993). Emergence unscathed: Kim on non-reducible types. Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy 3.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Abstract: Jaegwon Kim has recently argued that the widespread assumption of the multiple realizability of higher-level kinds -- and in particular, psychological kinds -- conflicts with some fundamental constraints on both materialistic metaphysics and scientific taxonomy. Kim concludes that the multiple realizability of psychological kinds would leave them "disqualified as proper scientific kinds" (Kim 1992: 18), and that search for a scientific psychology should focus instead on more reductive or type- materialist possibilities. If correct, this would strikingly undermine a widespread assumption in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. But it's not
McClamrock, Ron (1994). Kim on multiple realizability and causal types. Analysis 54 (4):248-252.   (Google)
Mucciolo, Laurence F. (1974). The identity thesis and neuropsychology. Noûs 8 (November):327-42.   (Cited by 3 | Annotation | Google | More links)
Mundale, Jennifer & Bechtel, William P. (online). Multiple realizability revisited.   (Google)
Abstract: The claim of the multiple realizability of mental states by brain states has been a major feature of the dominant philosophy of mind of the late 20th century. The claim is usually motivated by evidence that mental states are multiply realized, both within humans and between humans and other species. We challenge this contention by focusing on how neuroscientists differentiate brain areas. The fact that they rely centrally on psychological measures in mapping the brain and do so in a comparative fashion undercuts the likelihood that, at least within organic life forms, we are likely to find cases of multiply realized psychological functions
Nasrin, Mehdi (2000). Multiple realizability: Also a difficulty for functionalism. Journal of Consciousness Studies 7 (7):25-34.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Nelson, Alvin F. (1985). Physical properties. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 66 (July-October):268-82.   (Annotation | Google)
Pauen, Michael (2002). Is type identity incompatible with multiple realization? Grazer Philosophische Studien 65 (1):37-49.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: It is commonly believed that there is a fundamental incompatibility between multiple realization and type identity in the philosophy of mind. This claim can be challenged, however, since a single neural type may be realized by different microphysical types. In this case, the identity statement would connect the psychological and the neural type, while the neural type, in turn, could be multiply realized by different microphysical types. Such a multiple realization of higher level types occurs quite frequently even within physics and it should be acceptable for physicalism in general
Polger, Thomas W. (2009). Evaluating the evidence for multiple realization. Synthese 167 (3).   (Google)
Abstract: Consider what the brain-state theorist has to do to make good his claims. He has to specify a physical–chemical state such that any organism (not just a mammal) is in pain if and only if (a) it possesses a brain of suitable physical–chemical structure; and (b) its brain is in that physical–chemical state. This means that the physical–chemical state in question must be a possible state of a mammalian brain, a reptilian brain, a mollusc’s brain (octopuses are mollusca, and certainly feel pain), etc. At the same time, it must not be a possible (physically possible) state of the brain of any physically possible creature that cannot feel pain. Even if such a state can be found, it must be nomologically certain that it will also be a state of the brain of any extraterrestrial life that may be found that will be capable of feeling pain before we can even entertain the supposition that it may be pain. It is not altogether impossible that such a state will be found... . But this is certainly an ambitious hypothesis. (Putnam 1967/1975, p. 436) The belief that mental states are multiply realized is now nearly universal among philosophers, as is the belief that this fact decisively refutes the identity theory. I argue that the empirical support for multiple realization does not justify the confidence that has been placed in it. In order for multiple realization of mental states to be an objection to the identity theory, the neurological differences among pains, for example, must be such as to guarantee that they are of distinct neurological kinds. But the phenomena traditionally cited do not provide evidence of that sort of variation. In particular, examples of neural plasticity do not provide such evidence
Polger, Thomas W. (2002). Putnam's intuition. Philosophical Studies 109 (2):143-70.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Abstract:   Multiple realizability has recently attractedrenewed attention, for example Bickle, 1998;Bechtel and Mundale, 1999; Bechtel and McCauley,1999; Heil, 1999; and Sober, 1999. Many of thesewriters revisit the topic of multiplerealizability in order to show that someversion of a mind-brain identity theory isviable. Although there is much of value inthese recent explorations, they do not addressthe underlying intuitions that have vexedphilosophers of mind since Hilary Putnamintroduced the concern (1967). I argue that thestandard way of construing multiplerealizability is a much stronger claim thanthat of Putnam's intuition alone. I distinguishfour interpretations of the multiplerealizability intuition. Some commonformulations of multiple realizability arealmost certainly true, while others are not atall plausible. I argue that the plausible formsof multiple realizability do not impugn theprospects for a mind-brain Identity Theory
Polger, Thomas W. (online). Realization and multiple realization, chicken and egg.   (Google)
Abstract: Which comes first, realization or multiple realization? Hilary Putnam (1960) invoked the term ‘realization’ to refer to the relation that holds between physical devices and abstract computing machines, such as Turing machines or probabilistic automata. Putnam (1967) hypothesized that the relation between brain and mind is also realization. He contrasted his hypothesis—which he dubbed “functionalism”—with the competing hypotheses that mental states are to be identified with syndromes of behavior and behavioral dispositions, or that mental states are to be identified with brain processes. Instead, functionalism proposes that mental states are to be identified with functional states of whole organisms. Importantly, Putnam regards functionalism as an empirical hypothesis, and one whose explication appeals to some technical notions, particularly to the idea of a probabilistic automaton
Polger, Thomas W. (online). Review of Shapiro's The Mind Incarnate.   (Google | More links)
Abstract: To what degree must the brains and bodies of creatures with minds have to be similar to the brains and bodies of human beings? Since the late 1960’s, most philosophers and cognitive scientists have supposed that there a relatively few constraints on what sorts of brains and bodies can realize minds. It is widely believed that minds are multiply realizable. Of course there were always dissenters, and in recent years their grumbling has grown harder to dismiss. In _The Mind_ _Incarnate_, Lawrence Shapiro provides the first book-length study of the multiple realizability thesis. Such an examination is long overdue, and Shapiro’s treatment is sure to set the standard for the budding debate
Polger, Thomas W. (2008). Two confusions concerning multiple realization. Philosophy of Science 75 (5).   (Google | More links)
Abstract: Forthcoming in Philosophy of Science. Despite some recent advances, multiple realization remains a largely misunderstood thesis. Consider the dispute between Lawrence Shapiro and Carl Gillett over the application of Shapiro’s recipe for deciding when we have genuine cases of multiple realization. I argue that Gillett follows many philosophers in mistakenly supposing that multiple realization is absolute and transitive. Both of these are problematic. They are tempting only when we extract the question of multiple realization from the explanatory context in which it is invoked. Anchoring multiple realizability in its theoretical context provides grounds for arbitrating disagreements. Doing so, I argue, favors the view advanced by Shapiro.
Ramsey, William (2006). Multiple realizability intuitions and the functionalist conception of the mind. Metaphilosophy 37 (1):53-73.   (Google | More links)
Richardson, Robert C. (2008). Autonomy and multiple realization. Philosophy of Science 75 (5).   (Google)
Abstract: Multiple realization historically mandated the autonomy of psychology, and its principled irreducibility to neuroscience. Recently, multiple realization and its implications for the reducibility of psychology to neuroscience have been challenged. One challenge concerns the proper understanding of reduction. Another concerns whether multiple realization is as pervasive as is alleged. I focus on the latter question. I illustrate multiple realization with actual, rather than hypothetical, cases of multiple realization from within the biological sciences. Though they do support a degree of autonomy for higher levels of explanation and organization, they do not have the dire consequences critics of multiple realization fear. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, P.O. Box 210374, Cincinnati, OH 45221‐0374; e‐mail:
Richardson, Robert C. (2009). Multiple realization and methodological pluralism. Synthese 167 (3).   (Google)
Abstract: Multiple realization was once taken to be a challenge to reductionist visions, especially within cognitive science, and a foundation of the “antireductionist consensus.” More recently, multiple realization has come to be challenged on naturalistic grounds, as well as on more “metaphysical” grounds. Within cognitive science, one focal issue concerns the role of neural plasticity for addressing these issues. If reorganization maintains the same cognitive functions, that supports claims for multiple realization. I take up the reorganization involved in language dysfunctions to deal with questions concerned with multiple realization and neural plasticity. Beginning with Broca’s case for localization and the nineteenth century discussion of “reorganization,” and returning to more recent evidence for neural plasticity, I argue that, in the end, there is substantial support for multiple realization in cognitive systems; I further argue that this is wholly consistent with a recognition of methodological pluralism in cognitive science
Rosenberg, Alex (ms). Comments and criticism on multiple realization and the special sciences.   (Google)
Abstract: It is widely held that disciplines are autonomous when their taxonomies are “substrate neutral” and when the events, states and processes that realize their descriptive vocabulary are heterogeneous. This will be particularly true in the case of disciplines whose taxonomy consists largely in terms that individuate by function. Having concluded that the multiple realization of functional kinds is far less widespread than assumed or argued for, Shapiro cannot avail himself of the argument for the autonomy of the special sciences which relies on multiple realization. This makes urgent the question of whether we must “now give up the idea that functionalist taxonomies have any scientific value?” [p. 650]. He acknowledges that we must either deny that the special sciences are autonomous, because higher level kinds have only a single realization and can thus be reduced, or else we must deny that there are empirical laws in the special sciences. “In other words, either special sciences have no ontological independence from lower level sciences or, worse, they have no empirical laws, which is to say that they are not empirical sciences at all. [p. 650]” Shapiro’s reductionist/eliminativist dilemma for the special sciences is unreal. For he has not canvassed the most important source of multiple realization in nature, and this source obviates his dilemma for most of the special sciences. Moreover, the route he offers between the horns of his dilemma leads pretty directly to impalement on its eliminativist horn. Or so I shall try to show in this comment
Rosenberg, Alex (2001). On multiple realization: Comments and criticism and the special sciences. Journal of Philosophy XCVIII ( 7.   (Google)
Rosenberg, Alex (2001). On multiple realization and the special sciences. Journal of Philosophy 98 (7):365-373.   (Cited by 3 | Google | More links)
Ross, Patricia A. (1999). The limits of physicalism. Philosophy of Science 66 (1):94-116.   (Google | More links)
Schwartz, J. (1992). Who's afraid of multiple realizability?: Functionalism, reductionism, and connectionism. In J. Dinsmore (ed.), The Symbolic and Connectionist Paradigms: Closing the Gap. Lawrence Erlbaum.   (Cited by 2 | Google | More links)
Shapiro, Lawrence A. (2008). How to test for multiple realization. Philosophy of Science 75 (5).   (Google)
Abstract: When conceived as an empirical claim, it is natural to wonder how one might test the hypothesis of multiple realization. I consider general issues of testability, show how they apply specifically to the hypothesis of multiple realization, and propose an auxiliary assumption that, I argue, must be conjoined to the hypothesis of multiple realization to ensure its testability. I argue further that Bechtel and Mundale (1999) go astray because they fail to appreciate the need for this auxiliary assumption. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 5185 Helen C. White Hall, 600 North Park Street, Madison, WI 53706; e‐mail:
Shapiro, Lawrence A. (2000). Multiple realizations. Journal of Philosophy 97 (12):635-654.   (Cited by 22 | Google | More links)
Shagrir, Oron (1998). Multiple realization, computation and the taxonomy of psychological states. Synthese 114 (3):445-461.   (Cited by 4 | Google | More links)
Abstract:   The paper criticizes standard functionalist arguments for multiple realization. It focuses on arguments in which psychological states are conceived as computational, which is precisely where the multiple realization doctrine has seemed the strongest. It is argued that a type-type identity thesis between computational states and physical states is no less plausible than a multiple realization thesis. The paper also presents, more tentatively, positive arguments for a picture of local reduction
Shapiro, Lawrence A. (online). Neural plasticity and multiple realizability.   (Google)
Shapiro, Lawrence A. (2004). The Mind Incarnate. MIT Press.   (Cited by 19 | Google | More links)
Shapiro, Lawrence A. (online). The metaphysics of multiple realizability: It's like apples and oranges.   (Google)
Sober, Elliott (1999). The multiple realizability argument against reductionism. Philosophy of Science 66 (4):542-564.   (Cited by 32 | Google | More links)
Walter, Sven (2006). Multiple realizability and reduction: A defense of the disjunctive move. Metaphysica 7 (1):43-65.   (Google)
Walter, Sven (2002). Need multiple realizability Deter the identity-theorist? Grazer Philosophische Studien 65 (1):51-75.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Abstract: I will discuss two possible options how a defender of the type identity-theory with respect to mental properties can avoid the conclusion of Putnam's Multiple Realizability Argument. I begin by offering a rigorous formulation of Putnam's argument, which has been lacking so far in the literature (section 2). This rigorous formulation shows that there are basically two possible options for avoiding the argument's conclusion. Contrary to current mainstream, I reject the first option?Kim's 'local reductionism'?as untenable (section 3). I endorse the second option, which has been brought into discredit by being too closely associated with disjunctive properties. I first show that many of the criticisms of disjunctive properties miss their target or beg the question against their opponent view (sections 4 & 5). Then I argue that it is not necessary to tie the second option closely to disjunctive properties. Hence, even if we deny the legitimacy of disjunctive properties, the identity-theorist still need not accept the conclusion of the Multiple Realizability Argument since there is an alternative, though related, way to spell out the second response (section 6)
Witmer, G. (2003). Multiple realizability and psychological laws: Evaluating Kim's challenge. In Sven Walter & Heinz-Dieter Heckmann (eds.), Physicalism and Mental Causation. Imprint Academic.   (Cited by 1 | Google)
Wrenn, Chase B. (forthcoming). The Unreality of Realization. Australasian Journal of Philosophy.   (Google)
Abstract: This paper argues against the realization principle, which reifies the realization relation between lower-level and higher-level properties. It begins with a review of some principles of naturalistic metaphysics. Then it criticizes some likely reasons for embracing the realization principle, and finally it argues against the principle directly. The most likely reasons for embracing the principle depend on the dubious assumption that special science theories cannot be true unless special science predicates designate properties. The principle itself turns out to be false because the realization relation fails the naturalistic test for reality: it makes no causal difference to the world.
Zahle, Julie (2003). The individualism-holism debate on intertheoretic reduction and the argument from multiple realization. Philosophy of the Social Sciences 33 (1).   (Google)
Abstract: The argument from multiple realization is currently considered the argument against intertheoretic reduction. Both Little and Kincaid have applied the argument to the individualism-holism debate in support of the antireductionist holist position. The author shows that the tenability of the argument, as applied to the individualism-holism debate, hinges on the descriptive constraints imposed on the individualist position. On a plausible formulation of the individualist position, the argument does not establish that the intertheoretic reduction of social theories is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, the reductive project may run into other potential obstacles. For this reason, it is concluded that the prospect of intertheoretic reduction is uncertain rather than unlikely. Key Words: argument from multiple realization • intertheoretic reduction • reductionism • individualism • holism
Zangwill, Nick (1995). Supervenience, reduction, and infinite disjunction. Philosophia 24 (3-4):321-30.   (Cited by 5 | Google | More links)
Abstract: Can a certain sort of property supervene on another sort of property without reducing to it? Many philosophers find the superveniencel irreducibility combination attractive in the philosophy of mind and in moral philosophy (Davidson 1980 and Moore 1903). They think that mental properties supervene upon physical properties but do not reduce to them, or that moral properties supervene upon natural properties without reducing to them. Other philosophers have tried to show that the combination is ultimately untenable, however attractive it might initially appear. Thus Ted Honderich and Jaegwon Kim argue that the combination cannot explain the causal efhcacy of the supervening properties (Honderich 1982, Kim 1984b). And Simon..