SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Multiple Realizability -- Everywhere or Nowhere?
(Philosophy of Mind, English)

The most influential argument of the 20th century against psycho-neural identity theories in philosophy of mind must be the multiple realizability argument. The argument, first advocated by Putnam and later by Fodor, can be succinctly summarized as the thesis claiming that a mental kind can be realized by distinct physical kinds. The ubiquitous example in philosophy of mind is naturally the example of pain. According to proponents of the multiple realizability thesis (MRT), the mental kind pain can be realized by various physical kinds. Kind pain can hence not be reduced to a single psycho-neural kind, as it can be realized by distinct physical kinds, therefore it follows that type-type psycho-neural identity theory about the mind-body problem is false.

The MRT seemed to go unchallenged throughout the second part of the 20th century; however, it has recently been problematized by various authors in philosophy of mind (e.g. Shapiro, Polger, Kim, Bechtel, etc.). In what follows, I will aim to dismantle the problem of MR for type-type psycho-neural identity theory.

First, I will focus on the distinction between the conceivability claim and the empirical claim of MRT and attempt to establish that the MRT is an empirical thesis and should be treated as such (as argued by Shapiro and Polger, and also implicitly by Putnam), pace some proponents of functionalism (e.g. Fodor). After placing the issue into the empirical realm, I will introduce Shapiro and Polger's ''official recipe'' for MR, and clarify and point out a possible problem for it using a case study. Namely, I will focus on the fact that Shapiro and Polger frame the recipe by comparing taxonomies of different sciences, which seems to entail that (depending on which camp we listen to) either (almost) everything is multiply realizable or (almost) nothing is. I will argue that this is not just the case of grain mismatch by philosophers (as argued by Bechtel and Mundale), but that comparing taxonomical kinds of different sciences inherently leads to grain mismatch because different sciences are describing phenomena at different levels of abstraction. This does not only explain why one camp claims that MR is ubiquitous in nature and the other that MR is almost non-existent, but also shows that MR, when clarified and framed as an empirical thesis, hardly poses a problem for the type-type psycho-neural identity theory.

Time: 10:00-10:30, 20 September 2019 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.007

Tadej Todorović 
(University of Maribor, Slovenia)

Tadej Todorović is a doctoral student of philosophy at the Faculty of Arts, University of Maribor., working in the area of philosophy of mind. His areas of interest are: philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, metaphysics, philosophy of fiction, and applied ethics. He is also the head of the organisational committee of the annual Philosophy Students' Symposium in Maribor, organised by The Slovenian Society for Analytic Philosophy and The Department of Philosophy (Faculty of Arts, University of Maribor).

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