Synthese Volume 167, Number 3, April 2009


Guest Editors Kenneth Aizawa and John Bickle 



Original Source Materials for this posting from: Synthese ― An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science published by Springer Netherlands

Aizawa, Kenneth (Apr. 2009). Editor’s introduction. Synthese 167(3): 433-438. (DOI: 10.1007/s11229-008-9384-9). 


Kenneth Aizawa : 7412 Camelback Drive, Shreveport, LA 71105, USA

Email: ken.aizawa [AT]


Received: 1 July 2008, Revised: 1 July 2008, Accepted: 1 July 2008, Published online: 27 August 2008

The first page of this paper:

For scientifically informed philosophy, the advance of science brings with it new materials with which to rethink familiar issues. Shapiro's contribution to this Synthese issue on philosophy and neuroscience provides dramatic illustration of this. Aristotle grappled with the question of how one is to individuate the senses, providing some justification for what one might call the common sense view that there are five. Contemporary psychology and neuroscience, however, have suggested that there are many more senses than this, including proprioception, nociception, and equilibrioception. Shapiro, for his part, follows this trend by proposing that the recently discovered mirror neuron system constitutes a hitherto unrecognized sensory system. Initially impressing Shapiro is the observation that mirror neurons appear to respond to the goal or purpose of a movement, for example a hand grasping a piece of food, rather than the grasping motion of the hand alone.

     Shapiro develops his case for the mirror neuron system as a sensory system in two phases. First, he begins with some conceptual groundwork on the task of defining versus differentiating the senses. That is, it is one thing to define, or state the essence of, or give necessary and sufficient conditions for, what a particular sense is, but quite another to provide a means for discriminating between one sense and another. Opting to try to distinguish the senses, rather than define them, Shapiro adopts a pluralistic approach: there are many respects in which senses may differ from each other in theoretically significant ways. These include the kinds of objects and properties to which a sensory system responds (e.g., shape and distance), the physical stimuli to which a sensory system responds (e.g., sound waves, light waves, airborne chemicals), and the anatomy and physiology of the system (e.g., whether the system contains hair cells or photopigments).

Shapiro, Lawrence A. (Apr. 2009). Making sense of mirror neurons. Synthese 167(3): 439-456. (DOI: 10.1007/s11229-008-9385-8).


Lawrence Shapiro : Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin―Madison, 5185 H.C. White Hall, Madison, WI 53706, USA

Email: lshapiro [AT]


Received: 1 July 2008, Revised: 1 July 2008, Accepted: 1 July 2008, Published online: 30 September 2008

ABSTRACT: The discovery of mirror neurons has been hailed as one of the most exciting developments in neuroscience in the past few decades. These neurons discharge in response to the observation of others' actions. But how are we to understand the function of these neurons? In this paper I defend the idea that mirror neurons are best conceived as components of a sensory system that has the function to perceive action. In short, mirror neurons are part of a hitherto unrecognized "sixth sense". In this spirit, research should move toward developing a psychophysics of mirror neurons.

KEYWORDS: Grice · Mirror neurons · Perception · Psychophysics · Receptive fields · Senses

This paper has evolved quite a bit since I first presented it to a Metaphysics of Science Workshop in October 2007. Present to offer me very useful advice were Ken Aizawa, Carl Gillett, Tom Polger, Bob Richardson, and Jackie Sullivan. I'm also grateful to the audience that heard me deliver this paper at University of Cincinnati in November 2007, as well as an audience at the University of Wollongong in June 2008.

Polger, Thomas W. (Apr. 2009). Evaluating the evidence for multiple realization. Synthese 167(3): 457-472. (DOI: 10.1007/s11229-008-9386-7).


Thomas W. Polger : Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, ML 0374, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0374, USA

Email: thomas.polger [AT]


Received: 1 July 2008, Revised: 1 July 2008, Accepted: 1 July 2008, Published online: 27 August 2008


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.

KEYWORDS: Multiple realization · Identity theory · Putnam · Fodor · Block · Shapiro

Richardson, Robert C. (Apr. 2009). Multiple realization and methodological pluralism. Synthese 167(3): 473-492. (DOI: 10.1007/s11229-008-9387-6).


Robert C. Richardson1, 2

(1) Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221, USA

(2) Department of Cognitive Science, Universität Osnabrück, Osnabrück, Germany



Received: 1 July 2008, Revised: 1 July 2008, Accepted: 1 July 2008, Published online: 2 October 2008

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.

KEYWORDS: Broca · Localization · Language functions · Methodological pluralism · Multiple realization · Neural plasticity · Reductionism

I have had the opportunity to discuss these ideas with many people over many years. Most recently, Ken Aizawa, Bill Bechtel, John Bickle, Peggy DesAutels, Tom Polger, Larry Shapiro, Jackie Sullivan, and Larry Jost. The ideas were discussed at a workshop at the University of Cincinnati, Centenary College, the University of Georgia, and the Universität Osnabrück. In each case, they have led me to modify my views. The views also benefited from discussion at the Philosophy of Science Association in 2007, where Polger, Shapiro, Sullivan and I shared the stage, discussing related topics. Those papers are forthcoming in Philosophy of Science. 

Aizawa, Kenneth (Apr. 2009). Neuroscience and multiple realization: a reply to Bechtel and Mundale. Synthese 167(3): 493-510. (DOI: 10.1007/s11229-008-9388-5).


Ken Aizawa : Department of Philosophy, Centenary College of Louisiana, 7412 Camelback Drive, Shreveport, LA 71105, USA

Email: ken.aizawa [AT]


Received: 1 July 2008, Revised: 1 July 2008, Accepted: 1 July 2008, Published online: 26 September 2008

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.

KEYWORDS: Multiple realization · Neuroscience · Functional localization · Brain mapping

Sullivan, Jacqueline Anne (Apr. 2009). The multiplicity of experimental protocols: a challenge to reductionist and non-reductionist models of the unity of neuroscience. Synthese 167(3): 511-539. (DOI: 10.1007/s11229-008-9389-4).


Jacqueline A. Sullivan : Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HB 414A, 900 13th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294-1260, USA

Email: jas1 [AT]


Received: 1 July 2008, Revised: 1 July 2008, Accepted: 1 July 2008, Published online: 29 August 2008

ABSTRACT: Descriptive accounts of the nature of explanation in neuroscience and the global goals of such explanation have recently proliferated in the philosophy of neuroscience (e.g., Bechtel, Mental mechanisms: Philosophical perspectives on cognitive neuroscience. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2007; Bickle, Philosophy and neuroscience: A ruthlessly reductive account. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishing, 2003; Bickle, Synthese, 151, 411-434, 2006; Craver, Explaining the brain: Mechanisms and the mosaic unity of neuroscience. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) and with them new understandings of the experimental practices of neuroscientists have emerged. In this paper, I consider two models of such practices; one that takes them to be reductive another that takes them to be integrative. I investigate those areas of the neuroscience of learning and memory from which the examples used to substantiate these models are culled, and argue that the multiplicity of experimental protocols used in these research areas presents specific challenges for both models. In my view, these challenges have been overlooked largely because philosophers have hitherto failed to pay sufficient attention to fundamental features of experimental practice. I demonstrate that when we do pay attention to such features, evidence for reduction and integrative unity in neuroscience is simply not borne out. I end by suggesting some new directions for the philosophy of neuroscience that pertain to taking a closer look at the nature of neuroscientific experiments.

KEYWORDS: Experiment · Experimentation · Explanation · Learning · Long-term potentiation (LTP) · Mechanism · Protocol · Reduction · Reliability · Unity · Validity 


Related Books on Philosophy and Neuroscience


coming soon



지금 2009. 04. 19. 일요일. 낮 1시 40분. 맑음. 아주 화창한 날씨다. 방문 앞의 정원에 있는 분홍색 철쭉 세 그루와 하얀색 철쭉 한 그루의 꽃들이 정말 아름답다. 날씨가 이렇게 좋을 수 있는가! 봄소풍이라도 떠나야 하는데... 어릴 적 이런 싱그러운 봄날에 들로 산으로 생명의 푸른 기운을 만끽하며 쏘다녔던 기억이 풀내음처럼 번져온다.

콸리아 / 퀄리아 / qualia 

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Philosophy of Science Volume 75, Issue 5, December 2008

Proceedings of the 2006 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association Part II: Symposia Papers

Edited by Cristina Bicchieri and Jason Alexander



Original Source Materials for this posting from: Philosophy of Science published by University of Chicago Press

Special Section on: Multiple Realizability, Explanation, and Special Sciences

Sullivan, Jacqueline Anne (Dec. 2008). Memory Consolidation, Multiple Realizations, and Modest Reductions. Philosophy of Science 75(5): 501-513. (DOI: 10.1086/594502).


ABSTRACT: This article investigates several consequences of a recent trend in philosophy of mind to shift the relata of realization from mental state-physical state to function-mechanism. It is shown, by applying both frameworks to the neuroscientific case study of memory consolidation, that, although this shift can be used to avoid the immediate antireductionist consequences of the traditional argument from multiple realizability, what is gained is a far more modest form of reductionism than recent philosophical accounts have intimated and neuroscientists themselves have claimed.

Jacqueline Anne Sullivan†‡

†To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Alabama at Birmingham, HB 414A, 900 13th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294-1260; e-mail: jas1 [AT]


‡The author would like to thank Tom Polger for organizing the PSA 2007 symposium on multiple realization and Ken Aizawa for writing a paper for the Society of Philosophy and Psychology Meeting held at Wake Forest University in June 2005, which prompted my interest in the issues I address in this article.

Shapiro, Lawrence A. (Dec. 2008). How to Test for Multiple Realization. Philosophy of Science 75(5): 514-525. (DOI: 10.1086/594503).


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.

Lawrence A. Shapiro†

†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: lshapiro [AT]



Richardson, Robert C. (Dec. 2008). Autonomy and Multiple Realization. Philosophy of Science 75(5): 526-536. (DOI: 10.1086/594504).


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.

Robert C. Richardson†

†To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, P.O. Box 210374, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0374; e-mail: robert.richardson [AT]


Polger, Thomas W. (Dec. 2008). Two Confusions Concerning Multiple Realization. Philosophy of Science 75(5): 537-547. (DOI: 10.1086/594505).


ABSTRACT: 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.

Thomas W. Polger†

†To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, ML 0374, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0374; e-mail: thomas.polger [AT]



Related Books on Multiple Realizability, Explanation, and Special Sciences




Related Internet Resources


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Multiple Realizability

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Mind and Multiple Realizability

Wikipedia entry on Multiple realizability

Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind entry on Multiple Realizability

지금 2009. 03. 22. 일요일. 아침 9시 53분(부슬비)에서 03. 24. 화요일. 늦은 6시 09분(낮에는 맑음. 지금은 흐림.) 사이에 작성하다. 

지금 2009. 04. 11. 토요일. 밤 9시 17분. 맑음. 입수해야 할 논문들이 넘친다. 이 서지 사항을 작성하면서 관련 내용들을 검색하다가 꼬리에 꼬리를 물고 이어지는 관련 논문, 책, 정보에 완전히 함몰돼 버렸다. 기진맥진 지친다. 하지만, 흥미진진한 새 논문들을 읽는 이 즐거움... 그 탐욕, 탐식, 탐독을 그 어디에 비기랴...

콸리아 / 퀄리아 / qualia

 Related Papers on Multiple Realizability 

Polger, Thomas W., Lawrence A. Shapiro (Apr. 2008). Understanding the Dimensions of Realization. The Journal of Philosophy 105(4): 213-222.


The first paragraph of this paper:

Carl Gillett has defended what he calls the "dimensioned" view of the realization relation, which he contrasts with the traditional "flat" view of realization.1 Intuitively, the dimensioned approach characterizes realization in terms of composition whereas the flat approach views realization in terms of occupiers of functional roles. Elsewhere we have argued that the general view of realization and multiple realization that Gillett advances is not able to discharge the theoretical duties of those relations.2 Here we focus on an internal objection to Gillett's account and then raise some broader reasons to reject it.


Shapiro, Lawrence A. (Dec. 2000). Multiple Realizations. The Journal of Philosophy 97(12): 635-654.


The first paragraph of this paper:

Philosophers are near consensus that the multiple realizability of higher-level properties in lower-level properties stops theoretical reduction dead in its tracks. Hilary Putnam introduced the idea of multiple realizability in a series of papers in the 1960s,3 and used it to demolish the hypothesis that psychological states are reducible to brain states. In the following decade, Jerry Fodor4 generalized Putnam's conclusion and played the multiple realizability thesis (henceforth MRT) like a trump card against attempts to reduce any special science, that is, any science "above" physics. Whereas a few philosophers have questioned whether MRT is really at odds with reductionism ― Robert Richardson5 and Elliott Sober6 argue that MRT is consistent with reductionism ― no one, to my knowledge, has seriously questioned the truth of MRT itself. Presumably, this complacency speaks to the obvious nature of MRT. Surely, there are many ways to build a system with a given function, whether the system falls within the domain of psychology, biology, or chemistry, Dissenters focus on what this fact means for reductionism.




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