PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Multiple realization and the granularity of description

The past fifteen years have witnessed a revival of interest in multiple realization and multiply realized kinds. Bechtel and Mundale’s (1999) illuminating discussion of the subject must no doubt be credited with having generated much of this renewed interest. Among other virtues, their paper expresses what seems to be an important insight about multiple realization: that unless we keep a consistent grain across realized and realizing kinds, claims alleging the multiple realization of psychological kinds are vulnerable to refutation. In this paper I argue that, intuitions aside, the terms in which their recommendation has been put make it impossible to follow, while also misleadingly insinuating that meeting their desideratum virtually guarantees univocal realization. Instead of a matching of grains, what multiple realization really requires is a principled mismatching of grains. I further suggest that Shapiro’s (2000) work on multiple realization can be usefully understood as an attempt to explain what makes a mismatch of grains a principled one.

Author Information:

John Zerilli    
School of Philosophy
Australian National University

 

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