Back to multiple realizable argument difficulties

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2010 by toddallinmorman

At the end of the last class I had some serious difficulties following what was being objected to and why. I have finally reviewed my notes and my questions follow below. First, I’d like to say my earlier question regarded why people care so much about the reducibility of CMG to MB, not ‘why do we care if reducibility is possible at all?’ or ‘why do we care if multiple realization is a legitimate foundation for reduction?’ These last two questions I find interesting. Thus this is not a revisiting of my prior question in this topic.

(To reply to Lynn’s related post: I think CMG is trivially non-reducible after reading Ernst because it does not actually explain our more detailed understanding of phenomena, while MB does- so it is a paradigm shift. Back to class: I also do not feel the peg in the hole example is a case of multiple realization, as the general laws governing mater, space, and electron repulsion are not specific to the particular atoms that make up the peg- so general atomic theory laws suffice.)

So, the questions addressed at the end were:

If P explains Q, is it also true that having Ai explains having Q?


Do lower lever laws of the form Ai implies Bi explain higher laws if P then Q (assuming being Q implies some Bi as the cause of its being Q)?

Given that, under multiple realizability, for P to be P it must have some (unknown) Ai for it to be P, and that for Q to be Q it must have some Bi, it seems to me that this lower level law, of relative complexity, must offer an explanation for ‘why Q ?’

This is because A implies the proper corresponding B (I am done doing subscript- it slows things down too much);

A implies P;

B implies Q;

Therefore the presence of A implies P, a corresponding B, and then Q. Thus Q is explained by the laws and connectors.

Similarly, P implies some A;

Some A implies a corresponding B;

Some B implies Q. Thus the higher level law, P implies Q, is explained in more detail (if we can determine the specific A linked to P, or alternatively the B linked to Q).

I’ve tried to review the other works we’ve read to find the basis of an argument that the multiple realizability complex rule does not explain the phenomena and the higher level rule (actually it seems to me to explain much more fully, if one can learn the details, but not necessarily with more utility). Was someone actually claiming that the answer to either of the questions expressed in class were ‘no’?

If so, please explain. If it is just a matter of ‘better’ explanation, I frankly don’t care, because that is just simply applying some arbitrary definition of ‘better’.


7 Responses to “Back to multiple realizable argument difficulties”

  1. Todd: it is a matter of what constitutes a “better explanation”. The topic of explanatory reductionism reduces to a question of explanation! If you are still interested in this topic then I suggest you read the classics, Nagel, Kitcher (the one I assigned), Putnam, Garfinkel, and Fodor (all the citations are in the papers we read). But, there are other sorts of reductionistic issues including what I think you are interested in (which we didn’t cover at all), ontological reductionism. Here: I suggest that you look at the classical papers on “supervenience”. J. Kim is one of the best philosophers on this issue.

    And, you are wrong about “simply applying some arbitrary definition of ‘better'”. The whole point was to determine what constitutes a better explanation. The classic book here is by W. Salmon called Four Decades of Scientific Explanation.

  2. Fine, but…

    The questions, as presented in class, were:

    If P explains Q, is it also true that having Ai explains having Q? and
    Do lower lever laws of the form Ai implies Bi explain higher laws if P then Q?

    …with the metaphysical givens mentioned in class. The questions are about explaining, not better explanations. I looked over the Kitchner that was assigned for class in preparing this and his objections to the efficacy of reduction with regards to multiple realizability all appear to me to be specifically grounded in the details of the MB and CMG incongruity not any general claim to reductions and multiple realizability on purely logical or definitional grounds.

    I ask, does anyone answer the above questions ‘no’ and if they do, why? What is your definition of ‘explanation’ that excludes what I thought was an explanation in my original post?

    In the meanwhile, I’ll look up these things Andre menrtions

  3. Ok, I think I get it now. I’ve read the Putnam and started a Kim article, but it is finally coming to me. It kinda was annoying that Putnam never spelled out why she thought multiple realizability destroyed reductionism, but now I think I get it.

    The idea is that whatever her preferred theory for pain is (mechanism thing) offers an explanation across organisms for pain. The problem is that there is no one explanation for pain along the lines of ‘pain resides in the brain’ as plenty of organisms do not have brains but exhibit pain as described in more psychological terms or what-not. Thus the multiplicity of the MR explanation is rather useless because it has to explain the biology of every organism to show what is realized over and over as pain. It took beginning the Kim to get this.

    Ok, but here is the problem, and one neither seems to consider (but I haven’t finished the Kim yet)- the concept of cross species ‘pain’ is false. That is to say, creatures that have evolved their thinking and sensing like response centers do not experience the same things and it is purely coincidental (except that convergent evolution played a part) that the responses and observed phenomena appear anything similar.

    Let us take a human, an octopus, and a Migou (Migou: Strange alien creatures from Pluto. They are a horrible combination of fungus, insect, and crustacean. The Migou are bent on the enslavement of the Human race and from Lovecraft’s imagination). Each exhibits p-type behavior in response to p-type stimulus, but only humans experience pain. It is trivially obvious as to why p-type behavior would be evolutionarily selected for higher life forms like humans, octopi, and Migou, but each organism followed a different evolutionary path. Their behaviors and physicalities were shaped be entirely different random processes over the millions of years of evolution. But, given the efficacy of the range of p-type behavior in response to p-type stimulus it is obvious why there would be a convergence to such a degree that their behavior and experiences would appear to be the same, but they are not.

    No one posits a greater reality to ‘wolfness’ when being amazed by the similarity of the mammalian wolf and the marsupial wolf, but similar environmental niches have lead to the similarity in the organisms. Evolution explains the similarity, not some theory of wolfness.

    Similarly, p-type responses have evolved in multiple paths, just as wolfness has, but other than for comparison and contrast, ‘wolfness’ and p-type stuff has no theoretical of explanatory validity. The multiple realization of ‘pain’ or what I am calling ‘p-type stuff’ does not show the impossibility of reduction, but the invalidity of the idea ‘pain’ as reaching across evolutionary branches. Humans have pain, octopi have crustacean sensations, and Migou have insect-fungus-thing sensation and psychology.

    The mistake in the question is: P implies Q. In reality P does not imply Q, but are of phenomena that are so similar that we have mistaken them for being the same thing when they are completely different.

    Now, if it were true that P did imply Q and some A implied some B, and P implied A and B implied Q, then I think MR would have to work as a reduction, unless one could show some a priori rule that destroyed it as a valid logical explanation.

    The problem seems to me that Putnam and others have not considered the very real possibility their theory of mind or pain is what is flawed and not in accord with the phenomena. That is, P does not imply Q.

  4. I am really glad I wrote that last note before I read Jaegwon Kim’s “Multiple Realization and the Metaphysics of Reduction” Philosophy and Phenomenology Research, Vol. 52, No.1 (1992), pp. 1-26.

    While I do owe him an apology for jumping to the conclusion he does not consider that the concept of pain is flawed, I am glad I have a record that I came up with his argument before reading it as the above is essentially his argument (with addition of my bit about convergent evolution) and conclusions. He just uses human, reptiles, and Martians, instead of humans, crustaceans, and Migou.

    As he wrote on the last page:

    “To summarize, then, the two metaphysical schemes I have sketched offer these choices: either we allow disjunctive kinds and construe pain and other mental properties as such kinds, or else we must acknowledge that our general mental terms and concepts do not pick out properties and kinds in the world…”
    “As I argued, MR seriously compromises the disciplinary unity and autonomy of psychology as a science.”

    Earlier he wrote, with regards to pain, “it follows that mental kinds are not causal kinds, and hence are disqualified as proper scientific kinds.” (p.18).

    From my perspective the argument that disjunction or MR undermines the possibility of reduction has not been shown and instead every specific example we have examined has been of a kind where the alleged higher theory was not properly viable as a scientific theory or not a true case of MR (peg-hole).

  5. Todd, I appreciate your inputs about reductionism. I think ou are talking about ontological reductionism rather than explanatory reductionism in these threads. I agree with you that if any higher-level theory does not pick a genuine kind,then the purported causal relation is not a unified type of causation. If so, then MR is necessary.

    While in terms of explanatory reductionism, what we are interested in seems to be more about explanatory power than whether the properties are genuine kind properties. (I didn’t know this explanatory/ontological reductionism distinction before I took the course. I actually shared your puzzlement somehow.) So I think even if the properties in the higher-level theory are not genuine kind properties, it doesn’t harm for explanatory reductionism. For explanatory reductionism to work, what matters are the desiderata of explanation. In this sense, the situation sounds like modelling to me: what are the representational ideals are determined by the modeller. Similarly, what counts as a good explanation is determined by the ideal of the explanation. Then, it seems somehow right that “a good explanation is as subjective as taste”.

  6. Thank you so much for the comment, Wenwen. I am not at all conscious of what ‘ontological’ reductionism is. My understanding of reductionism is that it is a theory whereby ‘higher level’ sciences are reducible to the languages, notations, and theories of lower level sciences, and ultimately everything to physics. Any particular theory might be individually reducible to another, but the reductionist ‘project’ so to speak is to render everything one ultimate scientific theory.

    From my perspective science has no metaphysical content and does not ever speak of actual being (my understanding of what ontology covers) but only of explanation of phenomena.

    My problem and objection is that The MR problem as presented in class does not in my view offer any viable argument that proves the impossibility of reductionism. It seemed to me in class that some were arguing that the problem as presented in the original post was a negative answer to those two questions and by implication that reduction was no viable.

    I would very much like anyone who holds such a position to explain it to me.

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