Realizability and Levels

Workshop « Realizability and the levels of Reality ».

Tentative Schedule.

IHPST, 13 rue du Four, Paris


June 10
1:30-2:30 Robert Rupert: Subpersonal cognition and persons, without realization or implementation
2:30-3:30 Lena Kastner: Levels as perspectives
15 min Coffee Break
3:45-4:45 Alex Manafu: Can there be a science of multiply realized kinds?
4:45-5:45 Christian Sachse: Biological functions and multiple realization

June 11:
10-11 Zoe Drayson: Realizers and vehicles: reflections on Rupert’s ‘redundant representations’
11-12 Lawrence Shapiro: Reduction redux
15 min Coffee Break
12:15-1:15 Gary Fuller: Realization, Constitution and Mechanism
Lunch (Mabillon Resto U)
3:00-4:00 Thomas Polger: Differences that explain sameness
4:00-5:00 Kenneth Aizawa: Multiple realization and multiple “ways” of realization

June 12:
9:30-10:30 Fred Adams: Cognition Wars
10:30-11:30 Beate Krickel: Mechanisms vs. mere causal sequences
30 min Coffee Break
12:00-1:00 Philippe Huneman: Realizability and the varieties of explanations



Fred Adams: Cognition Wars

There is currently competition among theorists of cognition. There are many plant scientists who maintain the existence of plant cognition. There are biologists who maintain the existence of cognition in bacteria. In this talk, I will present the basis for such claims and evaluate them and discuss the future for theories of cognition in the cognitive sciences.


Kenneth Aizawa: Multiple Realization and Multiple “Ways” of Realization

Shapiro, 2008, Shapiro and Polger, 2013, and Piccinini and Maley, 2014, claim that we need more than a theory of multiple realization. We need a theory of multiple “ways” of realization. As Piccinini and Maley put it, a theory of multiple realization “properly so called” is a theory of multiple “ways” of realization. Despite this insistence on the need for a theory of multiple “ways” of realization, Piccinini and Maley’s formulation of multiple “ways” of realization contains no provision for “ways”. Their theory has no conditions that articulate their notion of “ways”. Shapiro, 2008, by contrast, does provide a theory of multiple “ways” of realization, but it appears to be overly restrictive. Shapiro and Polger, 2013, offer a flawed formulation of the account in Shapiro, 2008, without circumventing the problem of excessive restriction.


Zoe Drayson: Realizers and vehicles: reflections on Rupert’s ‘redundant representations’

Rupert (2011) relies on a distinction between *vehicles* and *realizers* to argue that some cognitive phenomena are explained by the quantity of ‘redundant representations’ involved. This distinction has become somewhat unfashionable: people increasingly use the term ‘vehicles of cognition’ to refer to *any* of the processes, states, or mechanisms that underlie cognitive capacities (Rowlands 2006). In this paper I suggest that Rupert is right to insist on the distinction: the way we individuate vehicles plays an important explanatory role that is not captured by mere realizers. But further exploration of this explanatory role reveals that vehicles cannot do the work that Rupert demands of them, and that his position may be best defended in terms of realizers after all.


Gary Fuller: Realization, Constitution, and Mechanism

Being a newcomer to this international workshop, the aim of my talk is to get clearer and raise questions about such key notions as those of physicalism, realization, constitution, and mechanism. I shall be painting with broad strokes and will be looking at the work of the relatively younger generation of philosophers (as compared with the older generation of e.g. Davidson, Fodor, Kim, and Shoemaker), some of whom are regular members of the workshop, e.g. Adams, Aizawa, Gillett, and Polger. I shall focus on the philosophy of mind and psychology and ask which of the following views provides a better physicalist account: the physical realizes the mental; the physical constitutes the mental; the physical mechanistically explains the mental.


Carl Gillett: Scientific composition and manipulability: grounds for a divorce

Philosophers of science have recently avoided what we might term ‘Direct’ accounts of scientific notions of composition that seek to provide theoretical frameworks articulating the nature and features of such concepts. We can partially trace the rise of this approach to Carl Craver’s influential (2007) book. Crucially, Craver contends manipulationist accounts of causal relevance are sufficient to answer all the important questions about intra-level mechanistic explanations for scientists and philosophers of science, thus avoiding Direct accounts of causation. Extending this framework to composition, Craver has pioneered the use of what we may term ‘Indirect’ accounts focused on compositional relevance, again built upon manipulability, thus implicitly taking Direct accounts to be irrelevant for answering the important questions about inter-level mechanistic explanations. In addition, Craver’s work has been influential in a second way. For Craver’s approach is also implicitly ‘Monistic’ about the kinds of determination, since it takes causal and compositional relations to be of a piece in being capturable by manipulability relations. And this partially explains recent work seeking to understand composition by tweaking frameworks for causation. In this paper, I critically engage Craver’s framework and overall approach. I show that manipulability-based accounts fail on multiple fronts with regard to both compositional relevance and compositional relations. I consequently highlight why we need to endorse Pluralism about scientific notions of determination because there are fundamental differences in kind between causal, or productive, and compositional relations. In contrast to these failings, I show that a Direct, Pluralist account based on an insight of the long-standing tradition of philosophical work on mechanistic explanation faces no such problems and offers promising answers on the key issues. The wider methodological lessons of my talk are that we cannot avoid Direct accounts of composition in answering the important issues for working scientists and that we must favor Pluralist, over Monist, accounts of scientific determination relations.


Philppe Huneman: TBA


Beate Krickel: Mechanisms vs. Mere Causal Sequences

Mechanisms are supposed to be “entities and activities organized such that they are responsible for a phenomenon-to-be-explained” (cf. Craver 2007, Illari & Williamson 2012). This characterization renders almost every causal sequence a mechanism. For example, also accidental and one-off causal sequences satisfy this characterization. I will argue that this is an unwanted result. In order for mechanisms to do the job they are supposed to do according to the new mechanists certain causal sequences should not be considered mechanisms.

I will discuss several suggestions of how to distinguish between mechanisms and what I will call mere causal sequences that can be found in the mechanistic literature: regularity (MDC 2000, Andersen 2012), invariance (Woodward 2002), stable arrangement (Glennan 1996, 2002), and functions (Bechtel & Abrahamsen 2005, Garson 2013). None of these suggestions can adequately account for the difference between mechanisms and mere causal sequences. I will make a novel suggestion according to which mechanisms are causal sequences that are reversely regular: a mechanism for a phenomenon P is a causal sequence S for which it is true that, ceteris paribus, if P had occurred, S would have occurred.


Lena Kaestner: Levels as Perspectives

Neural processes are typically considered the lower-level implementational basis for higher-level cognitive phenomena such as memory, language processing, or decision-making. Thus, cognitive scientists often try to explain these phenomena in terms of the neural processes that accompany them. However, the precise relation between higher and lower levels remains unclear. To relate phenomena and their underlying mechanisms, proponents of mechanistic explanations appeal to the concept of constitution. But what precisely is (mechanistic) constitution supposed to be? Recent attempts to characterize this relation have focused on its metaphysics. In this talk I will take a different approach: I will propose to think of levels as perspectives scientists take on a given phenomenon. While this view is empirically realistic and permits multiple realization, it is metaphysically liberal and leaves the exact nature of constitutive relations a matter for empirical scientists to discover.


Alex Manafu: Can there be a science of multiply realized kinds?

Abstract: TBA


Thomas Polger: Differences that Explain Sameness

The world is full of variation. Some kinds of variation are of special interest to philosophers of science because they are thought to have important implications for the relationships between explanations and theories at different “levels” or scales of organization. One such pattern of variation is called multiple realization. A great deal of effort has been spent on accurately characterizing this kind of variation, and on determining how frequently it occurs. I will advance this effort by examining three case studies in detail, with particular interest in clarifying what does and does not count as doing the same thing (function) in different ways.


Rob Rupert: Subpersonal Cognition and Persons, without Realization or Implementation

Philosophers of cognitive science often accept a personal-subpersonal distinction. Frequently this is couched in robust, even metaphysical, terms, described as a difference between levels of reality, for example. Moreover, philosophers often treat the personal level as privileged, holding certain claims about the personal level fixed — claims purportedly justified by introspection, common sense, or conceptual analysis — and leaving cognitive science to investigate the subpersonal level, the realm of subconscious, mechanistic processes that realize or otherwise ground person-level facts. In this paper, I argue against this top-heavy, two-level view of the person and its relation to cognitive science. I argue that no set of person-level facts asymmetrically constrains investigation of the subpersonal domain and that the processes and facts grounding true person-level attributions are not different in kind from those that ground true attributions of subpersonal states. In closing, I offer meta-remarks concerning how best to understand the justification of philosophical and scientific reasoning in the absence of a robust, independent level of personal facts.


Larry Shapiro: Reduction Redux

Putnam’s criticisms of the identity theory attack a strawman. Fodor’s criticisms of reduction attack a strawman. Properly interpreted, Nagel offered a conception of reduction that captures everything a physicalist could want. I update Nagel, replacing the vexed notion of reduction with the idea of overlap, and show why multiple realization poses no challenge to overlap.


Christian Sachse: Biological functions and multiple realization

This paper focuses on different ways of typing entities, notably crucial differences and similarities between physical (e.g. causal, universal, fundamental) and biological ways of typing (e.g. functional, abstract, spatiotemporal limited).

Against this background, the issue of multiple realization will be reconsidered. More precisely, I shall compare conditions where multiple realization constitutes an argument in favour of some explanatory autonomy of biology with conditions where the argument for the explanatory autonomy breaks down.

Among others, the aim thus is to clarify to what extent claims like “token-identity” and “completeness of physics” have an impact on how to conceptualize the notion of biological function and multiple realization.


Jackie Sullivan: Methodological pluralism and explanatory progress

Scientific explanation requires stable explanatory targets. However, experimental practice in sciences of the mind-brain presents obstacles to establishing stable explanatory targets. One obstacle is the freedom afforded investigators to produce, measure and detect phenomena they desire to understand and explain. A second obstacle stems from differences among investigators working within the same as well as across different areas of neuroscience on the emphasis placed on stabilizing explanatory targets. The aim of this paper is to clarify the nature of these obstacles and to tease out their implications for the contemporary unity of science debate. In the positive part of the talk, I propose a strategy for overcoming these obstacles, consider its merits and indicate areas for further work.


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