Beyond Reduction: What Can Philosophy of Mind Learn from Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science?

The Order Project: Online Discussion Papers (2010)
Recent debates about the metaphysics of mind have tended to assume that inter-theoretic reductions are the norm in the natural sciences. With this assumption in place, the apparent explanatory gaps surrounding consciousness and intentionality seem unique, fascinating, and perhaps metaphysically significant. Over the past several decades, however, philosophers of science have largely rejected the notions that inter-theoretic reduction is either widespread in the natural sciences or a litmus for the legitimacy of the special sciences. If we adopt a post-reductionist philosophy of science, with a commitment to theory pluralism, the epistemic statuses of the standard positions in philosophy of mind (reductionism, non-reductive physicalism, dualism) are all significantly changed. Moreover, central problems of recent philosophy of mind – reducibility and the explanatory gap – seem themselves to be in need of rethinking if reductions are rare and the sciences have “explanatory gaps all the way down.” This article examines the prospects of the standard metaphysical positions, plus two types of pluralism, in light of post-reductionist philosophy of science.
Keywords reduction  metaphysics of mind  explanatory gap
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