Evaluating the evidence for multiple realization

Synthese 167 (3):457 - 472 (2009)
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
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.2307/40271216
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 15,879
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Ned Block (1995). On a Confusion About a Function of Consciousness. Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.
Lawrence A. Shapiro (2000). Multiple Realizations. Journal of Philosophy 97 (12):635-654.

View all 10 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Mark Bauer (2013). Multiple Realizability, Constraints, and Identity. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 94 (4):446-464.
Thomas W. Polger (2009). Identity Theories. Philosophy Compass 4 (5):822-834.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

65 ( #50,417 of 1,725,168 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

10 ( #64,836 of 1,725,168 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.