Comments and criticism on multiple realization and the special sciences

Abstract
It is widely held that disciplines are autonomous when their taxonomies are “substrate neutral” and when the events, states and processes that realize their descriptive vocabulary are heterogeneous. This will be particularly true in the case of disciplines whose taxonomy consists largely in terms that individuate by function. Having concluded that the multiple realization of functional kinds is far less widespread than assumed or argued for, Shapiro cannot avail himself of the argument for the autonomy of the special sciences which relies on multiple realization. This makes urgent the question of whether we must “now give up the idea that functionalist taxonomies have any scientific value?” [p. 650]. He acknowledges that we must either deny that the special sciences are autonomous, because higher level kinds have only a single realization and can thus be reduced, or else we must deny that there are empirical laws in the special sciences. “In other words, either special sciences have no ontological independence from lower level sciences or, worse, they have no empirical laws, which is to say that they are not empirical sciences at all. [p. 650]” Shapiro’s reductionist/eliminativist dilemma for the special sciences is unreal. For he has not canvassed the most important source of multiple realization in nature, and this source obviates his dilemma for most of the special sciences. Moreover, the route he offers between the horns of his dilemma leads pretty directly to impalement on its eliminativist horn. Or so I shall try to show in this comment.
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