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Summary Functionalism in the philosophy of mind is the view that being in a particular mental state (say, having a particular belief or desire) is a matter whether one has a state that plays a certain functional role in mediating between input and output relations. Mental states so understood as then said to be "realized" by physical states, in virtue of physical states of a system playing the requisite functional roles. This kind of view has sometimes been extended beyond the philosophy of mind and, in some cases, to provide a general metaphysical approach to the nature and structure of reality, according to which physical states of entities are said to "realize" any number of different kinds of functionally-defined properties or processes. 
Key works In contemporary literature, functionalism in the philosophy of mind and the idea of mental states as "physically realized" is usually traced to Putnam 1967. For useful developments of functionalism and the notion of functional realization in the philosophy of mind and elsewhere, see Block 1980, Kim 1998, Polger 2004, and Melnyk 2003. For critical discussion of the metaphysics of functional realization, see Heil 2003 and Morris 2018. For an accessible but critical discussion of the notion of functional properties being "multiply realizable", see Polger & Shapiro 2016
Introductions For a general introduction to functionalism, see Levin 2008.
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  1. Are Acids Natural Kinds?Pieter Thyssen - manuscript
    Are acids natural kinds? Or are they merely relevant kinds? Although acidity has been one of the oldest and most important concepts in chemistry, surprisingly little ink has been spilled on the natural kind question. I approach the question from the perspective of microstructural essentialism. After explaining why both Brønsted acids and Lewis acids are considered functional kinds, I address the challenges of multiple realization and multiple determination. Contra Manafu and Hendry, I argue that the stereotypical properties of acids are (...)
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  2. Out of Nowhere: Introduction: the emergence of spacetime.Nick Huggett & Christian Wuthrich - 2021
    This is a chapter of the planned monograph "Out of Nowhere: The Emergence of Spacetime in Quantum Theories of Gravity", co-authored by Nick Huggett and Christian Wüthrich and under contract with Oxford University Press. (More information at www<dot>beyondspacetime<dot>net.) This chapter introduces the problem of emergence of spacetime in quantum gravity. It introduces the main philosophical challenge to spacetime emergence and sketches our preferred solution to it.
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  3. Understanding the new reductionism: The metaphysics of realization and reduction by functionalism.Carl Gillett - forthcoming - In de Joong & Schouten (eds.), Rethinking Reduction. Blackwell.
  4. Are Acids Natural Kinds?Pieter Thyssen - forthcoming - Foundations of Chemistry:1-29.
    Are acids natural kinds? Or are they merely relevant kinds? Although acidity has been one of the oldest and most important concepts in chemistry, surprisingly little ink has been spilled on the natural kind question. I approach the question from the perspective of microstructural essentialism. After explaining why both Brønsted acids and Lewis acids are considered functional kinds, I address the challenges of multiple realization and multiple determination. Contra Manafu and Hendry, I argue that the stereotypical properties of acids are (...)
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  5. The Absentminded Professor.Justin Tiehen - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    In this paper, I argue that absences pose a challenge to our understanding of physicalism that has not been properly appreciated. I do this by setting out a thought experiment involving a being in whom absence properties occupy the causal roles that functionalists take to define mental properties, in which case these absence properties realize the being’s mental properties. Such a being should be compatible with the truth of physicalism, I argue, even though its mental properties are neither themselves physical (...)
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  6. Functionalism as a Species of Reduction.Jeremy Butterfield & Henrique Gomes - 2023 - In Cristián Soto (ed.), Current Debates in Philosophy of Science: In Honor of Roberto Torretti. Springer Verlag. pp. 123-200.
    This is the first of four papers prompted by a recent literature about a doctrine dubbed spacetime functionalism. This paper gives our general framework for discussing functionalism. Following Lewis, we take it as a species of reduction. We start by expounding reduction in a broadly Nagelian sense. Then we argue that Lewis’ functionalism is an improvement on Nagelian reduction.This paper sets the scene for the other papers, which will apply our framework to theories of space and time. (So those papers (...)
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  7. Functionalism, Reductionism, and Levels of Reality.Lorenzo Lorenzetti - 2023 - Philosophy of Science:1-26.
    I consider a problem for functional reductionism, based on the following tension. Say that b is functionally reduced to a. On the one hand, a and b turn out to be identical, and identity is a symmetric relation. On the other hand, functional reductionism implies that a and b are asymmetrically related: if b is functionally reduced to a, then a is not functionally reduced to b. Thus, we ask: how can a and b be asymmetrically related if they are (...)
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  8. Grounding Functionalism and Explanatory Unificationism.Alexios Stamatiadis-Bréhier - 2023 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 9 (4):799-819.
    In this essay, I propose a functionalist theory of grounding (functionalist-grounding). Specifically, I argue that grounding is a second-order phenomenon that is realized by relations that play the noncausal explanatoriness role. I also show that functionalist-grounding can deal with a powerful challenge. Appeals to explanatory unificationism have been made to argue that the success of noncausal explanations does not depend on the existence of grounding relations. Against this, I argue that a systematization involving functionalist-grounding is superior to its anti-relational counterpart.
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  9. Agency: Let's Mind What's Fundamental.Robert H. Wallace - 2023 - Philosophical Issues 33 (1):285–298.
    The standard event-causal theory of action says that an intentional action is caused in the right way by the right mental states. This view requires reductionism about agency. The causal role of the agent must be nothing over and above the causal contribution of the relevant mental event-causal processes. But commonsense finds this reductive solution to the “agent-mind problem”, the problem of explaining the relationship between agents and the mind, incredible. Where did the agent go? This paper suggests that this (...)
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  10. Behaviourism in Disguise: The Triviality of Ramsey Sentence Functionalism.T. S. Lowther - 2022 - Axiomathes 32 (1):101-121.
    Functionalism has become one of the predominant theories in the philosophy of mind, with its many merits supposedly including its capacity for precise formulation. The most common method to express this precise formulation is by means of the modified Ramsey sentence. In this article, I will apply work from the field of the philosophy of science to functionalism for the first time, examining how Newman’s objection undermines the Ramsey sentence as a means of formalising functionalism. I will also present a (...)
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  11. ‘Consciousness’ and Brain Functions: A Re-look from Functionalist Perspective.Suresh Muruganandam - 2022 - International Journal of Philosophy 10 (1):1.
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  12. Defending functionalism and self-reference in memory.Jordi Fernández - 2021 - Estudios de Filosofía (Universidad de Antioquia) 64:223-236.
    In recent work, Sarah Robins, Gerardo Viera and Steven James have provided some insightful objections to the ideas offered in my book, Memory: A Self-Referential Account. In this paper, I put forward some responses to those objections. Robins challenges the idea that being a memory could be a matter of having a particular functional role within the subject’s cognitive economy. Viera challenges the idea that the content of a memory could explain some of its phenomenological properties. And James challenges the (...)
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  13. Can Multiple Realisation be Explained?Alexander Franklin - 2021 - Philosophy 96 (1):27-48.
    Multiple realisation prompts the question: how is it that multiple systems all exhibit the same phenomena despite their different underlying properties? In this paper I develop a framework for addressing that question and argue that multiple realisation can be reductively explained. I illustrate this position by applying the framework to a simple example – the multiple realisation of electrical conductivity. I defend my account by addressing potential objections:contra Polger and Shapiro, Batterman, and Sober, I claim that multiple realisation is commonplace, (...)
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  14. Flat Physicalism.Meir Hemmo & Orly Shenker - 2021 - Theoria 88 (4):743-764.
    This paper describes a version of type identity physicalism, which we call Flat Physicalism, and shows how it meets several objections often raised against identity theories. This identity theory is informed by recent results in the conceptual foundations of physics, and in particular clar- ifies the notion of ‘physical kinds’ in light of a conceptual analysis of the paradigmatic case of reducing thermody- namics to statistical mechanics. We show how Flat Physi- calism is compatible with the appearance of multiple realisation (...)
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  15. Fodor, Kim e l'autonomia delle scienze cognitive.Sofia Livi - 2021 - Rivista Internazionale di Filosofia e Psicologia 12 (1):71-87.
    Riassunto: Lo statuto della psicologia come scienza speciale è l’oggetto del dibattito pluridecennale intercorso tra Jerry Fodor e Jaegwon Kim. La questione epistemologica delle leggi delle scienze cognitive si intreccia inestricabilmente con riflessioni di tipo metafisico sul dilemma mente-corpo: se Fodor ammette la validità delle leggi psicologiche, considerate irriducibili alle leggi della fisica, il fisicalismo riduzionista di Kim esclude invece tale possibilità. Così, il dialogo tra i due paradigmi funzionalisti delinea una serie di snodi problematici relativi sia allo status delle (...)
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  16. The failures of functionalism.Sarah Robins - 2021 - Estudios de Filosofía (Universidad de Antioquia) 64:201-222.
    In Memory: A Self-Referential Account, Fernández offers a functionalist account of the metaphysics of memory, which is portrayed as presenting significant advantages over causal and narrative theories of memory. In this paper, I present a series of challenges for Fernández’s functionalism. There are issues with both the particulars of the account and the use of functionalism more generally. First, in characterizing the mnemonic role of episodic remembering, Fernández fails to make clear how the mental image type that plays this role (...)
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  17. Supervenience and Realization: Aesthetic Objects and their Properties.Michael Watkins - 2021 - British Journal of Aesthetics 61 (2):229-245.
    Aestheticians generally agree that the aesthetic features of an object depend upon the non-aesthetic features of an object, and that this dependence can be captured by some formulation of the supervenience relation. I argue that the aesthetic depends upon the non-aesthetic in various and importantly different ways; that these dependence relations cannot be explained by supervenience; that appeals to supervenience create puzzles that aestheticians have neither fully appreciated nor resolved; and that appealing to various realization relations avoids these puzzles and (...)
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  18. Multiple Realization in Systems Biology.Wesley Fang - 2020 - Philosophy of Science 87 (4):663–684.
    Polger and Shapiro (2016) claim that unlike human-made artifacts cases of multiple realization in naturally occurring systems are uncommon. Drawing on cases from systems biology, I argue that multiple realization in naturally occurring systems is not as uncommon as Polger and Shapiro initially thought. The relevant cases, which I draw from systems biology, involve generalizable design principles called network motifs which recur in different organisms and species and perform specific functions. I show that network motifs with entirely different underlying causal (...)
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  19. Could We Really Be Made of Swiss Cheese? Xenobiology as an Engineering Epistemology for Biological Realization.Rami Koskinen - 2020 - ChemBioChem 21.
    Besides having potential medical and biosafety applications, as well as challenging the foundations of biological engineering, xenobiology can also shed light on the epistemological and metaphysical questions that puzzle philosophers of science. This paper reviews this philosophical aspect of xenobiology, focusing on the possible multiple realizability of life. According to this hypothesis, what ultimately matters in understanding life is its function, not its particular building blocks. This is because there should, in theory, be many different ways to build the same (...)
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  20. Multiple realization and compositional variation.Kevin Morris - 2020 - Synthese 197 (6):2593-2611.
    It has often been thought that compositional variation across systems that are similar from the point of view of the special sciences provides a key point in favor of the multiple realization of special science kinds and in turn the broadly nonreductive consequences often thought to follow from multiple realization. Yet in a series of articles, and culminating in The Multiple Realization Book, Tom Polger and Larry Shapiro argue that an account of multiple realization demanding enough to yield such nonreductive (...)
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  21. Steering away from multiple realization.Anco Peeters - 2020 - Adaptive Behavior 28 (1):29-30.
    Mario Villalobos and Pablo Razeto-Barry argue that enactivists should understand living beings not as autopoietic systems, but as autopoietic bodies. In doing so, they surrender the principle of multiple realizability of the spatial location of living beings. By way of counterexample, I argue that more motivation is required before this principle is surrendered.
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  22. Empirical Evidence for Intraspecific Multiple Realization?Francesca Strappini, Marialuisa Martelli, Cesare Cozzo & Enrico di Pace - 2020 - Frontiers in Psychology 11:558657.
    Despite the remarkable advances in behavioral and brain sciences over the last decades, the mind/body (brain) problem is still an open debate and one of the most intriguing questions for both cognitive neuroscience and philosophy of mind. Traditional approaches have conceived this problem in terms of a contrast between physicalist monism and Cartesian dualism. However, since the late sixties, the landscape of philosophical views on the problem has become more varied and complex. The Multiple Realization Thesis (MRT) claims that mental (...)
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  23. Realization in biology?Sergio Balari & Guillermo Lorenzo - 2019 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (1):5.
    It is widely assumed that functional and dispositional properties are not identical to their physical base, but that there is some kind of asymmetrical ontological dependence between them. In this regard, a popular idea is that the former are realized by the latter, which, under the non-identity assumption, is generally understood to be a non-causal, constitutive relation. In this paper we examine two of the most widely accepted approaches to realization, the so-called ‘flat view’ and the ‘dimensioned view’, and we (...)
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  24. Empirical incoherence and double functionalism.Sam Baron - 2019 - Synthese (Suppl 2):1-27.
    Recent work on quantum gravity suggests that neither spacetime nor spatiotemporally located entites exist at a fundamental level. The loss of both brings with it the threat of empirical incoherence. A theory is empirically incoherent when the truth of that theory undermines the empirical justification for believing it. If neither spacetime nor spatiotemporally located entities exist as a part of a fundamental theory of QG, then such a theory seems to imply that there are no observables and so no way (...)
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  25. Making Things Up, by Karen Bennett. [REVIEW]Alastair Wilson - 2019 - Mind 128 (510):588-600.
    Making Things Up, by Karen Bennett. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Pp. xi + 260.
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  26. Functionalism and the Problem of Occurrent States.Gary Bartlett - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (270):1-20.
    In 1956 U. T. Place proposed that consciousness is a brain process. More attention should be paid to his word ‘process’. There is near-universal agreement that experiences are processive—as witnessed in the platitude that experiences are occurrent states. The abandonment of talk of brain processes has benefited functionalism, because a functional state, as it is usually conceived, cannot be a process. This point is dimly recognized in a well-known but little-discussed argument that conscious experiences cannot be functional states because the (...)
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  27. Emergence, Function and Realization.Umut Baysan - 2018 - In Sophie Gibb, Robin Findlay Hendry & Tom Lancaster (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Emergence. New York: Routledge.
    “Realization” and “emergence” are two concepts that are sometimes used to describe same or similar phenomena in philosophy of mind and the special sciences, where such phenomena involve the synchronic dependence of some higher-level states of affairs on the lower-level ones. According to a popular line of thought, higher-level properties that are invoked in the special sciences are realized by, and/or emergent from, lower-level, broadly physical, properties. So, these two concepts are taken to refer to relations between properties from different (...)
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  28. The Multiple Realization Book By Thomas W. Polger and Lawrence A. Shapiro. [REVIEW]Umut Baysan - 2018 - Analysis 78 (1):anx078.
    _The Multiple Realization Book_By PolgerThomas W. and ShapiroLawrence A.Oxford University Press, 2016. xiv + 258 pp. £71.14 cloth, £18.99 paper.
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  29. The Multiple Realization Book By Thomas W. Polger and Lawrence A. Shapiro.Umut Baysan - 2018 - Analysis 78 (1):177-180.
    © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Analysis Trust. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: [email protected] fish propel their bodies under water in order to travel from one place to another, are they doing the same kind of thing that we do when we swim? If swimming is to be identified with exactly the kind of thing that we do when we swim, we should seriously consider the following question: Do fish swim? Believe (...)
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  30. Multiple Realization and Robustness.Worth Boone - 2018 - In Marta Bertolaso, Silvia Caianiello & Emanuele Serrelli (eds.), Biological Robustness. Emerging Perspectives from within the Life Sciences. Cham: Springer. pp. 75-94.
    Multiple realization has traditionally been characterized as a thesis about the relation between kinds posited by the taxonomic systems of different sciences. In this paper, I argue that there are good reasons to move beyond this framing. I begin by showing how the traditional framing is tied to positivist models of explanation and reduction and proceed to develop an alternate framing that operates instead within causal explanatory frameworks. I draw connections between this account and the notion of functional robustness in (...)
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  31. The multiple realization book.Danny Booth - 2018 - Philosophical Psychology 31 (3):431-445.
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  32. Some concerns with Polger and Shapiro’s view.Mark Couch - 2018 - Philosophical Psychology 31 (3):419-430.
    This paper provides some responses to Tom Polger and Larry Shapiro’s The Multiple Realization Book (2016). I first provide a description of the authors’ framework for thinking about multiple realization and the conditions they claim this involves. I explain what I think they get right and what they get wrong with this framework. After this, I then consider a few examples of multiple realization they discuss and the interpretations they offer. While I am sympathetic to several things they say about (...)
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  33. Review of Karen Bennett's Making Things Up. [REVIEW]Louis deRosset - 2018 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2018.
    A review of Karen Bennett's /Making Things Up/.
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  34. Physicalism, realization, and structure.Gary Fuller - 2018 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 68:31-36.
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  35. The multiple realization book Thomas W. Polger and Lawrence A. Shapiro new York: Oxford university press, 2016; 258 pp.; $35.00. [REVIEW]Marten Kaas - 2018 - Dialogue 57 (4):908-909.
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  36. How is Block’s Central Argument against Functionalism?zg ma - 2018 - Asian Research Journal of Arts and Social Sciences 5 (1):01-04.
    Block argued against functionalism. The argument was metaphorized by building a normal body but with the brain of a homunculus. A review of the metaphorization exposes that the argument is inadequate to avoid the weakness of the functionalist doctrine.
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  37. In Defense of a Realization Formulation of Physicalism.Andrew Melnyk - 2018 - Topoi 37 (3):483-493.
    In earlier work, I proposed and defended a formulation of physicalism that was distinctive in appealing to a carefully-defined relation of physical realization. Various philosophers (Robert Francescotti, Daniel Stoljar, Carl Gillett, and Susan Schneider) have since presented challenges to this formulation. In the present paper, I aim to show that these challenges can be overcome.
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  38. Physicalism Deconstructed: Levels of Reality and the Mind–Body Problem.Kevin Morris - 2018 - New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.
    How should thought and consciousness be understood within a view of the world as being through-and-through physical? Many philosophers have proposed non-reductive, levels-based positions, according to which the physical domain is fundamental, while thought and consciousness are higher-level processes, dependent on and determined by physical processes. In this book, Kevin Morris's careful philosophical and historical critique shows that it is very difficult to make good metaphysical sense of this idea - notions like supervenience, physical realization, and grounding all fail to (...)
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  39. What's Wrong With Brute Supervenience? A Defense of Horgan on Physicalism and Superdupervenience.Kevin Morris - 2018 - Analytic Philosophy 59 (2):256-280.
    This paper offers a qualified defense of Terry Horgan’s view of brute, inexplicable supervenience theses as physically unacceptable—as having no place in physicalist metaphysics—and his corresponding emphasis on the importance of “superdupervenience”, metaphysical supervenience that can be explained in a “materialistically acceptable” way. I argue, in response to Tom Polger, that it may be possible to ground the physical unacceptability of brute supervenience in its relation physically unacceptable properties supervening on physical properties; moreover, I argue that Horgan’s emphasis on the (...)
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  40. Responses to critics.Thomas Polger & Lawrence Shapiro - 2018 - Philosophical Psychology 31 (3):446-457.
    In response to points raised by our critics in this book symposium, we offer some clarifications about how to understand the role of science in assessing the multiple realization thesis. We also consider the connection between functionalism and multiple realization in the contexts of both psychological and biological sciences.
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  41. Inverse functionalism and the individuation of powers.David Yates - 2018 - Synthese 195 (10):4525-4550.
    In the pure powers ontology (PPO), basic physical properties have wholly dispositional essences. PPO has clear advantages over categoricalist ontologies, which suffer from familiar epistemological and metaphysical problems. However, opponents argue that because it contains no qualitative properties, PPO lacks the resources to individuate powers, and generates a regress. The challenge for those who take such arguments seriously is to introduce qualitative properties without reintroducing the problems that PPO was meant to solve. In this paper, I distinguish the core claim (...)
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  42. Self-Consciousness and Reductive Functionalism.Arvid Båve - 2017 - Philosophical Quarterly 67 (266):1-21.
    It is argued that although George Bealer's influential ‘Self-Consciousness argument’ refutes standard versions of reductive functionalism (RF), it fails to generalize in the way Bealer supposes. To wit, he presupposes that any version of RF must take the content of ‘pain’ to be the property of being in pain (and so on), which is expressly rejected in independently motivated versions of conceptual role semantics (CRS). Accordingly, there are independently motivated versions of RF, incorporating CRS, which avoid Bealer's main type of (...)
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  43. Does functionalism entail extended mind?Kengo Miyazono - 2017 - Synthese 194 (9):3523-3541.
    In discussing the famous case of Otto, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease who carries around a notebook to keep important information, Clark and Chalmers argue that some of Otto’s beliefs are physically realized in the notebook. In other words, some of Otto’s beliefs are extended into the environment. Their main argument is a functionalist one. Some of Otto’s beliefs are physically realized in the notebook because, first, some of the beliefs of Inga, a healthy person who remembers important information in (...)
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  44. The False Dichotomy between Causal Realization and Semantic Computation.Marcin Miłkowski - 2017 - Hybris. Internetowy Magazyn Filozoficzny 38:1-21.
    In this paper, I show how semantic factors constrain the understanding of the computational phenomena to be explained so that they help build better mechanistic models. In particular, understanding what cognitive systems may refer to is important in building better models of cognitive processes. For that purpose, a recent study of some phenomena in rats that are capable of ‘entertaining’ future paths (Pfeiffer and Foster 2013) is analyzed. The case shows that the mechanistic account of physical computation may be complemented (...)
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  45. Review of The Multiple Realization Book by Thomas W. Polger & Lawrence A. Shapiro (Oxford: Oxford University Press). [REVIEW]Tuomas K. Pernu - 2017 - Metapsychology Online Reviews 21.
  46. The Multiple Realization Book.Anders Strand - 2017 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (2):218-221.
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  47. The Realization of Qualia, Persons, and Artifacts.Ben White - 2017 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 99 (S1):182-204.
    This article argues that standard causal and functionalist definitions of realization fail to account for the realization of entities that cannot be individuated in causal or functional terms. By modifying such definitions to require that realizers also logically suffice for any historical properties of the entities they realize, one can provide for the realization of entities whose resistance to causal/functional individuation stems from their possession of individuative historical properties. But if qualia cannot be causally or functionally individuated, then qualia can (...)
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  48. Developing the explanatory dimensions of part–whole realization.Ronald Endicott - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (12):3347-3368.
    I use Carl Gillett’s much heralded dimensioned theory of realization as a platform to develop a plausible part–whole theory. I begin with some basic desiderata for a theory of realization that its key terms should be defined and that it should be explanatory. I then argue that Gillett’s original theory violates these conditions because its explanatory force rests upon an unspecified “in virtue of” relation. I then examine Gillett’s later version that appeals instead to theoretical terms tied to “mechanisms.” Yet (...)
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  49. Functionalism, superduperfunctionalism, and physicalism: lessons from supervenience.Ronald Endicott - 2016 - Synthese 193 (7):2205-2235.
    Philosophers almost universally believe that concepts of supervenience fail to satisfy the standards for physicalism because they offer mere property correlations that are left unexplained. They are thus compatible with non-physicalist accounts of those relations. Moreover, many philosophers not only prefer some kind of functional-role theory as a physically acceptable account of mind-body and other inter-level relations, but they use it as a form of “superdupervenience” to explain supervenience in a physically acceptable way. But I reject a central part of (...)
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  50. Higher-Order Thoughts, Neural Realization, and the Metaphysics of Consciousness.Rocco J. Gennaro - 2016 - In Consciousness. New York: Routledge. pp. 83-102.
    The higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness is a reductive representational theory of consciousness which says that what makes a mental state conscious is that there is a suitable HOT directed at that mental state. Although it seems that any neural realization of the theory must be somewhat widely distributed in the brain, it remains unclear just how widely distributed it needs to be. In section I, I provide some background and define some key terms. In section II, I argue (...)
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1 — 50 / 363