About this topic
Summary Psychophysical reduction comes in two main forms: theoretical or ontological. The former involves showing that psychological theory can be appropriately derived from physical theory, the latter involves showing that psychological entities are identical to physical entities. One can be a reductionist, and hold that the psychological reduces to the physical, or deny this and be a non-reductionist. Despite the first reductionists, such as J. J. C. Smart and Herbert Feigl, starting the debate by defending the ontological rather than theoretical form, until recently most of the discussion of the prospects for reductionism focussed on the theoretical form, with many holding that psychological theory cannot be appropriately derived from physical theory. Towards the end of the twentieth century, non-reductionism (of the materialist sort) was overwhelmingly dominant, but reductionism has gone through something of a revival since then, with ontological reductionism probably the most tenable form.
Key works According to the standard story, the roots of reductionism terminate in the work of Place 1956; Feigl 1958; Oppenheim & Putnam 1958; and Smart 1959. The classic objections to reductionism can be found in the work of Putnam 1967, 1975; Davidson 1970; Fodor 1974; and Boyd 1980. The high watermark of non-reductionism can be found in Block 1997 and Fodor 1997. Since around the time that mark was reached, most discussion has proceeded in one of two directions. First, the basic terms of the debate have been questioned. For example, some have tried to defend a version of ontological reductionism while labelling it "non-reductionism" for some other reason, see Antony & Levine 1997; Clapp 2001, and Antony 2003. Second, the prospects for a revival of reductionism of one sort or another have been examined. See, for example: Hill 2012; Kim 1992, 1998, 2005; Block & Stalnaker 1999; Bechtel 1999; Gillett & Loewer 2001; Shapiro 2004; Polger 2004; Bickle 2008; 2010; Hohwy & Kallestrup 2008; Gozzano & Hill 2012; Gibb et al 2013. In the process of this, the nature of reduction has been debated - a survey of which can be found in van Riel 2014.
Introductions The introduction to the collection edited by Gozzano and Hill (2012) is a good place to start, and that volume also contains much of the state of the art thinking on the prospects for reductionism. Kim 2005 is also a good way in. Enyclopedia entries include Smart 2007, and Bickle 2008, with the latter focussing on the multiple realization argument, which is often taken to be the main argument against reductionism.
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  1. Reduction with Autonomy: Mental Causation, Reduction and Supervenience.Lm Antony & J. Levine - 1996 - Philosophical Perspectives 11:83-105.
  2. Celestial Reductionism of Time.Piero Ariotti - 1972 - Studi Internazionali Di Filosofia 4:91-120.
  3. Ahistorical Homology and Multiple Realizability.Sergio Balari & Guillermo Lorenzo - 2014 - Philosophical Psychology 28 (6):881-902.
    The Mind-Brain Identity Theory lived a short life as a respectable philosophical position in the late 1950s, until Hilary Putnam developed his famous argument on the multiple realizability of mental states. The argument was, and still is, taken as the definitive demonstration of the falsity of Identity Theory and the foundation on which contemporary functionalist computational cognitive science was to be grounded. In this paper, in the wake of some contemporary philosophers, we reopen the case for Identity Theory and offer (...)
  4. Molecules, Systems, and Behavior: Another View of Memory Consolidation.William Bechtel - manuscript
    From its genesis in the 1960s, the focus of inquiry in neuroscience has been on the cellular and molecular processes underlying neural activity. In this pursuit neuroscience has been enormously successful. Like any successful scientific inquiry, initial successes have raised new questions that inspire ongoing research. While there is still much that is not known about the molecular processes in brains, a great deal of very important knowledge has been secured, especially in the last 50 years. It has also attracted (...)
  5. Identity, Reduction, and Conserved Mechanisms: Perspectives From Circadian Rhythm Research.William Bechtel - 2012 - In Hill Christopher & Gozzano Simone (eds.), New Perspectives on Type Identity: The Mental and the Physical. Cambridge University Press. pp. 43.
  6. Reductionism: Seven Lessons.Thomas Peter Bennett - 1973 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 16 (4):578-580.
  7. Reduction in the Mind of God.Daniel Bonevac - 1995 - In Elias E. Savellos & Ümit D. Yalçin (eds.), Supervenience: New Essays. Cambridge University Press. pp. 124--139.
  8. From Reductionism to Reductionism.Fred L. Bookstein - 2000 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23 (4):534-534.
    Neural organization attempts to thwart, at least in part, modern neuroscientists' tendency to focus reductionistically on ever smaller microsystems. But although emphasizing higher levels of systems organization, the authors end up enforcing reductionisms of their own, principally the reduction of their domain to the study of invariable normal functioning, without explicit modeling of the deviations that constitute disease states or aging. This reductionism seriously weakens the authors' claims about the truth of their quantitative models.
  9. Bipedalism, Canine Tooth Reduction, and Obligatory Tool Use.C. Loring Brace - 2004 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 27 (4):507-508.
    Bipedalism in the earliest hominid specimens is always accompanied by the reduction of projecting canine teeth. Body size is smaller than chimpanzees or humans, but molar teeth are markedly larger. Use of a pointed stick for defensive purposes on the one hand, and digging for USOs on the other, may be why bipedalism was selected for. Passing such learned behavior to the next generation may have played a role in selecting for language.
  10. Augmentation/Reduction Update.Monte S. Buchsbaum - 1986 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 9 (4):748.
  11. Reductionist and Antireductionist Stances in the Health Sciences.Raffaella Campaner - 2010 - In F. Stadler, D. Dieks, W. Gonzales, S. Hartmann, T. Uebel & M. Weber (eds.), The Present Situation in the Philosophy of Science. Springer. pp. 205--218.
  12. Kim on Reductive Explanation.Neil Campbell - 2015 - Acta Analytica 30 (2):149-156.
    In the light of what appear to be clear counterexamples, I argue that Jaegwon Kim’s comparative evaluation of functional reduction and reduction via necessary identities is problematic. I trace the problem to two sources: a misplaced metaphysical assumption about the explanatory role of identities and an excessively strong and narrow criterion for successful reductive explanation. Appreciating where Kim’s critique runs astray enhances our understanding of the role of necessary identities in reductive explanation.
  13. Logical Reduction and Social Psychology.J. K. Chadwick-jones - 1973 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 3 (1):3–21.
  14. Mind-Brain Reduction: New Light From Philosophy of Science.Patricia S. Churchland - 1982 - Neuroscience 7:1041-7.
  15. Reductionism and Subjectivism Defined and Defended.Austen Clark - 1992 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 15 (1):32-33.
  16. Functions and Mechanisms: A Perspectivalist View.Carl F. Craver - 2013 - In Philippe Huneman (ed.), Functions: Selection and Mechanisms. Springer. pp. 133--158.
  17. Toward a Functional Theory of Reduction Transformations.Dean Delis & Anne Saxon Slater - 1977 - Cognition 5 (2):119-132.
  18. Serious Metaphysics and the Vindication of Reductions.J. L. Dowell - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 139 (1):91-110.
    What would be sufficient to show of some apparently higher-level property that it is 'nothing over and above' some complex configuration of more basic properties? This paper defends a new method for justifying reductions by demonstrating its comparative advantages over two methods recently defended in the literature. Unlike its rivals, what I'll call "the semantic method" makes a reduction's truth epistemically transparent without relying on conceptual analyses.
  19. Programmabilism: A New Reductionism.Adam Drozdek - 1990 - Epistemologia 13 (2):235-50.
  20. Delay-Reduction Theory--The Case for Temporal Context: Comment on Grace and Savastano.Edmund Fantino - 2000 - Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 129 (4):444-446.
  21. Delay-Reduction Theory: Straddling the Functional-Mechanism Continuum.Edmund Fantino & Nureya Abarca - 1987 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10 (2):317.
  22. Psychologie Évolutionniste Et Théories Interdomaines.Luc Faucher & Pierre Poirier - 2001 - Dialogue 40 (03):453-.
    Evolutionary psychology presupposes relations between theories of different domains that the two traditional models, reduction and autonomy, cannot properly account for. We aim to construct a model of relations between theories that succeeds where traditional models fail. We show that the multiple realizability argument, on which the autonomist model is thought to rest, is compatible with reductionism and, following Kim, that an autonomist reading of the argument deprives psychology of its scientific status. We therefore opt for a reductionist model compatible (...)
  23. Functional Fixedness and Functional Reduction as Common Sense Reasonings in Chemical Equilibrium and in Geometry and Polarity of Molecules.C. Furió, Mª L. Calatayud, S. L. Barcenas & O. M. Padilla - 2000 - Science Education 84 (5):545-565.
  24. Foundational Problems in the Special Sciences.O. G. - 1978 - Review of Metaphysics 32 (1):129-130.
  25. Understanding the New Reductionism: The Metaphysics of Realization and Reduction by Functionalism.Carl Gillett - forthcoming - In De Joong & Schouten (eds.), Rethinking Reduction. Blackwell.
  26. Understanding The New Reductionism.Carl Gillett - 2007 - Journal of Philosophy 104 (4):193-216.
  27. Reduction in Real Life.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2008 - In Jakob Hohwy & Jesper Kallestrup (eds.), Being Reduced: New Essays on Reduction, Explanation, and Causation. Oxford University Press.
    The main message of the paper is that there is a disconnect between what many philosophers of mind think of as the scientific practice of reductive or reductionist explanation, and what the most relevant scientific work is actually like. I will sketch what I see as a better view, drawing on various ideas in recent philosophy of science. I then import these ideas into the philosophy of mind, to see what difference they make.1 At the end of the paper I (...)
  28. Beyond Reduction • by S. Horst. [REVIEW]Richard Gray - 2009 - Analysis 69 (1):182-184.
    Towards the end of Beyond Reduction Horst hypothesizes that ‘it is a general design principle of the cognitive architecture of humans that the mind possesses multiple models for understanding and interacting practically with different aspects of the world’ . The suggestion is made following a discussion of recent research in cognitive science. According to Horst, the hypothesis is also consistent with what recent non-reductionist tendencies in the philosophy of science teach us. Taken together, Horst claims these two sets of evidence (...)
  29. Is Neurolinguistics Ready for Reductionism?Samuel H. Greenblatt - 1979 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2 (3):467.
  30. To Bridge the Gap Between Sensorimotor and Higher Levels, AI Will Need Help From Psychology.F. Guerin - 2013 - Constructivist Foundations 9 (1):56-57.
    Open peer commentary on the article “A Computational Constructivist Model as an Anticipatory Learning Mechanism for Coupled Agent–Environment Systems” by Filipo Studzinski Perotto. Upshot: Constructivist theory gives a nice high-level account of how knowledge can be autonomously developed by an agent interacting with an environment, but it fails to detail the mechanisms needed to bridge the gap between low levels of sensorimotor data and higher levels of cognition. AI workers are trying to bridge this gap, using task-specific engineering approaches, without (...)
  31. Art and Reductionism.Erich Harth - 2004 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 11 (3-4):3-4.
    All thinking is done by our brains. They are also responsible for our feelings of love and hate, and for our ability to make and appreciate art. But there is a popular reluctance to credit the brain with some of these so-called higher functions. We have difficulty associating our appreciation of beauty with electrical impulses propagating down nerve fibres. We don't see love as residing in the organ that is hidden away inside the skull, where it sits, shaped like a (...)
  32. Who's Afraid of Nagelian Reduction?Stephan Hartmann - 2010 - Erkenntnis 73 (3):393 - 412.
    We reconsider the Nagelian theory of reduction and argue that, contrary to a widely held view, it is the right analysis of intertheoretic reduction. The alleged difficulties of the theory either vanish upon closer inspection or turn out to be substantive philosophical questions rather than knock-down arguments.
  33. What Can the Mind Tell Us About the Brain? Psychology, Neurophysiology, and Constraint.Gary Hatfield - 2009 - In Perception and Cognition: Essays in the Philosophy of Psychology. Clarendon Press. pp. 434-55.
    This chapter examines the relations between psychology and neuroscience. There is a strong philosophical intuition that direct study of the brain can and will constrain the development of psychological theory. When this intuition is tested against case studies from the psychology of perception and memory, it turns out that psychology has led the way toward knowledge of neurophysiology. The chapter presents an abstract argument to show that psychology can and must lead the way in neuroscientific study of mental function. The (...)
  34. Reflections on Current Reductionism.R. J. Henle - 1985 - New Scholasticism 59 (2):131-155.
  35. Reduction: Between the Mind and the Brain.Alexander Hieke & Hannes Leitgeb (eds.) - 2009 - Ontos Verlag.
    This volume collects contributions that comprise each view point, and incorporates articles by William Bechtel, Jerry Fodor, Jaegwon Kim, Joėlle Proust, and ...
  36. Reductionism and Religion.Douglas R. Hofstadter - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):433.
  37. Review: The Perils of Epistemic Reductionism. [REVIEW]Terence Horgan - 1996 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 56 (4):891 - 897.
  38. Multiple Reference, Multiple Realization, and the Reduction of Mind.Terry Horgan - 2001 - In Gerhard Preyer (ed.), Reality and Humean Supervenience: Essays on the Philosophy of David Lewis. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 205--221.
  39. Beyond Reduction: Philosophy of Mind and Post-Reductionist Philosophy of Science.Steven W. Horst - 2007 - Oxford University Press.
    Contemporary philosophers of mind tend to assume that the world of nature can be reduced to basic physics. Yet there are features of the mind consciousness, intentionality, normativity that do not seem to be reducible to physics or neuroscience. This explanatory gap between mind and brain has thus been a major cause of concern in recent philosophy of mind. Reductionists hold that, despite all appearances, the mind can be reduced to the brain. Eliminativists hold that it cannot, and that this (...)
  40. Review: From Reduction to Type-Type Identity. [REVIEW]Frank Jackson - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (3):644 - 647.
  41. Bennett and Hacker on Neural Materialism.Greg Janzen - 2008 - Acta Analytica 23 (3):273-286.
    In their recent book Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience, Max Bennett and Peter Hacker attack neural materialism (NM), the view, roughly, that mental states (events, processes, etc.) are identical with neural states or material properties of neural states (events, processes, etc.). Specifically, in the penultimate chapter entitled “Reductionism,” they argue that NM is unintelligible, that “there is no sense to literally identifying neural states and configurations with psychological attributes.” This is a provocative claim indeed. If Bennett and Hacker are right, then (...)
  42. Delay Reduction: A Field Guide for Optimal Foragers?Peter R. Killeen - 1985 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 8 (2):341-342.
  43. Reduction and Reductive Explanation : Is One Possible Without the Other?Jaegwon Kim - 2008 - In Jakob Hohwy & Jesper Kallestrup (eds.), Being Reduced: New Essays on Reduction, Explanation, and Causation. Oxford University Press.
  44. Analog Computationalism and Psychophysical Reduction.Michael King - 1998 - Dissertation, The University of Arizona
    In this dissertation I seek to overthrow the most sacred dogma in the philosophy of mind: the doctrine that the mind is multiply realizable. Ever since Hilary Putnam introduced Turing machine functionalism, the idea that the mind is multiply realizable has gone unquestioned, and a form of the multiple realizability thesis now permeates the thinking of most functionalists. Nevertheless, I argue, this thesis is mistaken. And precisely because multiple realizability is the main obstacle of a psychophysical reduction of the mind, (...)
  45. Alexander Hieke, Hannes Leitgeb (Eds.): Reduction. Between the Mind and the Brain. [REVIEW]Max Kistler - 2010 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010.
    This volume is a collection of essays presented at the 31st International Wittgenstein Symposium, Kirchberg, in August 2008. It has the character of a high-quality journal issue. There is no introduction, and the papers do not all directly bear on the topic of the original conference, which was "Reduction and Elimination in Philosophy and the Sciences". In what follows, I offer a short description of each paper, and add critical remarks in some cases.
  46. Comparative Reduction of Theories — or Over-Simplification?Edgar Koerner - 1996 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 19 (2):301.
  47. Discussion: Theory and Reductionism.David Krech - 1955 - Psychological Review 62 (3):229-231.
  48. On the Neurobiological Redefinition of Psychiatric Symptoms: Elimination, Reduction, or What?Maël Lemoine - forthcoming - Synthese:1-17.
    Because biologization of psychiatric constructs does not involve derivation of laws, or reduce the number of entities involved, the traditional term of ‘reduction’ should be replaced. This paper describes biologization in terms of redefinition, which involves changing the definition of terms sharing the same extension. Redefinition obtains through triangulation and calibration, that is, respectively, detection of an object from two different spots, and tweaking parameters of detection in order to optimize the picture. The unity of the different views of the (...)
  49. The Unity of Neuroscience: A Flat View.Arnon Levy - 2016 - Synthese 193 (12):3843-3863.
    This paper offers a novel view of unity in neuroscience. I set out by discussing problems with the classical account of unity-by-reduction, due to Oppenheim and Putnam. That view relies on a strong notion of levels, which has substantial problems. A more recent alternative, the mechanistic “mosaic” view due to Craver, does not have such problems. But I argue that the mosaic ideal of unity is too minimal, and we should, if possible, aspire for more. Relying on a number of (...)
  50. Reduction of Mind.David Lewis - 1994 - In Samuel Guttenplan (ed.), Companion to the Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell. pp. 412-431.
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