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 1991; Kim 1992, 1998, 2005; Block & Stalnaker 1999; Bechtel 1999; Gillett & Loewer 2007; Shapiro 2004; Polger 2004; Bickle 2008; 2010; Hohwy & Kallestrup 2008; Gozzano & Hill 2015; 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 (2015) 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. Evaluating New Wave Reductionism: The Case of Vision.D. van Eck - 2006 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (1):167-196.
  2. 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 (...)
  3. 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 (...)
  4. VII.—The Psychology of Levels of Will.Margaret Masterman [M. M. Braithwaite] - 1948 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 48 (1):75-110.
  5. Discussion: Theory and Reductionism.David Krech - 1955 - Psychological Review 62 (3):229-231.
  6. 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.
  7. Physicalism, Truth, and the Pinocchio Paradox.Laureano Luna - 2016 - Mind and Matter 14 (1):77-86.
    We develop an argument sketched by Luna (2011) based on the Pinocchio paradox, which was proposed by Eldridge-Smith and Eldridge- Smith (2010). We show that, upon plausible assumptions, the claim that mental states supervene on bodily states leads to the conclusion that some proposition is both paradoxical and not paradoxical. In order to show how the presence of paradoxes can be harnessed for philosophical argumentation, we present as well a couple of related arguments.
  8. Reduction and Emergence: A Critique of Kim.Paul Needham - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (1):93-116.
    In a recent critique of the doctrine of emergentism championed by its classic advocates up to C. D. Broad, Jaegwon Kim (Philosophical Studies 63:31–47, 1999) challenges their view about its applicability to the sciences and proposes a new account of how the opposing notion of reduction should be understood. Kim is critical of the classic conception advanced by Nagel and uses his new account in his criticism of emergentism. I question his claims about the successful reduction achieved in the sciences (...)
  9. 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.
  10. Who’s Afraid of Nagelian Reduction?Foad Dizadji-Bahmani, Roman Frigg & 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.
  11. 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 (...)
  12. Reductionism: Seven Lessons.Thomas Peter Bennett - 1973 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 16 (4):578-580.
  13. Ahistorical Homology and Multiple Realizability.Sergio Balari & Guillermo Lorenzo - 2015 - 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 (...)
  14. 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, (...)
  15. Reduction, Rephrasal, and the Problem of Mind.Robert John Schwartz - 1975 - Dissertation, Washington University
  16. The Reduction of Society: D. H. Mellor.D. H. Mellor - 1982 - Philosophy 57 (219):51-75.
    How does the study of society relate to the study of the people it comprises? This longstanding question is partly one of method, but mainly one of fact, of how independent the objects of these two studies, societies and people, are. It is commonly put as a question of reduction, and I shall tackle it in that form: does sociology reduce in principle to individual psychology? I follow custom in calling the claim that it does ‘individualism’ and its denial ‘holism’.
  17. Unified Science and Physicalistic Reductionism.W. H. Werkmeister - 1940 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 21 (3):277.
  18. Mind in Perspective: Psychology or Neuroscience?Marie-Helene Remy - 1990 - Dissertation, State University of New York at Stony Brook
    This dissertation has dealt with the mind-body problem, a problem that arises today as the problem of the relationship between two branches of knowledge, namely psychology and neuroscience. This question is, in turn, formulated as the question of reduction of psychology to neuroscience. I have argued against the thesis of the elimination of psychology by neuroscience and for the thesis of the integration of psychology to neuroscience, thus steering a middle course between the two extremes of elimination of psychology on (...)
  19. 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.
  20. Programmabilism: A New Reductionism.Adam Drozdek - 1990 - Epistemologia 13 (2):235-50.
  21. 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.
  22. The Use of the Husserlian Reduction as a Method of Investigation in Psychiatry.Jean Naudin, Caroline Gros-Azorin, Aaron Mishara, Osborne P. Wiggins, M. Schwartz & J.-M. Azorin - 1999 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 6 (2-3):155-171.
    Husserlian reduction is a rigorous method for describing the foundations of psychiatric experience. With Jaspers we consider three main principles inspired by phenomenological reduction: direct givenness, absence of presuppositions, re-presentation. But with Binswanger alone we refer to eidetic and transcendental reduction: to establish a critical epistemology; to directly investigate the constitutive processes of mental phenomena and their disturbances, freed from their nosological background; to question the constitution of our own experience when facing a person with mental illness. Regarding the last (...)
  23. Functionalist Psychology-Limiting the Range of Physical Law.Rt Nunn - 1979 - Journal of Thought 14 (3):182-186.
  24. 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.
  25. The Failure of Reductionism.H. C. Longuet-Higgins - 1972 - In A. J. P. Kenny (ed.), The Nature of Mind. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 13--29.
  26. Reductionism and the Irreducibility of Consciousness.John R. Searle - 1997 - In Owen J. Flanagan, Ned Block & Guven Guzeldere (eds.), The Nature of Consciousness. MIT Press.
  27. Physicalism, Chaos and Reductionism.Alwyn Scott - 2006 - In J. Tuszynski (ed.), The Emerging Physics of Consciousness. Springer Verlag. pp. 171--191.
  28. 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.
  29. Adaptive Control Loops as an Intermediate Mind-Brain Reduction Basis.J. Oelle Prou St - 2009 - In A. Hieke & H. Leitgeb (eds.), Reduction: Between the Mind and the Brain. Ontos Verlag. pp. 191.
  30. 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.
  31. Phonetic Reduction and Categorisation in Exemplar-Based Representation.Leendert Plug - 2005 - In Sylvia Blaho, Luis Vicente & Erik Schoorlemmer (eds.), Proceedings of Console Xiii. pp. 287--311.
  32. Counterfactual Reduction and the Symbolic-Subsymbolic Relation.T. Vadén - 1993 - In Christopher Hookway (ed.), Philosophy and the Cognitive Sciences. Cambridge University Press.
  33. Reduction with Autonomy: Mental Causation, Reduction and Supervenience.Lm Antony & J. Levine - 1996 - Philosophical Perspectives 11:83-105.
  34. 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.
  35. Reductionism and its Counter-Strategies.Francis J. Zucker - 1977 - In John B. Cobb & David Ray Griffin (eds.), Mind in Nature. University Press of America. pp. 43.
  36. 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 (...)
  37. Functions and Mechanisms: A Perspectivalist View.Carl F. Craver - 2013 - In Philippe Huneman (ed.), Functions: Selection and Mechanisms. Springer. pp. 133--158.
  38. Body Weight Reduction Prior to Quinine Adulteration of Water: Interactive Complexities in Measures of Ingestive Behavior.P. J. Watson, Martha L. Swindoll & Michael D. Biderman - 1982 - Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society 20 (2):97-100.
  39. Toward a Functional Theory of Reduction Transformations.Dean Delis & Anne Saxon Slater - 1977 - Cognition 5 (2):119-132.
  40. Is Neurolinguistics Ready for Reductionism?Samuel H. Greenblatt - 1979 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 2 (3):467.
  41. Reductionism and Subjectivism Defined and Defended.Austen Clark - 1992 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 15 (1):32-33.
  42. The Power of Reduction and the Limits of Compressibility.Hubert Markl - 1982 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 5 (1):18.
  43. Delay-Reduction Theory: Straddling the Functional-Mechanism Continuum.Edmund Fantino & Nureya Abarca - 1987 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 10 (2):317.
  44. Reductionism and Religion.Douglas R. Hofstadter - 1980 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 3 (3):433.
  45. Augmentation/Reduction Update.Monte S. Buchsbaum - 1986 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 9 (4):748.
  46. Comparative Reduction of Theories — or Over-Simplification?Edgar Koerner - 1996 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 19 (2):301.
  47. 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 (...)
  48. El Reduccionismo, Antirreduccionismo y El Papel de Los Enfoques y Métodos Generales Del Conocimiento Científico.Victor Patricio Díaz Narváez & Aracelis Calzadilla Nuñez - 2001 - Cinta de Moebio 11.
    This article is about reductionism; as a tendency of thought, reductionism tells us that the hole can be explained as the sum of its parts. From this principle, one can deduce that the properties and laws of complex systems can be explained by the laws and properties of simple systems. On the other ..
  49. The Dangers of Prejudice Reduction Interventions: Empirical Evidence From Encounters Between Jews and Arabs in Israel.Ifat Maoz - 2012 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 35 (6):441-442.
    This commentary focuses on Dixon et al.'s discussion on the dangers of employing prejudice-reduction interventions that seek to promote intergroup harmony in historically unequal societies. Specifically, it illustrates these dangers by discussing my work in Israel on the processes and practices through which reconciliation-aimed encounters between Jews and Arabs mitigate sociopolitical change.
  50. Functional Sub-Types.Patrice Soom, Christian Sachse & Michael Esfeld - 2010 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (1-2):1-2.
    The paper argues that a functional reduction of ordinary psychology to neuropsychology is possible by means of constructing fine-grained functional, mental sub-types that are coextensive with neuropsychological types. We establish this claim by means of considering as examples the cases of the disconnection syndrome and schizophrenia. We point out that the result is a conservative reduction, vindicating the scientific quality of the mental types of ordinary psychology by systematically linking them with neuroscience. That procedure of conservative reduction by means of (...)
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