Edited by Ronald Endicott (North Carolina State University)
About this topic

Although formal notions of realization were already used by computer scientists and mathematicians, Hilary Putnam popularized the idiom for philosophers in the 1960s as a way to describe relations implicated by the machine functionalist view of the mind. Specifically, Putnam said that an abstract machine as well as a machine table or description is realized by a physical machine. Philosophers then began to use the idiom in a more general way to designate various types of inter-level relations, not just the relation between mental states and brain states, but persons and bodies, biological items in relation to more basic structural or chemical items, and so on. More recently, philosophers present concepts of realization as a better way to account for inter-level relations than competing concepts of supervenience, emergence, and grounding.

Key works One may categorize different concepts of realization in terms of three basic conceptual traditions. First there is a semantic tradition whereby “to be realized” names a semantic relation, e.g., the satisfaction of a predicate by an object (Lewis 1972). Second there is a mathematical tradition whereby “to be realized” names a mapping or correspondence relation, e.g., a one-to-one mapping between the states of an abstract machine and a concrete physical machine (Putnam 1960; Chalmers 1994). Third there is a metaphysical tradition whereby “to be realized” names a relation of determination or a related notion of inter-level production. This metaphysical tradition itself divides into several different views. There is realization understood in terms of parts and wholes (Cummins 1983; Gillett 2002). There is realization by functional roles and occupation (Papineau 1993; Melnyk 1994; Kim 1998), or broader notions of function (Polger 2004). There is fusion of part-whole realization with functional role and occupation realization (Endicott 2011). There is realization understood in terms of determinables and determinates (Macdonald & Macdonald 1986; Yablo 1992). There is wide versus narrow realization (Wilson 2001). There is realization by a contextually sensitive INUS condition that allows for a type of converse to multiple realizability (Endicott 1994). And there is realization understood in terms of subsets of causal powers (Wilson 1999, 2011; Shoemaker 2001, 2007). Philosophers have also argued that concepts of realization are better at preserving physicalist intutions over rival concepts of supervenience (Melnyk 1994, 2003; Wilson 1999; Witmer 2001), debated the connection between concepts of realization and subsequent judgments about multiple realizability (Shapiro 2004; Gillett 2002; Aizawa & Gillett 2009), discussed the ontology of realization (Shapiro 2008; Endicott 2010; Gillett 2011), and made proposals about the different theoretical role for different concepts of realization (Gillett 2002; Polger 2007; Endicott 2012).

There are a few general introductions: Ronald Endicott's (2005) encyclopedia article on multiple realizability contains a section dedicated to concepts of realization; and Carl Craver and Robert Wilson's (2006) entry in a handbook on the philosophy of psychology and cognitive science addresses some basic views on realization in both philosophy and the sciences. A paper by Thomas Polger (2007) also covers some broad territory regarding different concepts of realization.

Related categories

121 found
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Realization, Misc
  1. An Argument for Power Inheritance.Umut Baysan - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly:pqv126.
    Abstract: Non-reductive physicalism is commonly understood as the view that mental properties are realized by physical properties. Here, I argue that the realization relation in question is a power inheritance relation: if a property P realizes a property Q, then the causal powers of Q are a subset of the causal powers of P. Whereas others have motivated this claim by appealing to its theoretical benefits, I argue that it is in fact entailed by two theses: (i) realization is a (...)
  2. Realization, Determination and Mental Causation.Agustín Vicente Benito - 2001 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 16 (40):77-94.
    The by now famous exclusion problem for mental causation admits only one possible solution, as far as I can see, namely: that mental and physical properties are linked by a vertical relation. In this paper, starting from what I take to be sensible premises about properties, I will be visiting some general relations between them, in order to see whether, first, it is true that some vertical relationship, other than identity, makes different sorts of causation compatible and second, whether physical (...)
  3. Realization.Carl F. Craver & Robert A. Wilson - 2006 - In P. Thagard (ed.), Handbook of the Philosophy of Psychology and Cognitive Science. Elsevier.
    For the greater part of the last 50 years, it has been common for philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists to invoke the notion of realization in discussing the relationship between the mind and the brain. In traditional philosophy of mind, mental states are said to be realized, instantiated, or implemented in brain states. Artificial intelligence is sometimes described as the attempt either to model or to actually construct systems that realize some of the same psychological abilities that we and (...)
  4. Introduction: The Character of Physicalism.Andreas Elpidorou - forthcoming - Topoi:1-21.
    The aim of this editorial introduction is twofold. First, Sects. 1–8 offer a critical introduction to the metaphysical character of physicalism. In those sections, I present and evaluate different ways in which proponents of physicalism have made explicit the metaphysical dependence that is said to hold between the non-physical and the physical. Some of these accounts are found to be problematic; others are shown to be somewhat more promising. In the end, some important lessons are drawn and different options for (...)
  5. Realization, Reductios, and Category Inclusion.Ronald P. Endicott - 2010 - Journal of Philosophy 107 (4):213-219.
    Thomas Polger and Laurence Shapiro argue that Carl Gillett's much publicized dimensioned theory of realization is incoherent, being subject to a reductio. Their argument turns on the fact that Gillett's definition of realization makes property instances the exclusive relata of the realization relation, while his belief in multiple realization implies its denial, namely, that properties are the relata of the realization relation on occasions of multiple realization. Others like Sydney Shoemaker have also expressed their view of realization in terms of (...)
  6. Constructival Plasticity.Ronald P. Endicott - 1994 - Philosophical Studies 74 (1):51-75.
    Some scientists and philosophers have claimed that there is a converse to multiple realizability. While a given higher-level property can be realized by different lower-level properties (multiple realizability), a given lower-level property can in turn serve to realize different higher-level properties (this converse I dubbed the unfortunately obscure "constructival plasticity" to emphasize the constructive metaphysics involved when realizing properties generate realized properties in the stated way). I begin by defining multiple realizabilty in a formal way, then turn to the relation (...)
  7. Hyper-Extending the Mind?Carl Gillett - 2007 - Philosophical Topics 351 (1/2):161-188.
  8. Does the Argument From Realization Generalize? Responses to Kim.Carl Gillett & Bradley Rives - 2001 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 39 (1):79-98.
    By quantifying over properties we cannot create new properties any more than by quantifying over individuals we can create new individuals. Someone murdered Jones, and the murderer is either Smith or Jones or Wang. That “someone”, who murdered Jones, is not a person in addition to Smith, Jones, and Wang, and it would be absurd to posit a disjunctive person, Smith-or-Jones-or-Wang, with whom to identify the murderer. The same goes for second-order properties and their realizers. (Kim (1997a), p.201).
  9. Realization.Giovanna Hendel - 2001 - Critica 33 (98):41-70.
    So far no clear explication of the notion of realization has been offered, in spite of the frequent uses of the notion in the literature to discharge important jobs, such as that of accounting for the causal efficacy of the mental in a physical world, and that of providing a viable characterization of physicalism, and/or psychophysical reduction. I put forward an account of realization as an identity-like relation. I argue that such account has the following advantages: (a) it provides a (...)
  10. The Topological Realization.Daniel Kostic - 2016 - Synthese 1:1-24.
    In this paper, I argue that the newly developed network approach in neuroscience and biology provides a basis for formulating a unique type of realization, which I call topological realization. Some of its features and its relation to one of the dominant paradigms of realization and explanation in sciences, i.e. the mechanistic one, are already being discussed in the literature. But the detailed features of topological realization, its explanatory power and its relation to another prominent view of realization, namely the (...)
  11. More on Making Mind Matter.Ernest Lepore & Barry Loewer - 1989 - Philosophical Topics 17 (1):175-191.
  12. Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness.Joseph Levine - 2001 - Oxford University Press USA.
    In this wide-ranging study, Levine explores both sides of the mind-body dilemma, presenting the first book-length treatment of his highly influential ideas on the How does one explain the physical nature of an experience? This puzzle, the "explanatory gap" between mind and body, is the focus of this work by an influential scholar in the field.
  13. Philosophical Materialism.Colin McGinn - 1980 - Synthese 44 (June):173-206.
  14. Consciousness and the Prospects of Physicalism.Derk Pereboom - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
    In this book, Derk Pereboom explores how physicalism might best be formulated and defended against the best anti-physicalist arguments. Two responses to the knowledge and conceivability arguments are set out and developed. The first exploits the open possibility that introspective representations fail to represent mental properties as they are in themselves; specifically, that introspection represents phenomenal properties as having certain characteristic qualitative natures, which these properties might actually lack. The second response draws on the proposal that currently unknown fundamental intrinsic (...)
  15. The Metaphysics of Irreducibility.Derk Pereboom & Hilary Kornblith - 1991 - Philosophical Studies 63 (August):125-45.
    During the 'sixties and 'seventies, Hilary Putnam, Jerry Fodor, and Richard Boyd, among others, developed a type of materialism that eschews reductionist claims.1 In this view, explana- tions, natural kinds, and properties in psychology do not reduce to counterparts in more basic sciences, such as neurophysiology or physics. Nevertheless, all token psychological entities-- states, processes, and faculties--are wholly constituted of physical entities, ultimately out of entities over which microphysics quantifies. This view quickly became the standard position in philosophy of mind, (...)
  16. Mechanisms and Explanatory Realization Relations.Thomas W. Polger - 2010 - Synthese 177 (2):193 - 212.
    My topic is the confluence of two recently active philosophical research programs. One research program concerns the metaphysics of realization. The other research program concerns scientific explanation in terms of mechanisms. In this paper I introduce a distinction between descriptive and explanatory approaches to realization. I then use this distinction to argue that a well-known account of realization, due to Carl Gillett, is incompatible with a well-known account of mechanistic explanation, due to Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden, and Carl Craver (MDC, (...)
  17. Understanding the Dimensions of Realization.Lawrence A. Shapiro - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (4):213-222.
    Carl Gillett has defended what he calls the “dimensioned” view of the realization relation, which he contrasts with the traditional “flat” view of realization (2003, 2007; see also Gillett 2002). Intuitively, the dimensioned approach characterizes realization in terms of composition whereas the flat approach views realization in terms of occupiers of functional roles. Elsewhere we have argued that the general view of realization and multiple realization that Gillett advances is not able to discharge the theoretical duties of those relations (Shapiro (...)
  18. A Taxonomy of Granular Partitions.Barry Smith - 2001 - In Spatial Information Theory. Foundations of Geographic Information Science. Lecture Notes in Computer Science 2205.
    In this paper we propose a formal theory of partitions (ways of dividing up or sorting or mapping reality) and we show how the theory can be applied in the geospatial domain. We characterize partitions at two levels: as systems of cells (theory A), and in terms of their projective relation to reality (theory B). We lay down conditions of well-formedness for partitions and we define what it means for partitions to project truly onto reality. We continue by classifying well-formed (...)
  19. Realization, Explanation and the Mind-Body Relation.Jacqueline A. Sullivan - 2010 - Synthese 177 (2):151-164.
    This volume brings together a number of perspectives on the nature of realization explanation and experimentation in the ‘special’ and biological sciences as well as the related issues of psychoneural reduction and cognitive extension. The first two papers in the volume may be regarded as offering direct responses to the questions: (1) What model of realization is appropriate for understanding the metaphysics of science? and (2) What kind of philosophical work is such a model ultimately supposed to do?
  20. Realization, Determination and Mental Causation.Agustín Vincente - 2001 - Theoria 16 (40):77-94.
    The by now famous exclusion problem for mental causation admits only one possible solution, as far as I can see, namely: that mental and physical properties are linked by a vertical relation. In this paper, starting from what I take to be sensible premises about properties, I will be visiting some general relations between them, in order to see whether, first, it is true that some vertical relation, other than identity, makes different sorts of causation compatible and second, whether physical (...)
  21. Determinables, Determinates, and Causal Relevance.Sven Walter - 2007 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (2):217-244.
  22. Essence and Dependence.Jessica Wilson M. - forthcoming - In Mircea Dumitru (ed.), Metaphysics, Meaning, and Modality: Themes from Kit Fine. Oxford University Press.
    I first discuss Kit Fine's distinctive 'schema-based' approach to metaphysical theorizing, which aims to identify general principles accommodating any intelligible application of the notion(s), by attention to his accounts of essence and dependence. I then raise some specific concerns about the general principles Fine takes to schematically characterize these notions. In particular, I present various counterexamples to Fine's essence-based account of ontological dependence. The problem, roughly speaking, is that Fine supposes that an object's essence makes reference to just what it (...)
  23. The Unity and Priority Arguments for Grounding.Jessica M. Wilson - 2016 - In Ken Aizawa & Carl Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Ground. Basinstoke: Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 171-204.
    Grounding, understood as a primitive posit operative in contexts where metaphysical dependence is at issue, is not able on its own to do any substantive work in characterizing or illuminating metaphysical dependence---or so I argue in 'No Work for a Theory of Grounding' (Inquiry, 2014). Such illumination rather requires appeal to specific metaphysical relations---type or token identity, functional realization, the determinable-determinate relation, the mereological part-whole relation, and so on---of the sort typically at issue in these contexts. In that case, why (...)
  24. Realization: Metaphysics, Mind, and Science.Robert A. Wilson - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (5):985-996.
    This paper surveys some recent work on realization in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of science.
  25. The Unreality of Realization.Chase B. Wrenn - 2010 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (2):305-322.
    This paper argues against the _realization principle_, which reifies the realization relation between lower-level and higher-level properties. It begins with a review of some principles of naturalistic metaphysics. Then it criticizes some likely reasons for embracing the realization principle, and finally it argues against the principle directly. The most likely reasons for embracing the principle depend on the dubious assumption that special science theories cannot be true unless special science predicates designate properties. The principle itself turns out to be false (...)
  26. Mental Causation.Stephen Yablo - 1992 - Philosophical Review 101 (2):245-280.
  27. Demystifying Emergence.David Yates - 2016 - Ergo, an Open Access Journal of Philosophy 3.
    Are the special sciences autonomous from physics? Those who say they are need to explain how dependent special science properties could feature in irreducible causal explanations, but that’s no easy task. The demands of a broadly physicalist worldview require that such properties are not only dependent on the physical, but also physically realized. Realized properties are derivative, so it’s natural to suppose that they have derivative causal powers. Correspondingly, philosophical orthodoxy has it that if we want special science properties to (...)
  28. Why the Counterfactualist Should Still Worry About Downward Causation.Lei Zhong - 2015 - Erkenntnis 80 (1):159-171.
    In Zhong (Philos Phenomenol Res 83:129–147, 2011; Analysis 72:75–85, 2012), I argued that, contrary to what many people might expect, the counterfactual theory of causation will generate (rather than solve) the exclusion problem. Recently some philosophers raise an incisive objection to this argument. They contend that my argument fails as it equivocates between different notions of a physical realizer (see Christensen and Kallestrup in Analysis 72:513–517, 2012). However, I find that their criticism doesn’t threaten the central idea of my view. (...)
Functional Realization
  1. Realization Relations in Metaphysics.Umut Baysan - 2015 - Minds and Machines (3):1-14.
    “Realization” is a technical term that is used by metaphysicians, philosophers of mind, and philosophers of science to denote some dependence relation that is thought to obtain between higher-level properties and lower-level properties. It is said that mental properties are realized by physical properties; functional and computational properties are realized by first-order properties that occupy certain causal/functional roles; dispositional properties are realized by categorical properties; so on and so forth. Given this wide usage of the term “realization”, it would be (...)
  2. Does a Rock Implement Every Finite-State Automaton?David J. Chalmers - 1996 - Synthese 108 (3):309-33.
    Hilary Putnam has argued that computational functionalism cannot serve as a foundation for the study of the mind, as every ordinary open physical system implements every finite-state automaton. I argue that Putnam's argument fails, but that it points out the need for a better understanding of the bridge between the theory of computation and the theory of physical systems: the relation of implementation. It also raises questions about the class of automata that can serve as a basis for understanding the (...)
  3. On Implementing a Computation.David J. Chalmers - 1994 - Minds and Machines 4 (4):391-402.
    To clarify the notion of computation and its role in cognitive science, we need an account of implementation, the nexus between abstract computations and physical systems. I provide such an account, based on the idea that a physical system implements a computation if the causal structure of the system mirrors the formal structure of the computation. The account is developed for the class of combinatorial-state automata, but is sufficiently general to cover all other discrete computational formalisms. The implementation relation is (...)
  4. Role Functions, Mechanisms, and Hierarchy.Carl F. Craver - 2001 - Philosophy of Science 68 (1):53-74.
    Many areas of science develop by discovering mechanisms and role functions. Cummins' (1975) analysis of role functions-according to which an item's role function is a capacity of that item that appears in an analytic explanation of the capacity of some containing system-captures one important sense of "function" in the biological sciences and elsewhere. Here I synthesize Cummins' account with recent work on mechanisms and causal/mechanical explanation. The synthesis produces an analysis of specifically mechanistic role functions, one that uses the characteristic (...)
  5. The Nature of Psychological Explanation.Robert C. Cummins - 1983 - MIT Press.
  6. Beyond Program Explanation. Cynthia & Graham Macdonald - 2007 - In Geoffrey Brennan, Robert Goodin, Frank Jackson & Michael Smith (eds.), Common Minds: Themes From the Philosophy of Philip Pettit. Clarendon Press.
  7. Developing The Explanatory Dimensions of Part-Whole Realization.Ronald P. 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 (...)
  8. Resolving Arguments by Different Conceptual Traditions of Realization.Ronald P. Endicott - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 159 (1):41-59.
    There is currently a significant amount of interest in understanding and developing theories of realization. Naturally arguments have arisen about the adequacy of some theories over others. Many of these arguments have a point. But some can be resolved by seeing that the theories of realization in question are not genuine competitors because they fall under different conceptual traditions with different but compatible goals. I will first describe three different conceptual traditions of realization that are implicated by the arguments under (...)
  9. Flat Versus Dimensioned: The What and the How of Functional Realization.Ronald P. Endicott - 2011 - Journal of Philosophical Research 36:191-208.
    I resolve an argument over “flat” versus “dimensioned” theories of realization. The theories concern, in part, whether realized and realizing properties are instantiated by the same individual (the flat theory) or different individuals in a part-whole relationship (the dimensioned theory). Carl Gillett has argued that the two views conflict, and that flat theories should be rejected on grounds that they fail to capture scientific cases involving a dimensioned relation between individuals and their constituent parts. I argue on the contrary that (...)
  10. Multiple Realizability.Ronald P. Endicott - 2005 - In D. Borchert (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition. Thomson Gale, Macmillan Reference.
    Multiple realizability has been at the heart of debates about whether the mind reduces to the brain, or whether the items of a special science reduce to the items of a physical science. I analyze the two central notions implied by the concept of multiple realizability: "multiplicity," otherwise known as property variability, and "realizability." Beginning with the latter, I distinguish three broad conceptual traditions. The Mathematical Tradition equates realization with a form of mapping between objects. Generally speaking, x realizes (or (...)
  11. Realization and Physicalism.Robert Francescotti - 2010 - Philosophical Psychology 23 (5):601-616.
    Melnyk provides a rigorous analysis of the notion of realization with the aim of defining Physicalism. It is argued here that contrary to Melnyk's Realization Physicalism, the idea that mental phenomena are realized by physical phenomena fails to capture the physicalist belief that the former obtain in virtue of the latter. The conclusion is not that Physicalism is false, but that its truth is best explained with some notion other than realization in Melnyk's sense. I also argue that the problems (...)
  12. Understanding Physical Realization (and What It Does Not Entail).Robert Francescotti - 2002 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 23 (3):279-292.
    The notion of realization is defined so that we can better understand what it means to say that mentality is physically realized. It is generally thought that physical properties realize mental properties (thesis PR). The definitions provided here support this belief, but they also reveal that mental properties can be viewed as realizing physical properties. This consequence questions the value of PR in helping us capture the idea that mental phenomena are dependent upon (i.e., obtain by virtue of) physical phenomena. (...)
  13. The Dimensions of Realization: A Critique of the Standard View.C. Gillett - 2002 - Analysis 62 (4):316-323.
  14. The Dimensions of Realization: A Critique of the Standard View.Carl Gillett - 2002 - Analysis 62 (4):316-323.
  15. The Metaphysics of Realization, Multiple Realizability, and the Special Sciences.Carl Gillett - 2002 - Journal of Philosophy 100 (11):591-603.
  16. Realization, Determination, and Mechanisms.Matthew C. Haug - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 150 (3):313-330.
    Several philosophers (e.g., Ehring (Nous (Detroit, Mich.) 30:461–480, 1996 ); Funkhouser (Nous (Detroit, Mich.) 40:548–569, 2006 ); Walter (Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37:217–244, 2007 ) have argued that there are metaphysical differences between the determinable-determinate relation and the realization relation between mental and physical properties. Others have challenged this claim (e.g., Wilson (Philosophical Studies, 2009 ). In this paper, I argue that there are indeed such differences and propose a “mechanistic” account of realization that elucidates why these differences hold. This (...)
  17. Two Kinds of Role Property.Douglas Keaton - 2010 - Philosophia 38 (4):773-788.
    The realization relation is commonly explicated via, or identified with, the causal role playing relation. However, the realization relation does not formally match the causal role playing relation. While realization is a relation between a base realizer property and a single higher level realized property, I argue that the causal role playing relation as typically defined is a relation between a base property and two higher-level role properties. Advocates of using causal role playing to explicate realization must therefore decide which (...)
  18. Mind in a Physical World: An Essay on the Mind-Body Problem and Mental Causation.Jaegwon Kim - 1998 - MIT Press.
    This book, based on Jaegwon Kim's 1996 Townsend Lectures, presents the philosopher's current views on a variety of issues in the metaphysics of the mind...
  19. Supervenience, Emergence, and Realization in the Philosophy of Mind.Jaegwon Kim - 1997 - In Martin Carrier & Peter K. Machamer (eds.), Mindscapes: Philosophy, Science, and the Mind. Pittsburgh University Press.
  20. Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness.Joseph Levine - 2001 - Oxford University Press USA.
    In this wide-ranging study, Levine explores both sides of the mind-body dilemma, presenting the first book-length treatment of his highly influential ideas on the How does one explain the physical nature of an experience? This puzzle, the "explanatory gap" between mind and body, is the focus of this work by an influential scholar in the field.
  21. Psychophysical and Theoretical Identifications.David Lewis - 1972 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 50 (3):249-258.
  22. Consciousness.William G. Lycan - 1987 - MIT Press.
    In this book, William Lycan reviews the diverse philosophical views on consciousness--including those of Kripke, Block, Campbell, Sellars, and Casteneda--and ..
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