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 is realized by a physical machine, where this realization relation was not conceived along the lines of a traditional mind-brain identity theory. Philosophers then began to use the idiom in a more general way to designate various types of inter-level relations between different domains, such as the ontology of a higher-level science like psychology compared to a lower-level science like neurochemistry. Moreover, one common theme is that concepts of realization offer a better way to account for inter-level relations than competing ideas about supervenience, emergence, and grounding inasmuch as the realization relations are more explanatory than these competitors.
|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 inter-level production that is explanatory (Lepore & Loewer 1989). Much of the interest in philosophy has been focused upon this latter tradition. The metaphysical tradition divides into several different views. To name the most prominent, there is realization by functional roles and occupation (Lycan 1987; Papineau 1993; Melnyk 1994; Kim 1998), or broader notions of function (Polger 2004). There is realization in terms of parts and wholes or mechanistic systems (Cummins 1983; Gillett 2002, Gillett 2007; Craver 2007; Endicott 2016), and a fusion of part-whole realization with functional role and occupation realization (Endicott 2011, Endicott 2016). There is also realization as determinables and determinates (MacDonald & MacDonald 1986; Yablo 1992; Wilson 2009; Jessica 2017), and realization in terms of sets and subsets of causal powers (Wilson 1999, 2011; Shoemaker 2001, 2007). There is also a distinction between core and total realizations (Shoemaker 1981), realization by contextually sensitive INUS conditions (Endicott 1994), and core realizers within a broader metaphysical contexts (Wilson 2001). Moreover, within this spectrum of views, there are issues about the connection between concepts of realization and subsequent judgments about multiple realizability (Shapiro 2004; Gillett 2003; Aizawa & Gillett 2009; Polger & Shapiro 2016), about whether the relata of realization are particular instances or their properties (Shapiro 2008; Endicott 2010; Gillett 2011), and about whether there are different theoretical roles for different concepts of realization (Gillett 2002; Polger 2007; Endicott 2012). Finally, philosophers have argued that concepts of realization are better at preserving physicalist intuitions over concepts of supervenience (Horgan 1993; Melnyk 1994, 2003; Wilson 1999; Witmer 2001; Morris 2010), and better at explaining inter-level phenomena than some generic grounding relation (Wilson 2014, Wilson 2016).|
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's and Robert Wilson's (2006) article 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, and Kevin Morris (Morris 2010) describes some general desiderata that a theory of realization should meet.
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
Darrell P. Rowbottom
Aness Kim Webster
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