Species-specific properties and more narrow reductive strategies

Erkenntnis 38 (3):303-21 (1993)
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In light of the phenomenon of multiple realizability, many philosophers wanted to preserve the mind-brain identity theory by resorting to a “narrow reductive strategy” whereby one (a) finds mental properties which are (b) sufficiently narrow to avoid the phenomenon of multiple realization, while being (c) explanatorily adequate to the demands of psychological theorizing. That is, one replaces the conception of a mental property as more general feature of cognitive systems with many less general properties, for example, replacing the conception of pain as a general property across different species with a number of species-specific kinds of pain. Many critics focused on (c), arguing that species-specific properties are not explanatorily adequate because they do not capture what is common in pain across species. In this paper I focused on (b). I argued that if one carries the narrow reductive strategy out in such a way to avoid all multiple realizability that occurs within a species, for example, accommodating individual differences by postulating a more narrow pain-relative-to-an-individual-at-a-time, then the result is for all intents and purposes a claim about tokens and not types or properties at all (the position is now about individuals having properties at times, a structured token event). I also added an important point about explanation, viz., that properties-relative-to-individuals-at-times would not serve the explanatory goals of science by failing to generalize to other individuals.

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Ronald Endicott
North Carolina State University

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