The cognitive and behavioral sciences: Real patterns, real unity, real causes, but no supervenience

Don Ross, David Spurrett
2004 Behavioral and Brain Sciences  
A wave of recent work in metaphysics seeks to undermine the anti-reductionist, functionalist consensus of the past few decades in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. That consensus apparently legitimated a focus on what systems do, without necessarily and always requiring attention to the details of how systems are constituted. The new metaphysical challenge contends that many states and processes referred to by functionalist cognitive scientists are epiphenomenal. It further contends
more » ... urther contends that the problem lies in functionalism itself, and that, to save the causal significance of mind, it is necessary to re-embrace reductionism. We argue that the prescribed return to reductionism would be disastrous for the cognitive and behavioral sciences, requiring the dismantling of most existing achievements and placing intolerable restrictions on further work. However, this argument fails to answer the metaphysical challenge on its own terms. We meet that challenge by going on to argue that the new metaphysical skepticism about functionalist cognitive science depends on reifying two distinct notions of causality (one primarily scientific, the other metaphysical), then equivocating between them. When the different notions of causality are properly distinguished, it is clear that functionalism is in no serious philosophical trouble, and that we need not choose between reducing minds or finding them causally impotent. The metaphysical challenge to functionalism relies, in particular, on a naïve and inaccurate conception of the practice of physics, and the relationship between physics and metaphysics. Abstract: This commentary argues that Ross & Spurrett (R&S) have not shown that supervenience is two-way, but they have shown that all the sciences, including physics, make use of functional and supervenient properties. The entrenched defender of Kim's position could insist that only fundamental physics describes causal relations directly, but Kim's microphysical reductionism becomes completely implausible when we consider contemporary physics. NOTES Melnyk ( Abstract: In addition to the "universal glue," which is the local mechanical causation, the standard explanatory scheme of classical science presumes two "universal vessels," which are global space and time. I call this outdated metaphysical setting "black-and-white" because it allows for only two principal scales. A prospective metaphysics able to bind existing sciences together needs to be "colored," that is, allow for scale relativity and diversification by domain. Real patterns, real unity, real causes, but no supervenience Abstract: Our response amplifies our case for scientific realism and the unity of science and clarifies our commitments to scientific unity, nonreductionism, behaviorism, and our rejection of talk of "emergence." We acknowledge support from commentators for our view of physics and, responding to pressure and suggestions from commentators, deny the generality supervenience and explain what this involves. We close by reflecting on the relationship between philosophy and science.
doi:10.1017/s0140525x04330141 fatcat:kmzyfv52hreaxj4j36pijr5yci