Intertheoretic reduction

In philosophy of science, intertheoretic reduction occurs when a reducing theory makes predictions that perfectly or almost perfectly match the predictions of a reduced theory, while the reducing theory explains or predicts a wider range of phenomena under more general conditions. Special relativity, for example, can be reduced to Newtonian mechanics for velocities far less than c.

According to Alexander Rosenberg philosophers mostly these days believe that reduction between sciences is possible in principle but concepts we currently have do not allow reductions even in many cases in which natural sciences are involved, for instance from biology to chemistry.[1]

Often, the extent to which one theory can be said to be reduced to another theory is complicated by the existence of emergent phenomena. Furthermore, there is the issue of by what criteria one judges one theory as more fundamental than another. Often, this notion is ambiguous. For instance, a quintessential example of intertheoretic reduction is often considered to be the reduction of phenomenological thermodynamics to statistical mechanics. However, it has been argued that there are some phenomena (e.g. phase transitions and critical phenomena) that cannot be reductively explicated in terms of the "more fundamental" theory of statistical mechanics.[2]

Especially psychology is seen often as a "scientific dead-end" due to its intentional concepts (though psychology does not necessarily have to use intentional concepts). Logical analysis has suggested that intentional concepts are not reducible to non-intentional concepts used by neurophysiology in which is the discipline "underlying" the psychology.[3]


  1. ^ Alexander Rosenberg - Philosophy of Social Science, second edition, page 140, published in 1995 by Westview Press.
  2. ^ Batterman, Robert (2009) Emergence, Singularities, and Symmetry Breaking.
  3. ^ Rosenberg's book, chapter 2
Arturo Carsetti

Arturo Carsetti is an Italian Philosopher of sciences and former Professor of philosophy of science at the University of Bari and the University of Rome Tor Vergata. He is the editor of the Italian Journal for the philosophy of science La Nuova Critica founded in 1957 by Valerio Tonini. He is notable for his contributions, also as a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, to philosophy of science, epistemology, cognitive science and philosophy of mind.

Eliminative materialism

Eliminative materialism (also called eliminativism) is the claim that people's common-sense understanding of the mind (or folk psychology) is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist. It is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Some supporters of eliminativism argue that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire, since they are poorly defined. Rather, they argue that psychological concepts of behaviour and experience should be judged by how well they reduce to the biological level. Other versions entail the non-existence of conscious mental states such as pain and visual perceptions.Eliminativism about a class of entities is the view that that class of entities does not exist. For example, materialism tends to be eliminativist about the soul; modern chemists are eliminativist about phlogiston; and modern physicists are eliminativist about the existence of luminiferous aether. Eliminative materialism is the relatively new (1960s–1970s) idea that certain classes of mental entities that common sense takes for granted, such as beliefs, desires, and the subjective sensation of pain, do not exist. The most common versions are eliminativism about propositional attitudes, as expressed by Paul and Patricia Churchland, and eliminativism about qualia (subjective interpretations about particular instances of subjective experience), as expressed by Daniel Dennett and Georges Rey. These philosophers often appeal to an introspection illusion.

In the context of materialist understandings of psychology, eliminativism stands in opposition to reductive materialism which argues that mental states as conventionally understood do exist, and that they directly correspond to the physical state of the nervous system. An intermediate position is revisionary materialism, which will often argue that the mental state in question will prove to be somewhat reducible to physical phenomena—with some changes needed to the common sense concept.

Since eliminative materialism claims that future research will fail to find a neuronal basis for various mental phenomena, it must necessarily wait for science to progress further. One might question the position on these grounds, but other philosophers like Churchland argue that eliminativism is often necessary in order to open the minds of thinkers to new evidence and better explanations.

Multiple realizability

Multiple realizability, in the philosophy of mind, is the thesis that the same mental property, state, or event can be implemented by different physical properties, states, or events. The idea has its roots in the late 1960s and early 1970s when a number of philosophers, most prominently Hilary Putnam (1967, 1988) and Jerry Fodor (1975), put it forth as an argument against reductionist accounts of the relation between mental and physical kinds. In short, a theory of mind that includes multiple realizability allows for the existence of strong AI. The original targets of these arguments were the type-identity theory and eliminative materialism. The same arguments from multiple realizability were also used to defend many versions of functionalism, especially Machine state functionalism.

In recent years, however, multiple realizability has been used to attack the very theory that it was originally designed to defend. As a result, functionalism has fallen out of favor as a dominant theory in the philosophy of mind. The dominant theory ("received view" in the words of Lepore and Pylyshyn) in modern philosophy of mind is a version of generic non-reductive physicalism and one of its central pillars is the hypothesis of multiple realizability.

Complicating our historical understanding, Restrepo noted in 2009 that the thesis of the multiple realizability of the mental was held by Turing at least ten years before the usually attributed authors described the phenomenon. In 1950, Turing expressed the multiple realizability of the mental in the following:

The [Babbage Engine's] storage was to be purely mechanical, using wheels and cards.

The fact that Babbage's Analytical Engine was to be entirely mechanical will help us rid ourselves of a superstition. Importance is often attached to the fact that modern digital computers are electrical, and the nervous system is also electrical. Since Babbage's machine was not electrical, and since all digital computers are in a sense equivalent, we see that this use of electricity cannot be of theoretical importance. ... If we wish to find such similarities we should look rather for mathematical analogies of function.

Paul Churchland

Paul Montgomery Churchland (born October 21, 1942) is a Canadian philosopher known for his studies in neurophilosophy and the philosophy of mind. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh under Wilfrid Sellars (1969), Churchland rose to the rank of full professor at the University of Manitoba before accepting the Valtz Family Endowed Chair in Philosophy at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and a joint appointments in that institution's Institute for Neural Computation and on its Cognitive Science Faculty.

As of February 2017, Churchland is recognised as Professor Emeritus at the UCSD, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Moscow Center for Consciousness Studies of Moscow State University. Churchland is the husband of philosopher Patricia Churchland, with whom he collaborates, and The New Yorker has reported the similarity of their views, e.g., on the mind-body problem, are such that the two are often discussed as if they are one person.


A theory is a contemplative and rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking, or the results of such thinking. Depending on the context, the results might, for example, include generalized explanations of how nature works. The word has its roots in ancient Greek, but in modern use it has taken on several related meanings.

Theories guide the enterprise of finding facts rather than of reaching goals, and are neutral concerning alternatives among values. A theory can be a body of knowledge, which may or may not be associated with particular explanatory models. To theorize is to develop this body of knowledge.As already in Aristotle's definitions, theory is very often contrasted to "practice" (from Greek praxis, πρᾶξις) a Greek term for doing, which is opposed to theory because pure theory involves no doing apart from itself. A classical example of the distinction between "theoretical" and "practical" uses the discipline of medicine: medical theory involves trying to understand the causes and nature of health and sickness, while the practical side of medicine is trying to make people healthy. These two things are related but can be independent, because it is possible to research health and sickness without curing specific patients, and it is possible to cure a patient without knowing how the cure worked.In modern science, the term "theory" refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science. Such theories are described in such a way that scientific tests should be able to provide empirical support for, or empirically contradict ("falsify") it. Scientific theories are the most reliable, rigorous, and comprehensive form of scientific knowledge, in contrast to more common uses of the word "theory" that imply that something is unproven or speculative (which in formal terms is better characterized by the word hypothesis). Scientific theories are distinguished from hypotheses, which are individual empirically testable conjectures, and from scientific laws, which are descriptive accounts of the way nature behaves under certain conditions.

Werner Leinfellner

Werner Leinfellner (January 27, 1921 – April 6, 2010) was professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and at the Vienna University of Technology. After recovering from life-threatening wounds during World War II, he studied chemistry and physics at the Universities of Vienna and Graz, eventually turning to the study of the philosophy of science, and receiving his Ph.D. in 1959. He moved to the United States in 1967, in part, because of problems faced by empirically oriented philosophers in obtaining academic positions in Austria and Germany. He is notable for his contributions to philosophy of science, as a member of European Academy of Sciences and Arts, for founding the journal Theory and Decision, for co-founding Theory and Decision Library, and for co-founding the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society and International Wittgenstein Symposium.

William C. Wimsatt

William C. Wimsatt (born May 27, 1941) is professor emeritus in the Department of Philosophy, the Committee on Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science (previously Conceptual Foundations of Science), and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago. He is currently a Winton Professor of the Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota and Residential Fellow of the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science. He specializes in the philosophy of biology, where his areas of interest include reductionism, heuristics, emergence, scientific modeling, heredity, and cultural evolution.

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