An assessment of the status of the multiple realizability thesis in cognitive science

Baysan, Emin Umut
It has been argued that there are physically different ways of instantiating mental properties, the nature of which is the subject matter of cognitive science. This claim has been known as the Multiple Realizability Thesis (MRT). It has been suggested that the MRT shows that a reduction of mental properties to physical properties is impossible, as there cannot be one-to-one correspondences of mental properties to the properties of the brain. Moreover, it has been argued that the latter point shows that physical explanations are not relevant to the explanations of cognitive science, as they would lack the generality of psychological explanations. This thesis will try to explain from which assumptions of a traditional cognitive science perspective the MRT follows. It will also discuss several responses that have been introduced against both the MRT and the anti-reductionist conclusions that are assumed to follow from it. The responses include a challenge to the scientific status of cognitive science. According to this challenge, the MRT entails that the subject matter of cognitive science, namely mental properties, lack a similarity in the physical level, hence an instance of a mental property is not informative about another instance. While discussing these theories, a revision of the MRT will be proposed. According to this revision, the MRT is compatible with the assumption that there could be an underlying similarity between different physical realizers of a given mental property. It will be argued that by means of this revision, both the challenge to the scientific status of cognitive science, and the argument for the irrelevance of physical explanations will fail.


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Citation Formats
E. U. Baysan, “An assessment of the status of the multiple realizability thesis in cognitive science,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2011.