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Thomas Polger (Cincinnati), Birds, and Bees, and Primates, Oh My! A Defense of the Sparse Theory of Multiple Realization
10 November 2015
Thomas Polger (Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, USA & IdEx Visiting Scholar at Université Bordeaux-Montaigne), “Birds, and Bees, and Primates, Oh My! A Defense of the Sparse Theory of Multiple Realization”
Slides of the talk: Sparse Multiple Realization
Video of the talk available (contact me).
Commentator: Jan Pieter Konsman (Neuroscientist, specialist of neuroinflammation)
It is widely accepted among philosophers of mind and science that mental processes are multiply realized, roughly, that there are multiple neural (and perhaps non-neural) processes that underlie or realize mental processes. A consequence of the multiple realization of the mental is supposed to be that mental processes cannot be reduced to or identified with neural processes. And multiple realization of the mental is supposed to be only a special case of an abundant phenomenon that accounts for the irreducibility of non-basic sciences in general, and that thereby explains and justifies the existence of non-basic or “special” sciences. This talk examines these suppositions about multiple realization. Focusing on the case of the mental and the neural, I argue that the kind of variation in nature that can do the work of multiple realization is not an abundant phenomenon, but rather sparse. The argument begins with a theory of multiple realization, and proceeds by way of case studies regarding vision and hearing in honeybees, birds, and primates.