Post-structuralist angst - critical notice: John Bickle, Psychoneural Reduction: The New Wave

Philosophy of Science 68 (3):377-393 (2001)
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Abstract

I critically evaluate Bickle’s version of scientific theory reduction. I press three main points. First, a small point, Bickle modifies the new wave account of reduction developed by Paul Churchland and Clifford Hooker by treating theories as set-theoretic structures. But that structuralist gloss seems to lose what was distinctive about the Churchland-Hooker account, namely, that a corrected theory must be specified entirely by terms and concepts drawn from the basic reducing theory. Set-theoretic structures are not terms or concepts but the structures that they describe. Second, and more serious, a familiar problem for classical positivist account of reduction resurfaces within this newest wave of thinking, namely, commitment to property identities and inter-theoretic bridge laws (a problem I discussed at more length in "Collapse of the New Wave"). Indeed, this problem is exacerbated by Bickle’s conciliatory treatment of property plasticity, since he is willing to grant that a large number of special science terms denote multiply realized properties, at least if realistically construed. Still, in the end, Bickle sidesteps the reduction of properties by appealing to Hooker’s "function-to-structure token reduction." This is an interesting move with an intriguing concept of reduction. But problems remain. For, third, Bickle and Hooker's function-to-structure token reduction is actually a guised form of eliminative materialism. But that should be unacceptable since the position extends well beyond any modest revisionism for suspect items from a folk theory, say, in folk psychology or folk biology. Instead, it applies to functional terms and concepts employed throughout well-developed and explanatorily successful sciences.

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Ronald Endicott
North Carolina State University

References found in this work

Scientific Realism and the Plasticity of Mind.Paul M. Churchland (ed.) - 1979 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Troubles with functionalism.Ned Block - 1978 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9:261-325.
Mind, Language and Reality.Hilary Putnam - 1975/2003 - Critica 12 (36):93-96.

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