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Identity, Reduction, and Conserved Mechanisms



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To appear in S Gozzano and C Hill Eds The mental The physical New perspectives on type identity Cambridge Cambridge University Press Identity Reduction and Conserved Mechanisms Perspectives from Circadian Rhythm Research William Bechtel Department of Philosophy Center for Chronobiology and Interdisciplinary Programs in Cognitive Science and Science Studies University of California San Diego After briefly flourishing as a characterization of the relation between mind and brain in the 1950s Place 1956 Smart 1959 the type identity theory was eclipsed for the rest of the century supplanted by functionalism Perhaps the most influential argument against identity theory and for functionalism was the claim that mental processes are multiply realized the same mental phenomenon for example hunger or pain is realized in radically different ways in different brains such as those of octopi and humans Putnam 1967 Although philosophers sometimes alluded to biological examples of multiple realizations it was for the most part taken to be an obvious truth not requiring empirical support As a clincher it was sometimes noted that human brains differ for example in their number of neurons or the details of the wiring diagrams between neurons and yet people share many beliefs e g belief in the truth of the multiplerealization claim Since one thing cannot be identical to two or more realizations the alleged identity between psychological phenomena and brain processes seemed clearly refuted An even broader conclusion was reached based on this rejection of the identity theory psychology is autonomous from and should be pursued independently of neuroscience This prescription fit well with the Zeitgeist in cognitive psychology and the emerging interdisciplinary field of cognitive science in the 1970s when there were few tools available to relate findings in neuroscience to cognitive phenomena Bechtel Abrahamsen Graham 1998 Cognitive research typically employed psychological evidence e g



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