Dept of Philosophy | News | Dissertation Prize Winner Announced 2015/16
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Dissertation Prize Winner Announced 2015/16

The department is very pleased to award the prize for Best Dissertation to Thomas Frankfort.

Each year the department awards a cash prize for the best MA Philosophy dissertation.

We are pleased to announce that Thomas Frankfort, registered on the MA Philosophy course, is this years' winner.

The department would like to congratulate Thomas on his academic achievement. Please see below an abstract of Thomas's work:

Does Multiple Realizability Block Mind Brain Identity?


According to Jaegwon Kim multiple realizability does not block mind-brain identity.  He accepts that psychological states are multiply realized but argues that for that very reason they are not true kinds, the sort that can participate in strict laws, and therefore not the sort of kind that can be globally reduced.  On his account, everything except the fundamental particles and the chemical elements are multiply realized, so it follows that the only true kinds, and the only strict laws, are those of physics and chemistry.   Psychological kinds (like those of every other special science) are not true kinds (with causal powers) but merely concepts (predicates, ideas), and mere concepts can’t be reduced.  Nevertheless, a psychological kind can be locally reduced, at least in principle, meaning that for any psychological concept there are as many different kinds as there are realizations of that concept.  And local reduction of this sort permits the identification of the reduced kind with its unique physical realizer.

Kim’s argument fails to recognise that the kinds of psychology (and the kinds of many other special sciences) are teleological in nature. The defining characteristic of teleological kinds is the purpose they were designed to serve, not their physical instantiation.  Variability in their instantiation is, in practice, guaranteed, but this doesn’t undermine their status as genuine kinds, or of their properties as genuine properties.  While non-teleological kinds are defined by reference to their microstructure and the causal powers of their fundamental constituents, teleological kinds are defined by reference to the function they were designed to perform, regardless of how they are instantiated.  One consequence of this is that it makes no sense to talk about type reduction of psychological kinds, like minds; to do so is to make a sort of category mistake.

Nevertheless the story about teleological kinds is ultimately a physical one.  Nor is there any reason in principle why tokens of mental entities cannot be reduced to their physical realizers.  Kim’s ‘local reduction’ is, in effect, much the same as ‘token reduction’ so, to that extent at least, he’s right about the possibility of mind brain identity.