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  • Cited by 7
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Byrnes, James P. and Vu, Lien T. 2015. Educational neuroscience: definitional, methodological, and interpretive issues. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, Vol. 6, Issue. 3, p. 221.

    Keaton, Douglas 2015. The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness.

    Stam, H.J. 2010. The tradition of personalism and its relationship to contemporary indeterminate functionalism. New Ideas in Psychology, Vol. 28, Issue. 2, p. 143.

    Sun, Ron 2009. Theoretical status of computational cognitive modeling. Cognitive Systems Research, Vol. 10, Issue. 2, p. 124.

    Saunders, S. and Wallace, D. 2008. Saunders and Wallace Reply. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 59, Issue. 3, p. 315.

    Keijzer, Fred and Schouten, Maurice 2007. Embedded Cognition and Mental Causation: Setting Empirical Bounds on Metaphysics. Synthese, Vol. 158, Issue. 1, p. 109.

    Marras, Ausonio 2006. Emergence and reduction: Reply to Kim. Synthese, Vol. 151, Issue. 3, p. 561.


What to say to a skeptical metaphysician: A defense manual for cognitive and behavioral scientists

  • Don Ross (a1) and David Spurrett (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2004

A wave of recent work in metaphysics seeks to undermine the anti-reductionist, functionalist consensus of the past few decades in cognitive science and philosophy of mind. That consensus apparently legitimated a focus on what systems do, without necessarily and always requiring attention to the details of how systems are constituted. The new metaphysical challenge contends that many states and processes referred to by functionalist cognitive scientists are epiphenomenal. It further contends that the problem lies in functionalism itself, and that, to save the causal significance of mind, it is necessary to re-embrace reductionism.

We argue that the prescribed return to reductionism would be disastrous for the cognitive and behavioral sciences, requiring the dismantling of most existing achievements and placing intolerable restrictions on further work. However, this argument fails to answer the metaphysical challenge on its own terms. We meet that challenge by going on to argue that the new metaphysical skepticism about functionalist cognitive science depends on reifying two distinct notions of causality (one primarily scientific, the other metaphysical), then equivocating between them. When the different notions of causality are properly distinguished, it is clear that functionalism is in no serious philosophical trouble, and that we need not choose between reducing minds or finding them causally impotent. The metaphysical challenge to functionalism relies, in particular, on a naïve and inaccurate conception of the practice of physics, and the relationship between physics and metaphysics.

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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
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