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Functionalism as a Species of Reduction

Butterfield, Jeremy and Gomes, Henrique (2020) Functionalism as a Species of Reduction. [Preprint]

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Abstract

This is the first of four papers prompted by a recent literature about a doctrine dubbed spacetime functionalism. This paper gives our general framework for discussing functionalism. Following Lewis, we take it as a species of reduction. We start by expounding reduction in a broadly Nagelian sense. Then we argue that Lewis’ functionalism is an improvement on Nagelian reduction.

This paper thereby sets the scene for the other papers, which will apply our framework to theories of space and time. (So those papers address the space and time literature: both recent and older, and physical as well as philosophical literature. But the four papers can be read independently.)

Overall, we come to praise spacetime functionalism, not to bury it. But we criticize the recent philosophical literature for failing to stress:

(i) functionalism’s being a species of reduction (in particular: reduction of chrono- geometry to the physics of matter and radiation);

(ii) functionalism’s idea, not just of specifying a concept by its functional role, but of specifying several concepts simultaneously by their roles;

(iii) functionalism’s providing bridge laws that are mandatory, not optional: they are statements of identity (or co-extension) that are conclusions of a deductive argument, rather than contingent guesses or verbal stipulations; and once we infer them, we have a reduction in a Nagelian sense.

On the other hand, some of the older philosophical literature, and the mathematical physics literature, is faithful to these ideas (i) to (iii)—as are Torretti’s writings. (But of course, the word ‘functionalism’ is not used; and themes like simultaneous unique definition are not articulated.) Thus in various papers, falling under various research programmes, the unique definability of a chrono-geometric concept (or concepts) in terms of matter and radiation, and a corresponding bridge law and reduction, is secured by a precise theorem. Hence our desire to celebrate these results as rigorous renditions of spacetime functionalism.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Butterfield, Jeremyjb56@cam.ac.uk0000-0002-0215-5802
Gomes, Henriquegomes.ha@gmail.com0000-0002-9285-0090
Additional Information: Submitted to: ‘Current Debates in Philosophy of Science: In honor of Roberto Torretti’, edited by Cristian Soto; (to be published in the Synthese Library).
Keywords: functionalism, reduction, Canberra plan, Lewis, Nagel, spacetime functionalism, functionalist definition, Torretti, Frege-Hilbert controversy, Beltrami
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Logic
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Jeremy Butterfield
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2020 13:40
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2020 13:40
Item ID: 18043
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Mathematics > Logic
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Reductionism/Holism
Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > Structure of Theories
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Date: 23 July 2020
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18043

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