The status of functional explanation in psychology : reduction and mechanistic explanation
Faculty of Arts. Philosophy
Theory and psychology. - London
, p. 145-163
The validity of functional explanations as they are commonly used in psychology has recently come under attack. Kims supervenience argument purports to prove that higher-level generalizations have no causal powers of their own, and hence are explanatorily irrelevant. In a nutshell, the supervenience argument forces us to either embrace epiphenomenalism of higher-level properties, or accept Kims specific brand of reductionism. However, with the current emphasis on mechanistic explanations, the literature on explanation in psychology has undergone some drastic changes. It could be argued, therefore, that Kims argument targets an outdated concept of functional explanations. In any case, these developments warrant a reassessment of the implications of his argument, which is the purpose of the present paper. First, we argue that the metaphysics behind the supervenience argument is incompatible with that of mechanisms. Second, we argue that Kims proposed brand of reductionism does not accurately describe the explanatory practices of cognitive science.