Explanatory Pluralism and The Heuristic Identity Theory

Theory & Psychology 11 (6):736–760 (2001)
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Abstract

Explanatory pluralism holds that the sorts of comprehensive theoretical and ontological economies, which microreductionists and New Wave reductionists envision and which antireductionists fear, offer misleading views of both scientific practice and scientific progress. Both advocates and foes of employing reductionist strategies at the interface of psychology and neuroscience have overplayed the alleged economies that interlevel connections (including identities) justify while overlooking their fundamental role in promoting scientific research. A brief review of research on visual processing provides support for the explanatory pluralist=s general model of cross-scientific relations and discloses the valuable heuristic role hypothetical identities play in cross-scientific research. That model also supplies grounds for hesitation about the correlation objection to the psycho-physical identity theory and complaints about an explanatory gap in physicalist accounts of consciousness. These takes on psycho-neural connections miss both the sorts of considerations that motivate hypothetical identities in science and their fundamental contribution to progressive research. Thus, their focus on the contributions of research at multiple levels of analysis does not bar explanatory pluralists from considering heuristic identity theory (HIT). Arguably, it encourages it.

Author Profiles

William Bechtel
University of California, San Diego
Robert N. McCauley
Emory University

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