Saturday, August 7, 2010

Burden Shifting

Hurley (chapter 6) and Ross and Ladyman (chapter 7) are concerned about the very nature of the alleged fallacy. Hurley complains that philosophers employ the causal-constitutive distinction, on which the causal coupling fallacy trades, without motivating or explaining the distinction in detail. Ross and Ladyman argue that the distinction itself is not used in mature sciences such as economics and physics. (Menary, 2010, p. 13).
I don't take it to be my job to explicate the coupling-constitution distinction that the EC folks use to articulate their view.  That's their job.  They are the ones who say that the environment does not merely causally influence cognitive processes, but that they constitute those cognitive processes.

But, matters are not as hopeless as Hurley might suggest.  There is some discussion of causation versus realization and constitution in, for example, Aizawa, K., and Gillett, C., The (Multiple) Realization of Psychological and other Properties in the Sciences. (2009). Mind & Language, 24, 181-208.  Maybe giving this reply is a mug's game though.  No matter how much we might say in explication of the distinction, it's easy enough for a philosopher to complain that we have not said enough or that what we say is not convincing.

So, really, if the distinction collapses, it's mostly ok by me.  Maybe psychologists can press on without the burdens of rethinking their discipline based on a confused philosophical distinction.

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