Volume 35, Issue 1, January 2020
José Luis Bermúdez, Arnon Cahen
Fodor on multiple realizability and nonreductive physicalism
Why the argument does not work
This paper assesses Fodor’s well-known argument from multiple realizability to nonreductive physicalism. Recent work has brought out that the empirical case for cross-species multiple realizability is weak at best and so we consider whether the argument can be rebooted using a “thin” notion of intraspecies multiple realizability, taking individual neural firing patterns to be the realizers of mental events. We agree that there are no prospects for reducing mental events to individual neural firing patterns. But there are more plausible candidates for the neural realizers of mental events out there, namely, global neural properties such as the average firing rates of neural populations, or the local field potential. The problem for Fodor’s argument is that those global neural properties point towards reductive versions of physicalism.