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Although formal notions of realization were already used by computer scientists and mathematicians, Hilary Putnam popularized the idiom for philosophers in the 1960s as a way to describe relations implicated by the machine functionalist view of the mind. Specifically, Putnam said that an abstract machine as well as a machine table or description is realized by a physical machine. Philosophers then began to use the idiom in a more general way to designate various types of inter-level relations, not just the relation between mental states and brain states, but persons and bodies, biological items in relation to more basic structural or chemical items, and so on. More recently, philosophers present concepts of realization as a better way to account for inter-level relations than competing concepts of supervenience, emergence, and grounding.
|Key works||One may categorize different concepts of realization in terms of three basic conceptual traditions. First there is a semantic tradition whereby “to be realized” names a semantic relation, e.g., the satisfaction of a predicate by an object (Lewis 1972). Second there is a mathematical tradition whereby “to be realized” names a mapping or correspondence relation, e.g., a one-to-one mapping between the states of an abstract machine and a concrete physical machine (Putnam 1960; Chalmers 1994). Third there is a metaphysical tradition whereby “to be realized” names a relation of determination or a related notion of inter-level production. This metaphysical tradition itself divides into several different views. There is realization understood in terms of parts and wholes (Cummins 1983; Gillett 2002). There is realization by functional roles and occupation (Papineau 1993; Melnyk 1994; Kim 1998), or broader notions of function (Polger 2004). There is fusion of part-whole realization with functional role and occupation realization (Endicott 2011). There is realization understood in terms of determinables and determinates (Macdonald & Macdonald 1986; Yablo 1992). There is wide versus narrow realization (Wilson 2001). There is realization by a contextually sensitive INUS condition that allows for a type of converse to multiple realizability (Endicott 1994). And there is realization understood in terms of subsets of causal powers (Wilson 1999, 2011; Shoemaker 2001, 2007). Philosophers have also argued that concepts of realization are better at preserving physicalist intutions over rival concepts of supervenience (Melnyk 1994, 2003; Wilson 1999; Witmer 2001), debated the connection between concepts of realization and subsequent judgments about multiple realizability (Shapiro 2004; Gillett 2002; Aizawa & Gillett 2009), discussed the ontology of realization (Shapiro 2008; Endicott 2010; Gillett 2011), and made proposals about the different theoretical role for different concepts of realization (Gillett 2002; Polger 2007; Endicott 2012).|
There are a few general introductions: Ronald Endicott's (2005) encyclopedia article on multiple realizability contains a section dedicated to concepts of realization; and Carl Craver and Robert Wilson's (2006) entry in a handbook on the philosophy of psychology and cognitive science addresses some basic views on realization in both philosophy and the sciences. A paper by Thomas Polger (2007) also covers some broad territory regarding different concepts of realization.
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
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