I’m just back from Kirchberg am Wechsel where the annual Wittgenstein Symposium took place. This year’s edition was vastly inspiring for me – maybe because the good old Ludwig never really featured in plenary talks. Dan Weiskopf, another Brain’s contributor, had an interesting talk that vindicated weak multiple realization whereas I tried to explicate the notion of ontological naturalism vs. physicalism. My account of broad physicalism was pretty close to what James Ladyman called ‘weak physicalism’ in his plenary talk.
I’m not able to give a thorough overview of the event, so let me just point that reductionism in one or other version was defended in almost all plenary talks. That was refreshing as emergence seems to be vastly more popular elsewhere.
I really enjoyed Jaegwon’s Kim argument against strong emergence as defined as supervenience and non-deducibility of properties. Yet, I think he was making his job too easy by ignored other versions of strong emergence. Kim’s strategy seemed to be backed up by the claim of Peter Simons who defined strong emergence as relying on magic.
Joelle Proust was proposing a hard-nosed reductionist account of the mental, as based on adaptive control loops, Jerry Fodor reduced meaning to reference, and then reference as well. Bill Bechtel gave an overview of his account of reduction via mechanism by showing circadian rythms research in biology (fascinating topic especially for those who suffered from jet lag and slept during the symposium; BTW, the workshop on representation on the first day ended at 10 pm, which meant that some of the attendants were hearing the talks or speaking for 12 hours almost without breaks). Patrick Suppes, in a reductionist spirit, suggested that neurophysiology might change philosophy forever (and not on the individual scale, of course!). Proponents of neologicism, defended forcefully by Ed Zalta and analysed on a special workshop, were also suggesting that reduction of math to logic is feasible (Crispin Wright and Oystein Linnebo defended abstract objects as based on the abstractive definitions and not as emergent as well). So even Dave Chalmers proposal to ramsify all the knowledge seemed pretty reductionist, not to mention Hintikka’s claim that his first-order EIF logic captures the second-order logic. Other talks, such as George Bealer account of algebraic method or Alexander Bird’s vindication of natural kinds, also seemed to endorse a reductionist view rather than emergence. This doesn’t mean that section papers were not proposing non-reductive physicalism or emergentism etc., of course, but the reductionist bias was remarkable anyway.
As a sidenote, digital cameras seem to become a popular addiction, as documented here (digital camera used only for scientific purposes, no addiction involved).