Philosophical Studies

, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 683–695 | Cite as

Multiple realizability and the semantic view of theories

  • Colin Klein


Multiply realizable properties are those whose realizers are physically diverse. It is often argued that theories which contain them are ipso facto irreducible. These arguments assume that physical explanations are restricted to the most specific descriptions possible of physical entities. This assumption is descriptively false, and philosophically unmotivated. I argue that it is a holdover from the late positivist axiomatic view of theories. A semantic view of theories, by contrast, correctly allows scientific explanations to be couched in the most perspicuous, powerful language available. On a semantic view, traditional notions of multiple realizability are thus very hard to motivate. At best, one must abandon either the idea that multiple realizability is an interesting scientific notion, or else admit that multiply realizable properties do not automatically block scientific reductions.


Multiple realizability Semantic view Theories Reduction Models 



Thanks to Karen Bennett, Carl Gillett, Esther Klein, Tristram McPherson, Tom Polger, Larry Shapiro, an anonymous reviewer, and an audience at the Society for the Metaphysics of Science session at the 2009 Central APA for helpful comments on previous drafts.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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