Minds and Machines

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 309–337 | Cite as

Constitution, and Multiple Constitution, in the Sciences: Using the Neuron to Construct a Starting Framework

  • Carl Gillett


Inter-level mechanistic explanations in the sciences have long been a focus of philosophical interest, but attention has recently turned to the compositional character of these explanations which work by explaining higher level entities, whether processes, individuals or properties, using the lower level entities they take to compose them. However, we still have no theoretical account of the constitution or parthood relations between individuals deployed in such explanations, nor any accounts of multiple constitution. My primary focus in this paper is to outline a positive account of the constitution/part-whole relations between individuals posited in inter-level mechanistic explanations that takes constituents in the sciences to be ‘working parts’. Using this account, I then go on to illuminate the nature, and varieties, of multiple constitution that we find in the sciences and provide a starting theoretical framework for multiple constitution as well.


Parthood Constitution Mechanism Implementation Realization Neuroscience Neuron Craver Mereology Functionalism 



Thanks to Ken Aizawa, Matt Babb, Carl Craver, Andrew Melnyk, Jackie Sullivan and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper. Thanks also to the audience at the 2011 Delaware Workshop on Neuroscience where the paper was presented. Special thank to Ken Aizawa and especially Fred Adams for organizing a highly productive workshop.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northern Illinois UniversityDeKalbUSA

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