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Functional Robustness: A New Framework for Multiple Realization and its Epistemic Consequences

Boone, Worth (2020) Functional Robustness: A New Framework for Multiple Realization and its Epistemic Consequences. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In this dissertation, I provide a novel account of multiple realization. My account reframes the concept in terms of causal theories of explanation, in contrast to the original framing in terms of the deductive-nomological theory of explanation. I align my account of multiple realization with the phenomenon of functional robustness, particularly by examining a number of cases of robustness in neural systems. I then explore the epistemic consequences of functional robustness. In particular, I argue that systems that exhibit robustness will tend to violate causal faithfulness, thus posing challenges to causal hypothesis testing and causal discovery. I then consider the proposal that robustness undermines modularity - i.e. the ability of causal relationships within a system to be disrupted independently. I argue that it does not and instead that robustness often is due to feedback control driving systems toward particular outcomes. As a result, robustness will attend failures of acyclicity, not failures of modularity. I conclude by contrasting these epistemic consequences of functional robustness with those traditionally associated with multiple realization.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Boone, Worthwhb2@pitt.eduwhb20000-0002-7578-7202
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMachery, Edouardmachery@pitt.eduMACHERY
Committee MemberBatterman, Robertrbatterm@pitt.eduRBATTERM
Committee MemberChirimuuta, Mazviitamac289@pitt.eduMAC289
Committee MemberWoodward, Jamesjfw@pitt.eduJFW
Date: 16 January 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 3 October 2019
Approval Date: 16 January 2020
Submission Date: 12 December 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 124
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Causation, Causal Inference, Neuroscience, Robustness, Multiple Realization, Complex Systems
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2020 16:42
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2020 16:42


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