Ruthless reductionism: A review essay of John Bickle's Philosophy and neuroscience: A ruthlessly reductive account
John Bickle's new book on philosophy and neuroscience is aptly subtitled ‘a ruthlessly reductive account'. His ‘new wave metascience' is a massive attack on the relative autonomy that psychology enjoyed until recently, and goes even beyond his previous (Bickle, J. (1998). Psychoneural reduction: The new wave . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.) new wave reductionsism. Reduction of functional psychology to (cognitive) neuroscience is no longer ruthless enough; we should now look rather to cellular or molecular neuroscience at the lowest possible level for explanations of memory, consciousness and attention. Bickle presents a fascinating set of experimental cases of such molecule-to-mind explanations. This book qualifies as a showcase of naturalism in the philosophy of mind. Naturally, many of the traditional conceptual approaches in the philosophy of mind are given short shrift, but—in Bickle's metascientific scheme—the role of philosophy of science also seems reduced to explicating laboratory findings. The present reviewers think that this reductionism suffers from overstretching; in particular, the idea of ‘explanation in a single bound' from molecule to mind is a bit too ruthless. Still, Bickle's arguments are worth serious attention.