Fixing functionalism

Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (3):87-118 (2008)
Abstract
Functionalism, which views consciousness as the product of the processing of stimuli by the brain, is perhaps the dominant view among researchers in the cognitive sciences and associated fields. However, as a workable scientific model of consciousness, it has been marred by a singular lack of tangible success, except at the broadest levels of explanation. This paper argues that this is not an accident, and that in its standard construal it is simply too unwieldy to assume the burden of full-fledged theory. In its place, a reduced functionalism is introduced by applying the principle of parsimony successively to the elements of standard functionalism until only a minimal framework remains. This simpler account states that consciousness is a function of instantaneous causal relations between processing elements rather the putative algorithm such relations are instantiating. It is then argued as a corollary that the only such relations that matter are those in which reciprocal influences are at play. Thus, purely afferent and efferent causal relations are pruned from consideration. The theory resulting from the addition of this corollary is shown to have good correspondence with a number of recent neurophysiologically-motivated approaches to consciousness, including those that stress the importance of reentry, those that view synchrony as a key independent variable, and those that highlight the importance of the accessibility of conscious contents to multiple processing modules. In addition, the theory is shown to be consistent with recent results in the literature on masking, and those in the literature on binocular rivalry. The paper concludes by arguing that the theoretical and empirical difficulties inherent in consciousness research imply that the principle of parsimony must occupy a more central role in consciousness research than it would in ordinary scientific discourse.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 9,360
External links
  •   Try with proxy.
  • Through your library Configure
    References found in this work BETA

    No references found.

    Citations of this work BETA

    No citations found.

    Similar books and articles
    Analytics

    Monthly downloads

    Sorry, there are not enough data points to plot this chart.

    Added to index

    2009-01-28

    Total downloads

    1 ( #306,312 of 1,089,048 )

    Recent downloads (6 months)

    0

    How can I increase my downloads?

    My notes
    Sign in to use this feature


    Discussion
    Start a new thread
    Order:
    There  are no threads in this forum
    Nothing in this forum yet.