What is Functionalism? Functionalism is one of the major proposals that have been offered as solutions to the mind/body problem. Solutions to the mind/body problem usually try to answer questions such as: What is the ultimate nature of the mental? At the most general level, what makes a mental state mental? Or more specifically, What do thoughts have in common in virtue of which they are thoughts? That is, what makes a thought a thought? What makes a pain (...) a pain? Cartesian Dualism said the ultimate nature of the mental was to be found in a special mental substance. Behaviorism identified mental states with behavioral dispositions; physicalism in its most influential version identifies mental states with brain states. Functionalism says that mental states are constituted by their causal relations to one another and to sensory inputs and behavioral outputs. Functionalism is one of the major theoretical developments of Twentieth Century analytic philosophy, and provides the conceptual underpinnings of much work in cognitive science. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker argues that the functionalist theory of mind entails a psychological-continuity view of personal identity, as well as providing a defense of that view against a crucial objection. I show that his view has surprising consequences, e.g. that no organism could have mental properties and that a thing's mental properties fail to supervene even weakly on its microstructure and surroundings. I then argue that the view founders on "fission" cases and rules out our being material things. Functionalism tells (...) us little if anything about personal identity. (shrink)
The paper contains an argument against functionalist theories of consciousness. The argument exploits an intuition to the effect that parts of an individual's brain (or of whatever else might realize the individual's mental states, processes, etc.) that are not in use at a time t, can have no bearing on whether that individual is conscious at t. After presenting the argument, I defend it against two possible objections, and then distinguish it from two arguments to which it appears, on the (...) surface to be similar. (shrink)
Role-functionalism for mental events attempts to avoid epiphenomenalism without psychophysical identities. The paper addresses the question of whether it can succeed. It is argued that there is considerable reason to believe it cannot avoid epiphenomenalism, and that if it cannot, then it is untenable. It is pointed out, however, that even if role- functionalism is indeed an untenable theory of mental events, a role-functionalism account of mental dispositions has some intuitive plausibility.
J. A. Gray et al. have recently argued that synaesthesia can be used as a counterexample to functionalism. They provide empirical evidence which they hold supports two anti-functionalist claims: disparate functions share the same types of qualia and the effects of synaesthetic qualia are, contrary to what one would expect from evolutionary considerations, adverse to those functions with which those types of qualia are normally linked. I argue that the empirical evidence they cite does not rule out functionalism, (...) rather the reverse. The fact that the effects of synaesthesia are adverse shows that understanding synaesthetic experiences requires a concept of dysfunction, which in turn presupposes a functionalist account. Such an account, moreover, shows how tokens of the same types of qualia can be associated with different causal histories, thus disarming their first objection. (shrink)
The intimacy problems for functionalism stem from the worry that if functional properties are defined in terms of their causes and effects then such functional properties seem to be too intimately connected to these purported causes and effects. I distinguish three different ways the intimacy problems can be filled out – in terms of necessary connections, analytic connections and vacuous explanations. I argue that none of these present serious problems. Instead, they bring out some important and over-looked features of (...)functionalism. (shrink)
The recent literature on mental causation has not been kind to nonreductive, materialist functionalism (‘functionalism’, hereafter, except where that term is otherwise qualified). The exclusion problem2 has done much of the damage, but the epiphenomenalist threat has taken other forms. Functionalism also faces what I will call the ‘problem of metaphysically necessary effects’ (Block, 1990, pp. 157-60, Antony and Levine, 1997, pp. 91-92, Pereboom, 2002, p. 515, Millikan, 1999, p. 47, Jackson, 1998, pp. 660-61). Functionalist mental properties (...) are individuated partly by their relation to the very effects those properties’ instantiations are thought to cause. Consequently, functionalist causal generalizations would seem to have the following problematical structure: The state of being, among other things, a cause of e (under such-andsuch conditions) causes e (under those conditions).3 The connection asserted lacks the contingency one would expect of a causal generalization. Mental states of the kind in question are, by metaphysical necessity, causes of e; any state that does not cause e is thereby a different kind of state. Yet, a mental state’s being the sort of state it is must play some causal role if functionalism is to account for mental causation.4 In what follows, I first articulate more fully the problem of metaphysically necessary effects. I then criticize three functionalist attempts to solve the problem directly. Given the failure of functionalist efforts to meet the problem head-on, I consider less direct strategies: these involve formulating functionalism or its causal claims in such a way that they appear not to generate the problem of metaphysically necessary effects. I argue against these indirect solutions, in each case concluding either that the problem still arises or that avoiding it requires the adoption of an unorthodox form of functionalism (itself a surprising result). In the final.. (shrink)
Most philosophers of mind nowadays espouse two metaphysical views: Nonreductive Physicalism and the causal efficacy of the mental. Throughout this work I will refer to the conjunction of both claims as the Causal Autonomy of the Mental. Nevertheless, this position is threatened by a number of difficulties which are far more serious than one would imagine given the broad consensus that it has generated during the last decades. This paper purports to offer a careful examination of some of these difficulties (...) and show the considerable efforts that one has to undertake in order to try to overcome them. The difficulties examined will concern only metaphysical problems common to all special science properties but not specific of mental properties. So, in proposing a functionalist version of Nonreductive Physicalism in what follows, I will not attempt to answer to well known objections such as the absent qualia argument and the like. This should not be interpreted as a limitation! in the scope of this work. On the contrary, in dealing with more general objections we will try to evaluate a position which entails (under common assumptions) the Causal Autonomy of the Mental, namely: Nonreductive Physicalism plus the causal efficacy of special science properties. (shrink)
In some recent articles, Jaegwon Kim has argued that non-reductive physicalism is a myth: when it comes to the mind-body problem, the only serious options are reductionism, eliminativism, and dualism. And when it comes to reductionism, Kim is inclined to regard a functionalist theory of the mind as the best available option—mostly because it offers the best explanation of mind-body supervenience. In this paper, I will discuss Kim’s views about functionalism. They may be contended on two general grounds. First, (...) some functionalists will object to being classified as reductionists. Second, Kim argues for a version (or a reading) of functionalism, conceptualized functionalism, that makes it rather similar to the “old” mind-body identity theory it was designed to replace. Moreover, Kim’s conceptualized functionalism turns out to be a somewhat surprising brand of reductionism—a reductionism with some eliminativist cut-outs and, possibly, some dualist leftovers. At the end of the paper I propose a construal of the more standard version of functionalism that obviates Kim’s argument for switching-over to his conceptualized version. (shrink)
After more than thirty-ﬁve years of debate and discussion, versions of the functionalist theory of mind originating in the work of Hilary Putnam, Jerry Fodor, and David Lewis still remain the most popular positions among philosophers of mind on the nature of mental states and processes. Functionalism has enjoyed such popularity owing, at least in part, to its claim to offer a plausible and compelling description of the nature of the mental that is also consistent with an underlying physicalist (...) or materialist ontology. Yet despite its continued popularity, many philosophers now think that functionalism leaves something out, in particular that functional explanations and analyses fail to account for consciousness, qualia, or phenomenal states of experience or awareness.¹ If the objection is correct, then functionalism fails in its inability.. (shrink)
Saul Kripke has proposed an argument to show that there is a serious problem with many computational accounts of physical systems and with functionalist theories in the philosophy of mind. The problem with computational accounts is roughly that they provide no noncircular way to maintain that any particular function with an infinite domain is realized by any physical system, and functionalism has the similar problem because of the character of the functional systems that are supposed to be realized by (...) organisms. This paper shows that the standard account of what it is for a physical system to compute a function can avoid Kripke's criticisms without being reduced to circularity; a very minor and natural elaboration of the standard account suffices to save both functionalist theories and computational accounts generally. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker has claimed that functionalism, a theory about mental states, implies a certain theory about the identity over time of persons, the entities that have mental states. He also claims that persons can survive a "Brain-State-Transfer" procedure. My examination of these claims includes description and analysis of imaginary cases, but-notably-not appeals to our "intuitions" concerning them. It turns out that Shoemaker's basic insight is correct: there is a connection between the two theories. Specifically, functionalism implies that "non-branching (...) functional continuity" is sufficient for personal identity. But there is no implication that it is necessary. And the "BST" procedure may not preserve functional continuity. I consider several possibilities. On what may be the most attractive, the survivor of this-or any similar-procedure is not identical with the original person, but related to him or her as are the survivors in a case of fission. (shrink)
Functionalism, a philosophical theory, has empirical consequences. Functionalism predicts that where systematic transformations of sensory input occur and are followed by behavioral accommodation in which normal function of the organism is restored such that the causes and effects of the subject's psychological states return to those of the period prior to the transformation, there will be a return of qualia or subjective experiences to those present prior to the transform. A transformation of this type that has long been (...) of philosophical interest is the possibility of an inverted spectrum. Hilary Putnam argues that the physical possibility of acquired spectrum inversion refutes functionalism. I argue, however, that in the absence of empirical results no a priori arguments against functionalism, such as Putnam's, can be cogent. I sketch an experimental situation which would produce acquired spectrum inversion. The mere existence of qualia inversion would constitute no refutation of functionalism; only its persistence after behavioral accommodation to the inversion would properly count against functionalism. The cumulative empirical evidence from experiments on image inversion suggests that the results of actual spectrum inversion would confirm rather than refute functionalism. (shrink)
The central argument for functionalism is the so-called argument from multiple realizations. According to this argument, because a functionally characterized system admits a potential infinity of structurally diverse physical realizations, the functional organization of such systems cannot be captured in a law-like manner at the level of physical description (and, thus, must be treated as a principally autonomous domain of inquiry). I offer a rebuttal of this argument based on formal modeling of its premises in the framework of automata (...) theory. In this formal model I exploit the so-called minimal (universal) realizations of automata behaviors to show that the argument from multiple realizations is not just invalid but is refutable, in the sense that its premises (when made formally precise) entail the very opposite of the functionalist's conclusion. (shrink)
Two chronic problems have plagued functionalism in the philosophy of mind. The first is the chauvinism/liberalism dilemma, the second the absent qualia problem. The first problem is addressed by blocking excessively liberal counterexamples at a level of functional abstraction that is high enough to avoid chauvinism. This argument introduces the notion of emotional functional organization (EFO). The second problem is addressed by granting Block's skeptical conclusions with respect to mentality as such, while arguing that qualitative experience is a concomitant (...) of human mentality considered as a special case: a system with EFO implemented in an organic substrate. (shrink)
In this paper I highlight certain logical and metaphysical issues which arise in the characterisation of functionalism-in particular its ready coherence with a physicalist ontology, its structuralism and the impredicativity of functionalist specifications. I then utilise these points in an attempt to demonstrate fatal flaws in the functionalist programme. I argue that the brand of functionalism inspired by David Lewis fails to accommodate multiple realisability though such accommodation was vaunted as a key improvement over the identity theory. More (...) standard accounts of functionalism allow, by contrast, for far too much multiple realisability. Specifically, functionalist structures will be massively reduplicated in the human brain; so functionalism yields the absurd consequence that each human harbours large numbers of minds and exemplifies virtually all mental states. (shrink)
I offer a philosophically well-motivated solution to a problem that George Bealer has identified, which he claims is fatal to functionalism. The problem is that there seems to be no way to generate a satisfactory Ramsey sentence of a psychological theory in which mental-state predicates occur within the scopes of mental-state predicates. My central claim is that the functional roles in terms of which a creature capable of self-consciousness identifies her own mental states must be roles that items could (...) play within creatures whose psychology is less complex than hers. (Bealer’s reply to this paper appears in the same issue of Mind & Language.). (shrink)
According to Lynch’s aletich functionalism truth is manifested by/immanent in different properties in different domains of discourse; so a core concept of Alethic Functionalism is the concept of the relation of manifestation holding between truth and other properties. The claim I’m going to defend is that Lynch makes too many theoretical demands on the manifestation relation and this makes it a metaphysical monster, that is to say a relation with mutually inconsistent features. In order to make manifestation a (...) coherent notion one should give up some of its original features, but this makes Alethic Functionalism a much less appealing theory than it was supposed to be. (shrink)
Functionalism, the philosophical theory that defines mental states in terms of their causal relations to stimuli, overt behaviour, and other inner mental states, has often been accused of being unable to account for the qualitative character of our experimential states. Many times such objections to functionalism take the form of conceivability arguments. One is asked to imagine situations where organisms who are in a functional state that is claimed to be a particular experience either have the qualitative character (...) of that experience altered or absent altogether. Many of these arguments are surprisingly advanced by materialist philosophers. I argue that if the conceivability arguments were successful against functionalism, then they would be successful against their alternative materialist views as well. So the conceivability arguments alone do not provide a good reason for materialists to abandon functionalism. I further argue that functionalism is best understood to be an empirical theory, and if it is so understood then the conceivability arguments have no force against it at all. A further consequence that emerges is that on an empirical functionalist view, qualia, if real, are properties in the domain of psychology. (shrink)
Some philosophers have conflated functionalism and computationalism. I reconstruct how this came about and uncover two assumptions that made the conflation possible. They are the assumptions that (i) psychological functional analyses are computational descriptions and (ii) everything may be described as performing computations. I argue that, if we want to improve our understanding of both the metaphysics of mental states and the functional relations between them, we should reject these assumptions.
According to functionalism, mental state types consist solely in relations to inputs, outputs, and other mental states. I argue that two central claims of a prominent and plausible type of scientific realism conflict with the functionalist position. These claims are that natural kinds in a mature science are not reducible to natural kinds in any other, and that all dispositional features of natural kinds can be explained at the type-level. These claims, when applied to psychology, have the consequence that (...) at least some mental state types consist not merely in relations to inputs, outputs, and other mental states, but also in nonrelational properties that play a role in explaining functional relations. Consequently, a scientific realist of the sort I describe must reject functionalism. (shrink)
We argue that the causal account offered by analytic functionalism provides the best account of the folk psychological theory of mind, and that people ordinarily define mental states relative to the causal roles these states occupy in relation to environmental impingements, external behaviors, and other mental states. We present new empirical evidence, as well as review several key studies on mental state ascription to diverse types of entities such as robots, cyborgs, corporations and God, and explain how this evidence (...) supports a functional account. We also respond to two challenges to this view based on the embodiment hypothesis, or the claim that physical realizers matter over and above functional role, and qualia. In both cases we conclude that research to date best supports a functional account of ordinary mental state concepts. (shrink)
The paper defends Functionalism against the charge that it would make mental properties inefficacious. It outlines two ways of formulating the doctrine that mental properties are Functional properties and shows that both allow mental properties to be efficacious. The first (Lewis) approach takes functional properties to be the occupants of causal roles. Block  has argued that mental properties should not be characterized in this way because it would make them properties of the ?implementing science?, e. g. neuroscience. I (...) show why this is not a problem. The second way of formulating the doctrine takes functional properties to be causal role properties. I claim that mental properties so understood would only be inefficacious if a law-centred rather than a property-centred approach is adopted to the introduction of efficacy into the world. I develop a property-centred account that explains how mental properties can be efficacacious without introducing systematic overdetermination. At the close, I provide a better characterization of the difference between these two approaches and offer an explanation as to why my way of resolving the problems has been missed. (shrink)
Most philosophers appear to have ignored the distinction between the broad concept of Virtual Machine Functionalism (VMF) described in Sloman&Chrisley (2003) and the better known version of functionalism referred to there as Atomic State Functionalism (ASF), which is often given as an explanation of what Functionalism is, e.g. in Block (1995). -/- One of the main differences is that ASF encourages talk of supervenience of states and properties, whereas VMF requires supervenience of machines that are arbitrarily (...) complex networks of causally interacting (virtual, but real) processes, possibly operating on different time-scales, examples of which include many different procesess usually running concurrently on a modern computer performing various tasks concerned with handling interfaces to physical devices, managing the file system, dealing with security, providing tools, entertainments, and games, and possibly processing research data. Another example of VMF would be the kind of functionalism involved in a large collection of possibly changing socio-economic structures and processes interacting in a complex community, and yet another is illustrated by the kind of virtual machinery involved in the many levels of visual processing of information about spatial structures, processes, and relationships (including percepts of moving shadows, reflections, highlights, optical-flow patterns and changing affordances) as you walk through a crowded car-park on a sunny day: generating a whole zoo of interacting qualia. (Forget solitary red patches, or experiences thereof.) -/- Perhaps VMF should be re-labelled "Virtual MachinERY Functionalism" because the word 'machinery' more readily suggests something complex with interacting parts. VMF is concerned with virtual machines that are made up of interacting concurrently active (but not necessarily synchronised) chunks of virtual machinery which not only interact with one another and with their physical substrates (which may be partly shared, and also frequently modified by garbage collection, metabolism, or whatever) but can also concurrently interact with and refer to various things in the immediate and remote environment (via sensory/motor channels, and possible future technologies also). I.e. virtual machinery can include mechanisms that create and manipulate semantic content, not only syntactive structures or bit patterns as digital virtual machines do. (shrink)
I argue against the claim of certain functionalists, like Jerry Fodor, that theories of psychological states ought to abstract from the physiology of the systems that exhibit such states. Taking seriously Darwin’s claim that living organisms struggle to survive, and that their “mental powers” are adaptations that assist them in this struggle, I argue that not only emotions but also paradigm cognitive states like beliefs are intimately bound up with the physiology of the organism and its efforts to maintain its (...) own well-being. I defend the definitional aspirations of functionalism but reject its attempt at ontological neutrality. (shrink)
This paper is motivated by the concern that increasingly fewer philosophers of mind seem prepared to call themselves ‘functionalists’ these days. I suggest that this has less to do with explicit arguments presented against functionalism than with a gradual decay in the clarity of the term’s reference. This decay has two sources: functionalism has involved several different, logically independent research commitments, and it has become tightly associated, to an unnecessary degree, with classical computationalism, a program which is now (...) under severe pressure from connectionist and other bottom-up methodologies in Al. After diagnosing the causes of this drift, I seek to arrest it by sketching a version of functionalism---Minimal Strong Functionalism---that is strong enough to have ontological and methodological bite, but that is sufficiently minimal in its empirical commitments so as to not be hostage to the outcome of the current dispute in Al between connectionists and classicists. (shrink)
Palmer's strategy of saving functionalism by constraining spectrum inversions cannot succeed because (1) there remain many nontrivial transformations not ruled out by Palmer's constraints, and (2) the constraints involved are due to the contingent makeup of our visual systems, and are therefore not available for use by functionalists.
Among philosophers of mind, it is common to assume that at least some mental properties are functional in nature, and that functional properties are second-order properties. In the functionalist literature, the notion of being a second-order property is cashed out in three different ways: (i) in terms of semantic features of characterizations or definitions of properties, (ii) in terms of syntactic features of second-order quantification, and (iii) in terms of a metaphysical criterion, according to which properties are second order if (...) they are properties of first-order properties. It is shown that in the context of functionalism reference to these interpretations is misguided, and it is suggested that the notion of an ordering of properties in this context is best understood as being tied to dependence-relations. (shrink)
While John B. Watson articulated the intellectual commitments of behaviorism with clarity and force, wove them into a coherent perspective, gave the perspective a name, and made it a cause, these commitments had adherents before him. To document the origins of behaviorism, this series collects the articles that set the terms of the behaviorist debate, includes the most important pre-Watsonian contributions to objectivism, and reprints the first full text of the new behaviorism. Contents: Functionalism, the Critque of Introspection, and (...) the Nature and Evolution of Consciousness: Theoretical Roots of Early Behaviourism: An Anthology [1842-1914] Robert H. Wozniak (Ed) 360 pp Studies of Animal and Infant Behaviour. the Experimental and Comparative Roots of Early Behaviourism: An Anthology [1840-1911] Robert H. Wozniak (Ed) 412 pp An Introuduction to Comparative Psychology [1894 edition] Conway Lloyd Morgan 628 pp Comparative Physiology of the Brain and Comparative Psychology  Jacques Loeb 342 pp Fundamental Laws of Human Behaviour. Lectures on the foundtions of Any Mental or Social Science  Max F. Meyer 264 pp Behaviour. An Introduction to Comparative Psychology [1914 edition] John B. Watson 482 pp. (shrink)
Before embarking upon the project of reformulating psychoanalysis in the 'scientific' terminology of cognitive science, we should first clearly define what psychoanalysis is about and what it is not about. Cognitive science is based upon a functionalistic philosophy of the mind. As a consequence such a project would require a functionalistic core theory of psychoanalysis. But Freud's claim of the therapeutic effect of psychoanalysis, attained through the rendering conscious of what is unconscious or the making personal of what is experienced (...) by the neurotic patient as impersonal, cannot be explained by a functionalistic theory of the mind We examine Freud's claim and conclude that there ought to be a philosophy of qualia at the core of psychoanalysis. (shrink)
Given their physical realization, what causal work is left for functional properties to do? Humean solutions to the exclusion problem (e.g. overdetermination and difference-making) typically appeal to counterfactual and/or nomic relations between functional property-instances and behavioural effects, tacitly assuming that such relations suffice for causal work. Clarification of the notion of causal work, I argue, shows not only that such solutions don't work, but also reveals a novel solution to the exclusion problem based on the relations between dispositional properties at (...) different levels of mechanism, which involves three central claims: (i) the causal work of properties consists in grounding dispositions, (ii) functional properties are dispositions, and (iii) the dispositions of mechanisms are grounded in the dispositions of their components. Treating functional mental properties as dispositions of components in psychological mechanisms, I argue that such properties do the causal work of grounding agent-level dispositions. These dispositions, while ultimately grounded in the physical realizers of mental properties, are indirectly so grounded, through a hierarchy of grounding relations that extends upwards, of necessity, through the mental domain. (shrink)
One central strand in Quine's criticism of common-sense notions of linguistic meaning is an argument from the holism of empirical content. This paper explores (with many digressions) the several versions of the argument, and discovers them to be uniformly bad. There is a kernel of truth in the idea that ?holism?, in some sense, ?undermines the analytic?synthetic distinction?, in some sense; but it has little to do with Quine's radical empiricism, or his radical scepticism about meaning.
dilemma, a dilemma concerning the individuation of psychological states that explain behavior. Beliefs are individuated by most functionahsts in terms of that 'that'-clauses; functional states are individuated 'narrowly' (i.e.
In any given day, I do many things. I perspire, digest and age. When I walk, I place one foot ahead of the other, my arms swinging gently at my sides; if someone bumps into me, I stumble. Perspiring, digesting, aging, placing my feet, swaying my arms and stumbling are all things I do, in some sense. Yet I also check my email, teach students and go to the grocery store. Those sorts of doings or behaviors seem distinctive; they are (...) things I do intentionally. -/- What exactly is an intentional action? How does it differ from other things we do? -/- In this essay, I motivate and sketch an answer to those questions. On this view, an intentional action is a behavior that essentially alters what the actor is rationally accountable for, what she is rationally permitted or obliged to do, think, or feel. On this view, acting intentionally essentially involves a normative expectation that one has reasons for what one does. I call this view Normative Functionalism. -/- I begin in §2 by presenting a different, somewhat intuitive and popular view of intentional action, the so-called Causal Theory of Action. While that view does seem plausible, I allege that it doesn’t seem to accommodate the apparent fact that actors are accountable for their intentional actions. That motivates Normative Functionalism, which I sketch in §3. I conclude in §4 by offering an interim assessment of the discussion. (shrink)