A mechanist manifesto for the philosophy of mind: A third way for functionalists

One of the main early forms of “functionalism,” developed by writers like Jerry Fodor and William Lycan, focused on “mechanistic” explanation in the special sciences and argued that “functional properties” in psychology were continuous in nature with the special science properties posited in such mechanistic explanations. I dub the latter position“Continuity Functionalism” and use it to critically examine the “Standard Picture” of the metaphysics of functionalism which takes “functional” properties to be second-order properties and claims there are two metaphysical forms of “functionalism,” in so-called “role” and “realizer” functionalism. Looking at mechanistic explanations, I show that the “functional properties” posited in the special sciences are not second-order properties and that Continuity Functionalism is a distinctive metaphysical version of functionalism not covered by the Standard Picture. My conclusion is that the Standard Picture offers us a false dichotomy of ways to be a “functionalist” and that “functionalists” thus need to look once more to the special sciences to configure their views, thus eschewing the machinery inherited from “analytic” philosophers
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 1053-8364
DOI 10.5840/jpr20073245
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