Fixing functionalism

Journal of Consciousness Studies 15 (3):87-118 (2008)
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)
 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
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 26,702
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Consciousness.Timothy L. S. Sprigge - 1994 - Synthese 98 (1):73-93.
Is Role-Functionalism Committed to Epiphenomenalism?Brian P. Mclaughlin - 2006 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 13 (1-2):39-66.
Some Varieties of Functionalism.Sydney Shoemaker - 1981 - Philosophical Topics 12 (1):93-119.
Empirical Functionalism and Conceivability Arguments.H. Jacoby - 1989 - Philosophical Psychology 2 (3):271-82.
Understanding Consciousness, Edition 2.Max Velmans - 2009 - Routledge/Psychology Press.
A Neurofunctional Theory of Visual Consciousness.Jesse J. Prinz - 2000 - Consciousness and Cognition 9 (2):243-59.
Consciousness, Neural Functionalism, Real Subjectivity.Ted Honderich - 1995 - American Philosophical Quarterly 32 (4):369-381.
Self-Consciousness.George Bealer - 1997 - Philosophical Review 106 (1):69-117.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

11 ( #399,071 of 2,158,472 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

1 ( #354,589 of 2,158,472 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums