Functionalism and Qualia

Dissertation, Bowling Green State University (2003)

Functionalism about qualia is the view that qualia---the qualitative character---of a mental state are determined by functional organization. The dissertation argues for weak functionalism about qualia, a view that is distinguished from strong functionalism about qualia. While strong functionalism claims that qualia are determined by functional organization alone, weak functionalism leaves open the possibility that the occurrence of mental states with qualia depends partly on nonfunctional properties such as specific physical properties or nonphysical properties. The difference between strong functionalism and weak functionalism is highlighted by one of the so called qualia centered objections to functionalism, viz., the absent qualia objection. The absent qualia objection claims that two states could be functionally identical even though only one of the states has qualia. The objection turns out to deny the truth of strong functionalism specifically. Attempts to refute the objection are shown to fail. Weak functionalism about qualia is not touched by the absent qualia objection exactly because of the weakness of the view. The inverted qualia objection---the other one of the absent qualia objections---is also examined. The objection claims that two mental states could be functionally identical even though their qualia could be inverted relative to each other. The objection is shown to fail. ;In the course of the argument for weak functionalism, three competitors to functionalism are rejected: type-physicalism about qualia, dualism about qualia, and wide representationalism about qualia. A discussion of representationalism about qualia distinguishes two versions of the view: wide representationalism and narrow representationalism. Narrow representationalism about qualia is shown to be compatible with functionalism about qualia. Only the wide version of the view is incompatible with functionalism about qualia. ;Although the dissertation argues for weak functionalism it does not claim that strong functionalism is false. The intention is merely to show that all the attempts to prove strong functionalism true fail. The failure of the attempts is compatible with the possibility that strong functionalism is true---even if the view cannot be shown to be true
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