Sellars, Brandom, and McDowell (whom Maher aptly calls the “Pittsburgh School”) have tremendous influence on the current shape of the analytic tradition. Despite their differing views on philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, and epistemology, their shared application of ‘normative functionalism’ highlights important similarities in their approaches to the aforementioned disciplines. Normative functionalism interprets the ability to form judgments, possess concepts, rationally defend or be critical of judgments, and consequently act as an agent, as (...) largely guided by one’s responsiveness to norms. In this article, I argue for two related claims. First, I argue that the Pittsburgh School’s normative functionalism has germinated from the seed of Sellars’ ‘psychological nominalism’ and cannot be separated from it. Second, no philosophical question or approach can be free of competing claims as to the manner in which human beings think, communicate, act, and know. As a result, normative functionalism (insofar as it is a natural extension of psychological nominalism) is relevant to many philosophical disciplines, because it opposes nearly all the traditional views concerning how the human intellect comes into being and functionally operates. (shrink)
Spacetime functionalism is the view that spacetime is a functional structure implemented by a more fundamental ontology. Lam and Wüthrich have recently argued that spacetime functionalism helps to solve the epistemological problem of empirical coherence in quantum gravity and suggested that it also (dis)solves the hard problem of spacetime, namely the problem of offering a picture consistent with the emergence of spacetime from a non-spatio-temporal structure. First, I will deny that spacetime functionalism solves the hard problem by (...) showing that it comes in various species, each entailing a different attitude towards, or answer to, the hard problem. Second, I will argue that the existence of an explanatory gap, which grounds the hard problem, has not been correctly taken into account in the literature. (shrink)
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)
According to proper functionalist theories of warrant, a belief is warranted only if it is formed by cognitive faculties that are properly functioning according to a good, truth-aimed design plan, one that is often thought to be specified either by intentional design or by natural selection. A formidable challenge to proper functionalist theories is the Swampman objection, according to which there are scenarios involving creatures who have warranted beliefs but whose cognitive faculties are not properly functioning, or are poorly designed, (...) or are not aimed at truth. In this paper, we draw lessons from cognitive science in order to develop a novel argument for the conclusion that the Swampman objection fails against proper functionalist theories of warrant. Our argument not only shows that the underlying, central intuition motivating Swampman-like scenarios is false but also motivates proper function as a necessary condition for warrant, thereby lending support to the claim that any theory of knowledge that lacks a proper function requirement is false. (shrink)
Fleshing out Ramsey-sentence functionalism; against Lewis's "mad pain" mixed theory; relating functionalism to the causal theory of properties. Empirical functionalism is chauvinistic so probably false. A terrific, in-depth paper.
“Triviality arguments” against functionalism in the philosophy of mind hold that the claim that some complex physical system exhibits a given functional organization is either trivial or has much less content than is usually supposed. I survey several earlier arguments of this kind, and present a new one that overcomes some limitations in the earlier arguments. Resisting triviality arguments is possible, but requires functionalists to revise popular views about the “autonomy” of functional description.
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.
The term ‘functionalism’ is usually heard in connection with the philosophy of mind or cognition. The functionalism of Wilfrid Sellars, however, is in the first instance as response to the worries about the metaphysics not of mental states, but of meaning. Only late in his career did Sellars explore the possibility of extending his functionalism into an account of cognition. It has been suggested, though, that Sellars’ extension of his functionalist theory into subpersonal territory is not successful. (...) In particular, there is a worry abroad that in order to be a functionalist about cognitive states, Sellars must succumb to a special form of the Myth of the Given. In this essay I will review and elucidate what I take to be the structure of Sellars’ functionalism, defending it from this worry. I will suggest a resolution of some apparent textual contradictions based in part on the chronology of Sellars’ writing, with the assumption that later writings express Sellars’ more nuanced views. -/- Draft of 2009. (shrink)
It is argued that although George Bealer's influential ‘Self-Consciousness argument’ refutes standard versions of reductive functionalism (RF), it fails to generalize in the way Bealer supposes. To wit, he presupposes that any version of RF must take the content of ‘pain’ to be the property of being in pain (and so on), which is expressly rejected in independently motivated versions of conceptual role semantics (CRS). Accordingly, there are independently motivated versions of RF, incorporating CRS, which avoid Bealer's main type (...) of refutation. I focus particularly on one such theory, which takes concepts to be event types that are individuated by their psychological roles, which has the resources of responding to each of the more specific worries Bealer expresses. (shrink)
The independence 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 independence 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)
In discussing the famous case of Otto, a patient with Alzheimer’s disease who carries around a notebook to keep important information, Clark and Chalmers argue that some of Otto’s beliefs are physically realized in the notebook. In other words, some of Otto’s beliefs are extended into the environment. Their main argument is a functionalist one. Some of Otto’s beliefs are physically realized in the notebook because, first, some of the beliefs of Inga, a healthy person who remembers important information in (...) her head, are physically realized in her internal memory storage, and, second, there is no relevant functional difference between the role of the notebook for Otto and the role of the internal memory storage for Inga. The paper presents a new objection to this argument. I call it “the systems reply” to the functionalist argument since it is structurally analogous to the “the systems reply” to Searle’s Chinese room argument. According to the systems reply to the functionalist argument, what actually follows from their argument is not that beliefs of Otto are physically realized in the notebook but rather that the beliefs of the hybrid system consisting of Otto and his notebook are physically realized in the notebook. This paper also discusses Sprevak’s claim that the functionalist argument entails radical versions of extended mental states and shows that his argument is also vulnerable to the systems reply. (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)
We commonly say that some evidence supports a hypothesis or that some premise evidentially supports a conclusion. Both internalists and externalists attempt to analyze this notion of evidential support, and the primary purpose of this paper is to argue that reliabilist and proper functionalist accounts of this relation fail. Since evidential support is one component of inferential justification, the upshot of this failure is that their accounts of inferential justification also fail. In Sect. 2, I clarify the evidential support relation. (...) In Sects. 3–5, I subject reliabilist and proper functionalist accounts of evidential support to various counterexamples. In Sect. 6, I show that the most promising ways to address these counterexamples aren’t very promising. (shrink)
Functionalism about truth, or alethic functionalism, is one of our most promising approaches to the study of truth. In this chapter, I chart a course for functionalist inquiry that centrally involves the empirical study of ordinary thought about truth. In doing so, I review some existing empirical data on the ways in which we think about truth and offer suggestions for future work on this issue. I also argue that some of our data lend support to two kinds (...) of pluralism regarding ordinary thought about truth. These pluralist views, as I show, can be straightforwardly integrated into the broader functionalist framework. The main result of this integration is that some unexplored metaphysical views about truth become visible. To close the chapter, I briefly respond to one of the most serious objections to functionalism, due to Cory Wright. (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.
Functionalist theories have been proposed for just about everything: mental states, dispositions, moral properties, truth, causation, and much else. The time has come for a functionalist theory of nothing. Or, more accurately, a role functionalist theory of those absences that are causes and effects.
How should ‘the physical’ be defined for the purpose of formulating physicalism? In this paper I defend a version of the via negativa according to which a property is physical just in case it is neither fundamentally mental nor possibly realized by a fundamentally mental property. The guiding idea is that physicalism requires functionalism, and thus that being a type identity theorist requires being a realizer-functionalist. In §1 I motivate my approach partly by arguing against Jessica Wilson's no fundamental (...) mentality constraint. In §2 I set out my preferred definition of ‘the physical’ and make my case that physicalism requires functionalism. In §3 I defend my proposal by attacking the leading alternative account of ‘the physical,’ the theory-based conception. Finally, in §4 I draw on my definition, together with Jaegwon Kim's account of intertheoretic reduction, to defend the controversial view that physicalism requires a priori physicalism. (shrink)
The main claim of this paper is that Andy Clark's most influential argument for ‘the extended mind thesis’ (EM henceforth) fails. Clark's argument for EM assumes that a certain form of common-sense functionalism is true. I argue, contra Clark, that the assumed brand of common-sense functionalism does not imply EM. Clark's argument also relies on an unspoken, undefended and optional assumption about the nature of mental kinds—an assumption denied by the very common-sense functionalists on whom Clark's argument draws. (...) I also critique Mark Sprevak's reductio of Clark's argument. Sprevak contends that Clark's argument does not merely entail EM; it entails an extended mind thesis so strong as to be absurd. He goes on to claim that Clark's argument should properly be viewed as a reductio of the very common-sense functionalism on which it depends. Sprevak's argument shares the flaw that afflicts Clark's argument, or so I claim. (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)
This paper demonstrates that there is an inconsistency in functionalism in psychology and philosophy of mind. Analogous inconsistencies can be expected in functionalisms in biology and social theory. (edited).
Lockean accounts of personal identity face a problem of too many thinkers arising from their denial that we are identical to our animals and the assumption that our animals can think. Sydney Shoemaker has responded to this problem by arguing that it is a consequence of functionalism that only things with psychological persistence conditions can have mental properties, and thus that animals cannot think. I discuss Shoemaker’s argument and demonstrate two ways in which it fails. Functionalism does not (...) rid the Lockean of the problem of too many thinkers. (shrink)
In her 2007 paper, “Argument Has No Function” Jean Goodwin takes exception with what she calls the “explicit function claims”, arguing that not only are function-based accounts of argumentation insufficiently motivated, but they fail to ground claims to normativity. In this paper I stake out the beginnings of a functionalist answer to Goodwin.
I want to explore what happens to two philosophical issues when we assume that the mind, a functional device, is to be understood by the same sort of functional analysis that guides biological investigation of other organismic systems and characteristics. The first problem area concerns the concept of rationality, its connection with reliability and reproductive success, and the status of rationality hypotheses in attribution of beliefs. It has been argued that ascribing beliefs to someone requires the assumption that that person (...) is rational. It also has been argued that evolutionary theory can account for the capacity we have for rational thought by appealing to the idea that rational methods for constructing beliefs are reliable and therefore represented a selected advantage. Both of these claims about rationality are critically examined. In the second part of the paper, I turn to some criticisms that have been advanced against "functionalist" solutions to the mind/body problem. These criticisms are defused when that doctrine is understood in terms of a Teleological (rather than a Turing Machine) notion of function. However, functionalism does not emerge totally unscathed. Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss saw everything in terms of its function and its perfect performance of its function. In the philosophy of mind, his influence lives on in the form of two ideas: (i) that we must possess rational methods for constructing beliefs, since our minds are the product of natural selection, and (ii) that psychological states and properties are individuated by their psychological functions. Contemporary biology provides the resources for avoiding Pangloss's wideeyed teleology in the study of adaptation. It is to be hoped that progress in psychology will loosen the grip of Panglossian assumptions in the study of mind. (shrink)
I consider the broad perspectives in biology known as ‘functionalism’ and ‘structuralism’, as well as a modern version of functionalism, ‘adaptationism’. I do not take a position on which of these perspectives is preferable; my concern is with the prior question, how should they be understood? Adapting van Fraassen’s argument for treating materialism as a stance, rather than a factual belief with propositional content, in the first part of the paper I offer an argument for construing functionalism (...) and structuralism as stances also. The argument draws especially on Gould’s insights concerning functionalism and structuralism, in particular their apparent historical continuity from the pre-Darwinian period through to today. In the second part of the paper I consider Godfrey-Smith’s distinction between empirical and explanatory adaptationism, and suggest that while the former is an empirical scientific hypothesis, the latter is closely related to the functionalist stance. (shrink)
In the article I discuss functionalist interpretations of Husserlian phenomenology. The first one was coined in the discussion between Hubert Dreyfus and Ronald McIntyre. They argue that Husserl’s phenomenology shares similarities with computational functionalism, and the key similarity is between the concept of noema and the concept of mental representation. I show the weaknesses of that reading and argue that there is another available functionalist reading of Husserlian phenomenology. I propose to shift perspective and approach the relation between phenomenology (...) and functionalism from a methodological perspective, specifically taking into account the functionalist explanatory strategy called functional analysis. I discuss the notion of function in Husserl’s works and Husserl’s idea of functional phenomenology. The key argument I develop is that in functional phenomenology we can find an explanatory strategy which is analogous to the strategy of functional decomposition used in functional analysis. I conclude that the proposed functionalist reading of phenomenology opens a new approach to the integration of phenomenology with cognitive sciences. (shrink)
This paper proposes a model of the Artificial Autonomous Moral Agent (AAMA), discusses a standard of moral cognition for AAMA, and compares it with other models of artificial normative agency. It is argued here that artificial morality is possible within the framework of a “moral dispositional functionalism.” This AAMA is able to “read” the behavior of human actors, available as collected data, and to categorize their moral behavior based on moral patterns herein. The present model is based on several (...) analogies among artificial cognition, human cognition, and moral action. It is premised on the idea that moral agents should not be based on rule-following procedures, but on learning patterns from data. This idea is rarely implemented in AAMA models, albeit it has been suggested in the machine ethics literature (W. Wallach, C. Allen, J. Gips and especially M. Guarini). As an agent-based model, this AAMA constitutes an alternative to the mainstream action-centric models proposed by K. Abney, M. Anderson and S. Anderson, R. Arkin, T. Powers, W. Wallach, i.a. Moral learning and moral development of dispositional traits play here the fundamental role in cognition. By using a combination of neural networks and evolutionary computation, called “soft computing” (H. Adeli, N. Siddique, S. Mitra, L. Zadeh), the present model reaches a certain level of autonomy and complexity, which illustrates well “moral particularism” and a form of virtue ethics for machines, grounded in active learning. An example based on the “lifeboat metaphor” (G. Hardin) and the extension of this model to the NEAT architecture (K. Stanley, R. Miikkulainen, i.a.) are briefly assessed. (shrink)
Functionalism about truth is the view that truth is an explanatorily significant but multiply-realizable property. According to this view the properties that realize truth vary from domain to domain, but the property of truth is a single, higher-order, domain insensitive property. We argue that this view faces a challenge similar to the one that Jaegwon Kim laid out for the multiple realization thesis. The challenge is that the higher-order property of truth is equivalent to an explanatorily idle disjunction of (...) its realization bases. This consequence undermines the alethic functionalists’ non-deflationary ambitions. A plausible response to Kim’s argument fails to carry over to alethic functionalism on account of significant differences between alethic functionalism and psychological functionalism. Lynch’s revised view in his book Truth as One and Many ( 2009 ) fails to answer our challenge. The upshot is that, while mental functionalism may survive Kim’s argument, it mortally wounds functionalism about truth. (shrink)
In this essay, I argue that Sartre's notion of pre-reflective consciousness can be summoned to offer a general challenge to contemporary functionalist accounts of mind, broadly construed. In virtue of the challenge Sartre offers these contemporary functionalist accounts and the richness of his phenomenological analysis, I conclude that his voice needs to be included in ongoing debates over the nature of consciousness. First, I look at some of the basic claims motivating functionalist accounts of mind. Next, I look at Sartre's (...) notion of pre-reflective consciousness and discuss how this notion challenges functionalist accounts of mentality. I conclude by suggesting that Sartre's rendering of pre-reflective consciousness remains overly cognitivist. I show how this notion can be deepened to include the sensory-motor capacities of the situated body—resulting in a pre-reflective bodily self-awareness—and how this deepened formulation offers a further challenge to functionalist accounts of mind. (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)
Proper functionalism claims that a belief has epistemic warrant only if it’s formed according to the subject’s truth-aimed cognitive design plan. The most popular putative counter-examples to proper functionalism all involve agents who form beliefs in seemingly warrant-enabling ways that don’t appear to proceed according to any sort of design. The Swampman case is arguably the most famous scenario of this sort. However, some proper functionalists accept that subjects like Swampman have warrant, opting instead to adopt a non-standard (...) account of design. But critics of proper functionalism hold that this strategy comes at a high cost: the design-plan condition now seems explanatorily superfluous. James Taylor construes cases like Swampman as posing a dilemma for the proper functionalist: either deny warrant in these cases and concede that proper functionalism doesn’t capture our intuitions, or affirm warrant and undermine the explanatory power of the design-plan condition. Proper functionalists have replied to both horns of this dilemma. Recently, Kenny Boyce and Andrew Moon have argued that warrant-affirming intuitions on cases like Swampman are motivated by a principle that has a clear counter-example. Also, Alvin Plantinga presents a set of cases that supposedly cause problems for any analysis of warrant that lacks a design-plan condition. In this essay, I present a counter-argument to Boyce and Moon’s argument, and show that a more robust reliability condition can accommodate Plantinga’s problem cases. I conclude that we’re left with no good reason to doubt that cases like Swampman raise a troubling dilemma for the proper functionalist. (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)
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 syntactic structures or bit patterns as digital virtual machines do. -/- Please note: Click on the title above or the link below to read the paper. I prefer to keep all my papers freely accessible on my web site so that I can correct mistakes and add improvements. -/- http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/vm-functionalism.html -/- This is now part of the Meta-Morphogenesis project: http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/research/projects/cogaff/misc/meta-morphogenesis.html. (shrink)
This paper investigates whether there is an acceptable version of Functionalism that avoids commitment to second-order properties. I argue that the answer is "no". I consider two reductionist versions of Functionalism, and argue that both are compatible with multiple realization as such. There is a more specific type of multiple realization that poses difficulties for these views, however. The only apparent Functionalist solution is to accept second-order properties.
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)
I argue that Stich's Syntactic Theory of Mind (STM) and a naturalistic narrow content functionalism run on a Language of Though story have the same exact structure. I elaborate on the argument that narrow content functionalism is either irremediably holistic in a rather destructive sense, or else doesn't have the resources for individuating contents interpersonally. So I show that, contrary to his own advertisement, Stich's STM has exactly the same problems (like holism, vagueness, observer-relativity, etc.) that he claims (...) plague content-based psychologies. So STM can't be any better than the Representational Theory of Mind (RTM) in its prospects for forming the foundations of a scientifically respectable psychology, whether or not RTM has the problems that Stich claims it does. (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 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.
Recent work by Jaegwon Kim and others suggest that functionalism leaves mental properties causally inefficacious in some sense. I examine three lines of argument for this conclusion. The first appeals to Occam's Razor; the second appeals to a ban on overdetermination; and the third charges that the kind of response I favor to these arguments forces me to give up "the homogeneity of mental and physical causation". I show how each argument fails. While I concede that a positive theory (...) of mental causation is desirable, there is no reason to think that functionalism renders such a theory unattainable. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker has claimed that functionalism, a theory\nabout mental states, implies a certain theory about the\nidentity over time of persons, the entities that have\nmental states. He also claims that persons can survive a\n"Brain-State-Transfer" procedure. My examination of these\nclaims includes description and analysis of imaginary\ncases, but--notably--not appeals to our "intuitions"\nconcerning them. It turns out that Shoemaker's basic\ninsight is correct. But there is no implication that it is\nnecessary. (edited).
Alethic functionalism, as propounded by Michael Lynch, is the view that there are different ways to be true, but that these differences nevertheless contain enough unity to forestall outright pluralism. This view has many virtues. Yet, since one could conceivably apply Lynch’s “one and many” strategy to other debates, I try to show how his argumentative steps can be used to solve — not just the controversy pertaining to truth — but any controversy that surrounds a “What is X?” (...) question. (shrink)
Some philosophers have regarded the connection between hues and certain arousal or affective qualities as so intimate as to make them inseparable, and this “necessary concomitance view” has been invoked to defend functionalism against arguments based on inverted spectra. Support for the necessary concomitance view has sometimes been thought to accrue from experiments in psychology. This paper examines three experiments, two of which apparently offer support for the view. It argues that careful consideration of these experiments undermines this appearance (...) of support. General lessons are drawn concerning the problem that individual differences present for functionalism, and the difficulty of supporting strong conclusions about concomitance by using the methods of experimental psychology. (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)
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)
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)
The viewpoint that consciousness, including feeling, could be fully expressed by a computational device is known as strong artificial intelligence or strong AI. Here I offer a defense of strong AI based on machine-state functionalism at the quantum level, or quantum-state functionalism. I consider arguments against strong AI, then summarize some counterarguments I find compelling, including Torkel Franzén’s work which challenges Roger Penrose’s claim, based on Gödel incompleteness, that mathematicians have nonalgorithmic levels of “certainty.” Some consequences of strong (...) AI are then considered. A resolution is offered of some problems including John Searle’s Chinese Room problem and the problem of consciousness propagation under isomorphism. (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)
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)
Michael Lynch has recently proposed an updated version of alethic functionalism according to which the relation between truth per se and lower-level truth properties is not the realization relation, as might be expected, and as Lynch himself formerly held, but the manifestation relation. I argue that the manifestation relation is merely a resemblance relation and is inadequate to properly relate truth per se to lower-level truth properties. I also argue that alethic functionalism does not justify the claim that (...) truth per se exists, or that truth per se is a functional property. Finally, I suggest a replacement for the manifestation relation. I argue that the resulting theory is a strict improvement over alethic functionalism on two counts, but that the improved theory does not justify the claim that truth per se exists. Since no further improvements to the theory are apparent, the prospects for alethic functionalism are dim. (shrink)
Smail's "On Deep History and the Brain" is rightly critical of the functionalist fallacies that have plagued evolutionary theory, sociobiology, and evolutionary psychology. However, his attempt to improve on these efforts relies on functional explanations that themselves oversimplify the lessons of neuroscience. In addition, like explanations in evolutionary psychology, they are highly speculative and cannot be confirmed or disproved by evidence. Neuroscience research is too diverse to yield a single picture of brain functioning. Some recent developments in neuroscience research, however, (...) do suggest that cognitive processing provides a kind of “operating system” that can support a great diversity of cultural material. These developments include evidence of “top-down” processing in motor control, in visual processing, in speech recognition, and in “emotion regulation.” The constraints that such a system may place on cultural learning and transmission are worth investigating. At the same time, historians are well advised to remain wary of the pitfalls of functionalism. (shrink)