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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
“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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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)
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).
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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).
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
According to alethic functionalism, truth is a generic alethic property related to lower level alethic properties through the manifestation relation. The manifestation relation is reflexive; thus, a proposition’s truth-manifesting property may be a lower level property or truth itself, depending on the subject matter properties of the proposition. A true proposition whose truth-manifesting property is truth itself, rather than a lower level alethic property, is plainly true. Alethic functionalism relies on plain truth to account for the truth of (...) propositions with challenging subject matter properties, such as logically complex propositions and truth attributions. In this paper, it is argued that plain truth leads to a number of serious problems for alethic functionalism. First: Shapiro argues that plain truth threatens alethic functionalism with collapse to strong alethic monism; it is argued here that collapse is not merely threatened, but that, on pain of contradiction, collapse is immediate. Second, alethic functionalism’s commitment to alethic pluralism requires lower level alethic properties to be ways of being truth, where one property’s being a way of being the other property is irreflexive; thus, alethic functionalism is incoherent due to the conflicting commitments to a manifestation relation which is both reflexive and irreflexive. Third, it is argued that a reflexive manifestation relation leads to the contradiction that a lower level alethic property which manifests truth is both identical to and distinct from truth itself. Fourth, careful examination of the notion of a core truism shows that Objectivity and the correspondence intuition are the only core truisms. Finally, it is argued that the first and fourth problems jointly entail a collapse of alethic functionalism to strong correspondence monism. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
One might expect functionalism to imply that personal identity is preserved through various operations on the brain, including transplantation. I argue that this is not clearly so even where the whole brain is transplanted. It is definitely not so in cases where only the cerebrum is transplanted, a conceivable kind of hemispherectomy, and even certain cases in which the brain is "gradually" replaced by an inorganic substitute. These results distinguish functionalism from other accounts taking what Eric T. Olson (...) calls the "Psychological Approach" to personal identity, enabling it to avoid some of his objections to them. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)