The Philosophy of Functionalism

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Despite the many controversies surrounding the theory of functionalism, it is still a very important philosophical idea. This is because it has helped to create a much deeper understanding of the nature of the mind, and how it works. It also provides us with an explanation of how emotions are interpreted by the brain.

Intentional states

Throughout the twentieth century, functionalism was the dominant theoretical framework for describing mental states. Unlike the identity thesis, which characterized mental states as states of the same thing, functionalism is concerned with what states are and what they do. The theory gives mental states scientific status and a means of distinguishing among different propositions. Moreover, functionalism allows for multiple realizations of a mental state.

A major question for functionalism is what constitutes an intentional state. Intentional states are defined as states of thought and desire. The qualitative character of these states has been criticized. Some have argued that these states are merely beliefs or representations of the world. However, other philosophers have considered functionalist characterizations of emotions and moods.

One issue with functionalism is that the theories do not account for the interrelations between states. The idea of an inverted spectrum scenario, in which a normal person sees red, and a zombie sees blue, suggests that the mental states of different entities are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Experiential states

During the 20th century, functionalism was the dominant theory of mental states. But there are substantial objections to functionalism. Some of them concern mental causation and the qualitative character of experiential states.

Functionalists have to meet these objections. They need to develop a clearer idea of what is mental and what is not. They also need to accept that some of their theories may be more chauvinistic than they originally hoped.

Functionalists argue that it is possible to characterize states in terms of relations to behavior, stimulations, and inputs. This allows them to distinguish between different propositions and between different mental attitudes toward the same proposition. They also argue that lower-level states are common and can be characterized functionally.

Some philosophers have suggested that functionalist characterizations of emotions and moods are possible. But many objections to functionalism are related to the normativity of intentional ascription. This concerns whether a mental state can be ascribed to a system without the system's participation in the ascription.

Analytic functionalism

During the last third of the twentieth century, functionalism emerged as an alternative to traditional explanations of psychological phenomena. Its antecedents are in ancient philosophy and early theories of artificial intelligence. Functionalism has a variety of motivations. But it also raises a variety of objections.

Those who defend functionalism have tried to maintain a distinction between the internal and external content of mental states. For example, they have attempted to distinguish between propositional attitudes and internal contents. The internal contents would have the necessary causal properties. But there is no clear basis for the notion that mental states have such properties.

A common intuition is that mental states cannot be characterized without appeal to their environment. This is the "damn/darn" problem. Those who defend functionalism have tried to counter this objection with functional specification theories. These theories have presented topic-neutral "translations" of mental state terms.


Several functionalists have proposed a hierarchy of mind levels, arguing that each level is equivalent to a physico-mechanical neuron. Each level has mental properties that are irreducible to the lower-level properties.

Psycho-functionalism is a form of functionalism that emphasizes the causal roles of mental states. It claims that these states are genuine and that their functional roles are necessary. It also emphasizes laboratory experimentation and observation.

Functionalism is an alternative to the identity theory of mind. It was first developed as an alternative to behaviorism. It argues that every thought has a function. However, functionalism does not explain the origin of mental states. Functionalism also focuses on how systems are constituted and what functions they have.

Functionalism has been challenged in several ways, and most divergence arguments rely on state of mind. It is possible for two people to be functionally identical. However, it is also possible for two people to have different mental states. These states can have different physical properties, and these properties can be realized by different physical systems.

Objections to functionalism

Despite its apparent appeal, functionalism has been criticized for a number of reasons. The primary objections are as follows:

The Multiple Realization Argument - The multiple realization argument is a fancy way of saying that it is impossible to explain a mental state without referring to the mental states of other mental states. A full treatment of this objection involves a consideration of the causal efficacy of different types of mental states.

The Multiple Realization Argument - In order to fully understand the multiple realization argument, it is important to understand the difference between the multiple realizations of a mental state and the corresponding multiple realizations of a physical state. Functionalist theories can be classified by whether they use a priori information about the relationships between mental states or whether they rely on experimental or scientific experimentation to define mental states.

November 28, 2022



Philosophical Theories

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