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Sample of Functionalisms

  • Date Submitted: 03/02/2012 09:57 AM
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. Functionalism Introduced
Functionalism is a theory about the nature of mental states. According to functionalists, mental states are identified by what they do rather than by what they are made of. Functionalism is the most familiar or “received” view among philosophers of mind and cognitive science.
2. The Core Idea
Consider, for example, mouse traps. Mouse traps are devices for catching or killing mice. Mouse traps can be made of most any material, and perhaps indefinitely or infinitely many designs could be employed. The most familiar sort involves a wooden platform and a metal strike bar that is driven by a coiled metal spring and can be released by a trigger. But there are mouse traps designed with adhesives, boxes, poisons, and so on. All that matters to something’s being a mouse trap, at the end of the day, is that it is capable of catching or killing mice.
Contrast mouse traps with diamonds. Diamonds are valued for their hardness, their optical properties, and their rarity in nature. But not every hard, transparent, white, rare crystal is a diamond—the most infamous alternative being cubic zirconia. Diamonds are carbon crystals with specific molecular lattice structures. Being a diamond is a matter of being a certain kind of physical stuff. (That cubic zirconia is not quite as clear or hard as diamonds explains something about why it is not equally valued. But even if it were equally hard and equally clear, a CZ crystal would not thereby be a diamond.)
These examples can be used to explain the core idea of functionalism. Functionalism is the theory that mental states are more like mouse traps than they are like diamonds. That is, what makes something a mental state is more a matter of what it does, not what it is made of. This distinguishes functionalism from traditional mind-body dualism, such as that of René Descartes, according to which minds are made of a special kind of substance, the res cogitans (the thinking substance.) It also distinguishes...


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