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  • Created by: A. Person
  • Created on: 16-08-14 12:18


  • Functionalism claims that mental states are logically linked to behaviour,, but they are not reducible to it. Mental states are states that exit 'between' input, eg. Stimulus, and output, eg. Behaviour. To characterise a mental state, we need to describe its typical inputs and outputs.

  • For example, what typically causes pain, and what pain typically causes, are different to what causes a belief, and what a belief typically causes. In listing these inputs and outputs, we can't refer only to the stimuli and behaviour; mental states have causal relations to other mental states. For example pain causes the belief that one is in pain. So definitions of mental states are interdependendent. We can't eliminate talk of mental states in favour of behaviour.

  • With this view, we can say that mental states are interdependent. We can't eliminate talk of mental states in favour of behaviour.

  • With this view, we can say that mental states are functional states... Any mental state can be analysed in terms of the links it has with stimuli, behaviour, and other mental states.

  • This analysis also rejects type identity theory – that theory claims that mental states and properties are just physical states and properties. This means that a species with a different kind of brain could not be in the same mental states as us.

  • This seems wrong to the functionalist. The property of 'having the function x' is a property that can occur in many different things, eg. 'being a mousetrap' is a functional property. There are lots of types of mousetrap, built in different ways, with different materials... Similalrly, 'being in pain' is a functional property – there are lots of differentp physical ways, different brain states, that could be 'being in pain', and this could vary from one species, from one individual to another – and, indeed, even within one individual.

Causal Role ('Teleological') Functionalism

  • There are different ways to understand 'function' – in the most popular form of functionalism, 'causal role functionalism', the idea is understood causally.

  • A mental state is a causal disposition to act in certain ways, and to have certain mental states, given inputs and other states

  • In other words, a mental state has a causal role in causing other mental states, and together with other mental states, causing behaviour. We pick mental states out by their causal role.

  • This is the idea of function outlined above – 'being a mousetrap' involves having certain causal properties, namely trapping a mouse.

  • In this e xample, the functional property depends on a set of physical properties. Some physical state or other (some arrangement of parts) 'realises' the causal role that is 'being a mouse


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