State clearly and evaluate the mindbody theory of functionalism

Philosophy has always been faced with the challenge to explain the relationship between the mind and the body. Socrates and Descartes refused to believe in the concept of reducing the mind to relationship of levers and pulleys and preferred attributing the mind concept to an abstract concept of God. Nagel on the other hand argued that though it was not possible for humans to comprehensively understand the brain, we not need to crop out and leave it out to the supernatural or divine intervention. The mindbody functionalism theory was developed as a philosophical concept in reaction to the identity theory of the mind and behaviorism. The theory stems from the idea that all mental states are constituted by the functional role which they have to play. This means that mental states are usually backed by causal relationships between the states of the mind, stimuli inputs, and behavioral output. Functionalism therefore serves differently from other notions of dualism, behaviorism, and physicalism. This paper will give a critical analysis of the mindbody theory of functionalism.

Mind body theories
Mind body theories are the acknowledged solutions to the problem that exists between the body and the mind. The mind-body problem originates in the quest to state the precise relationship between the body and the mind which can be narrowed down to the establishment of a relationship between the mind and the brain. Most theoretical frameworks regarding the mindbody conflict can be taken to be obdurate. Philosophers who are engaged in the mind-body problem issues are concerned with determination of the nature of the mind and the mental processes that occur. It is obvious that our conception of experiences is dependant on stimuli from the sensory body organs having come from the external environment. The stimuli will transform the mental states in our minds prompting us to feel a sensation that could either be pleasurable or un-pleasurable.

Functionalism holds that mental states can be understood well in regard to the functions that they play as opposed to their internal constitution. Mental identities are therefore determined by their causal relationships with the sensory stimulations, other mental states and behavior. For example, functionalism may regard pain as a state that is caused by bodily injury producing the sensation that something undesirable has occurred to the body and there is need for action in order to come out of that situation. Functionalism is regarded as one of the solutions that provide solution to the mindbody dilemma. These solutions to the mindbody problem attempt to provide answers to such questions about the ultimate nature of the mental processes. Functionalism has emerged as one of the most celebrated theoretical development of the 20th century analytic philosophy and provides us with conceptual strong points in cognitive science.

Functionalism can be identified with three distinct sources which include what Putnam and Fodor claimed that mental states can be compared to the scientific computational theory of the mind. Smarts topic neutral analyses made Armstrong and Lewis to develop the functionalist approach to mental concepts. Thirdly, Wittgensteins thought of meaning led to an edition of functionalism as a theory of meaning, which was further developed by Sellars and Harman. Functionalism regards the mental state as being in a functional state which causes behavioral outputs from the sensory inputs. Functionalism does not involve a view about the inherent nature regarding the mental states and thus avoid the mindbody problem. Functionalism has been linked with materialism owing to the fact that it is only the physical events that may be causes or effects. Functionalism is however in consistence with the cognitive science assumption that an individual can best be regarded as a system for the processing of information. Based on the claim that mental states are capable of being realized on a multiple basis, functionalism has been regarded as providing a more comprehensive, less prejudiced, and a more reasonable theoretical framework that can go hand in hand with materialism.

When exposed to broader characterization, functionalism is distinct in a number of areas. One such area is given in the distinctions between theories in which the purposeful depiction of mental status contend to give some analyses of the meaning regarding the status of our mental functioning and theories that allows functional characterization of mental status in an effort to plea  to information that is derived from scientific experiments or speculations. The other difference can be best appreciated when examining the origins of the functionalism and its evolutionary trend responding to both the explicit critique of the thesis and the dynamic perspectives about the nature of psychological explanation.

Forms of functionalism
The functionalism theories belong to three clusters including machine functionalism, psycho-functionalism, and analytical functionalism. The different strains usually have overlaps with some functionalism theories falling between two or more categories. A good example is provided by Wilfred Sellarss 1956 explanation of mental states as the theoretical entities has been taken to be the earlier account of functionalism though it takes appropriate characterization of thought and experiences to partially rely on their role in the provision of a scientific justification of behavior, and partially on what he terms as logic of the applicable concept. Nevertheless, differential treatment should be given to the three categories of functionalism for as long as the stipulations are kept in mind.

The Machine State Functionalism
The earliest forms of functionalism pioneered by Putnam were meant to address the shortcomings of the behaviorism as a scientific psychological theory. It can also be seen as a response towards the new computational theories of the mind that had increasingly came to rival it. In his theory, Putnam holds that any creature that has a mind can be taken to be a Turing machine with operations fully specified through a set of commands (a machine table or program) with each described as given that the machine is in state A and input B is administered, it will change the state to C and produce an output as D.

It is important to observe that such machine table expression describes the functioning of a deterministic automation but machine state functionalists including Putnam took the proper model for the mind to suit probability automation. In this regard, the program was specific on each state and set of inputs associated with the possibility that the machine would enter some ensuing state in the production of some particular results. The mental states are not just behavioral dispositions but are specified in accordance top their relationship to outputs, inputs, and the state of the machine at the time. Turing machines thus provided the earlier functionalist with a proper model in the analysis of the mind. Since the machine table states refers to the comprehensive states of the system, the early functional theorists equating mental states to machine table states lost significance in the functional characterization of the complicated distinction of the internal states which could be concurrently be realized in a human being. However, the idea that internal state of the mind could comprehensively be described in their relationship to input, output, and each other hence suggesting a law-like description and prediction of a systems output. This was to form a basic idea that has been retained by the works of the contemporary theorists.

Psycho functionalism forms the second aspect of the functionalist theory which derives essentially from reflecting on the objectives and methodologies employed by cognitive psychological theories. Cognitive psychologists in contravention to the behavioral psychologists argued that the appropriate scientific theories on behavior regard the behavior to be as a result of the complexities in the mental states and the related mental processes. Behaviorists had insisted that the laws of psychology appealed only to the behavioral outlooks. Psycho-functionalists therefore adopt a straight forward style of cognitive psychology in characterizing mental states and procedures as units whose definition is derived from the function they play in the cognitive psychological theoretical frameworks.

It should be noted that at least all editions of functionalism do characterize mental states based on the functions in psychological theories. Psycho-functionalism is however distinct in its approach due to the regard of mental states and procedures as units. These units (entities) have unique properties and are usually hypothesized using superlative logical elucidation of human behavior. This implies that the structure of the theory is unique from the machine table requirements of the machine state functionalism. Additionally, it implies that the information which is utilized in characterizing the functional aspect of mental states and procedure do not need to be constrained to ordinary understanding but may incorporate present information through cautious laboratory annotations and experimentation. Psycho functionalists will not characterize mental states that have no empirical proof even when the presence and worth of the mental states can be affirmed by ordinary knowledge.

This provides an absolute benefit to psycho functionalists since they have the capability of availing to themselves the instruments used in empirical psychology and only makes the empirically sound distinctions. Nevertheless, leaves psycho functionalism unsecured from chauvinistic tendencies due to the fact that beings which internally shares the rugged causal patterns will not be considered as share of mental states. Another concern for the psycho functionalism is that in the event that the theory does not comply with the common sense, the theories will fail to provide an account for mental states but instead will change the subject altogether.

Analytical functionalism
This strain of functionalism emerged from the logical behaviorism with the objective of providing topic-neutral analyses of our contemporary mental states conceptions. Analytical functionalism allows reference to the cause-effect relationships between mental states, stimuli, behavior, and other states of the mind. The fundamental component of analytical functionalism is to be found in the implicit definition of the theoretical terminologies based on formulation of the theories in which they are found as opposed to the inherent characteristics of the phonemes that they are composed of. Analytical functionalism holds that functional characterization offers meaningful analyses. The striking difference between the analytical and psycho functionalism is to be found in the fact that the psycho functionalist stresses the significance of empirical observations in the lab setting in the analysis of the mental states whereas analytical functionalists do not project the mental states to scientific inquiries.

Advantages and Disadvantages of functionalism
Functionalism has been associated with various advantages including the fact that it explains causal efficacy of the mental states which comply with the generalization that physical phenomena is causally enclosed. Functionalism is also considered as anti-reduction where mental characteristics are not reducible to physical properties. The functionalism theoretical framework also is in line with Putnams multiple realizability argument which holds that a mental state or process can be understood by various and distinctive physical properties, states or events. This was purposed to demonstrate the fact that psychology could not be reduced to physics and thus multiple realizability argument is against the concept propounded by reductionists. It also complies with the current main stream in Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Psychology, and Cognitive Linguistics.

The disadvantages of functionalism include its disregard for the scientific experimentations and laboratory investigations on the mental states and the corresponding relationships. It should be noted that reduction methods are the most plausible tool used in experimentation especially in natural sciences in deriving explanations and hence is worthy of critical attention. Another shortcoming is that despite functionalism being regarded as a useful descriptive tool, it does not serve as a good explanatory tool. It has also been observed that in cases of artifacts, the functional objective is to be decided by the one who created the artifact. Functionalists are prone to taking the functional roles in the wrong way as being independed from the observer. This is well depicted in the example of the clock that as given below

The intention of the creator is decisive for calling an object a clock, for example. (A defect clock is still referred to as a clock). This kind of observer-dependency still holds for natural objects we want to see them in a certain way.

Problems associated with Functionalism
Functionalism has definitely failed to address the concept of zombies and qualia. Creatures that may qualify to the criteria that has been laid down by functionalism in the conception of pain for instance but is lacking in the qualities to feel are ignored by functionalists. Though the issue of zombies can only be conceived as they are impossible to physically come by, it is unfortunate for functionalism to ignore them. On qualia, functionalists are not popular in handling the qualitative aspects of the mental status.  Qualia have been described by philosophers as the inner experiences of the mental states. Functionalism does not disregard the presence of qualia but denial of its qualitative aspects as being part and parcel of the mental states is common.

The mindbody theory of functionalism was advanced so as to address the issue of the bodymind problem following the failure of the other theoretical frameworks to comprehensively address the matter. Functionalism attributed mental states to the causal relationships that exist between the mental states themselves, input from the stimuli, and the behavioral outputs. Functionalism has been identified with cognitive science based on its approach to issues of the mental states.


Post a Comment