Introduction to Functionalism -- OVERHEAD

Additional Credits:
This module was supported by National Science Foundation Grants #9981217 and #0127561.

A Theory of the Mind


FUNCTIONALISM 1. mental states (e.g. beliefs, hopes, fears, pains) are functional states; they are identified by the FUNCTION they perform in the organism -- their job or their role
2. the computer metaphor
-- the MIND is like a piece of COMPUTER SOFTWARE running on your BRAIN which is the HARDWARE
-- the MIND is to the BRAIN what COMPUTER SOFTWARE (Microsoft Word) is to your COMPUTER HARDWARE (your Mac or PC)


A functional description of a heating system

Let's consider the function of an automated heating system.


Upon careful observation of its behavior, we would discover that this heating system implements the following function (or rule):

Give heat as output only if the temperature is less than 68 degrees.

If we get curious, though, and want to "peek inside" the black box, we will find whatever physical components are used to perform the functions of this particular automated heating system.

We might have an interest in the physical properties of the thermostat, but we might not. We might instead be interested solely in the thermostat's functional properties.

We can imagine a black box which encloses the thermostat, hiding it from view. We can then do for the thermostat, what we had initially done for the entire heating system -- we can give a functional description of the thermostat.

A functional description is concerned only with what it takes as input and what it gives as output, ignoring completely how it succeeds in performing that function. The function of a thing is often called its causal role.

Given that there are many ways to build a thermostat that performs the "temperature detecting" function, we say that a thermostat can be realized in many different ways.






Copyright: 2003

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