Functionalism: An Introduction
David Leech Anderson: Author
Functionalism is a popular theory of the nature of minds. While there continues to be great controversy about which is the correct "theory of mind," functionalism is probably the most widely held theory among both scientists and philosophers today. On this theory, mental states (beliefs, pains, hopes, fears, etc.) are ultimately characterized by the jobs they do, which is to say the functions that they perform. Since computers just are mechanical devices that implement functions, this makes the computer metaphor a natural way of capturing the main intuitive idea behind the theory. On this account, our brains are like the hardware of a computer and our minds (our beliefs and pains) are like the software states of a computer. This module uses easy to understand analogies to help explain the theory of functionalism, why it is a compelling theory to use in scientific research, and why it raises such passionate resistance.
This module was supported by National Science Foundation Grants #9981217 and #0127561.