Functionalism and fallibility

Abstract

Functionalism in the philosophy of mind rests on the claim that mental states are multiply realizable; mental states can be realized by or instantiated in a variety of distinct physical structures. To see them as multiply realizable we take mental states as causal roles rather than particular physical structures. As such, functionalism can be contrasted with metaphysical accounts which treat mental states as instances of a mental substance. Instead of puzzling over the relationship between mental and physical kinds, functionalists understand our talk of minds as a way of describing the functions of bodies. The attraction of a functionalist position is obvious. It seems to solve the traditional problem of mind-body dualism, while simultaneously reconciling the apparent irreducibility of psychological discourse with a broadly physicalistic or materialistic ontology.

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John Symons
University of Kansas

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