Functionalism And Physicalism


Functionalism And Physicalism Essay, Research Paper

Functionalism and Physicalism

While acquiring knowledge on the topics of Functionalism and

Physicalism, I ran across many disagreement between the two. Interestingly,

those disagreements gave me an impression of different sides arguing with their

own support from their own theories. As if an Arabian and a Roman were arguing

about whether the number eleven is an “Arabic” number or a “Roman” number.

Though, as I read more and more of the readings (especially Putnam’s), I started

to see a pattern that led me to think that maybe Functionalism is compatible

with Physicalism after all; that these two theories can coexist.

The claim above is based on the information gathered in the two readings

assigned and therefore, I should go step by step in order to arrive at my

conclusion that they can indeed coexist. First, I draw Ned Block’s elaboration

on Metaphysical Functionalism as a start of my argument. As Block suggests,

Metaphysical Functionalism is mainly concern about what mental states are;

instead of a psychological explanation (Block, p. 172). Moreover, they concern

themselves with mental state type; not a specific token of the type. As in the

case of pain, they are concerned with a mental state called pain, and not of

particular pains (i.e. stomach-ache, pin-pricks, etc.). But, according to

Putnam, if the Physicalists does indeed attributes the name “physical states”

to the enormous number of mental states we humans have, then, I think it would

be impossible for them to be concerned only with the type and not the tokens.

But once they started to consider each specific pain (token), they will have to

ascribe a different physical-chemical state to each token-state. Ultimately,

the common thing “to all pains in virtue of which they are pains (Block, p.

172)” cannot be put in terms of a single physical state. Recall that the same

problem does not exist in the consideration of Functionalism because

Functionalism concern itself basically with the causal relations between these

tokens and not a particular one. Therefore, the common thing that exists in

Functionalism “to all pains in virtue of which they are pains” is actually the

function or the functional state that account for all mental states type; and

not a particular mental state token.

Therefore I conclude by suggesting that the disagreement (or the

incompatibility) between the two theories is actually a misunderstanding on each

side on their scope on studies. And while they do not conflict each other in

the same scope, I grant them their coexistence. (At least this is what I can

dig up in the readings!)

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