Wednesday, November 16, 2011

362: Frowning at functionalism

Sometimes it is possible to show that one theory (the reduced theory) can be derived from another (the reducing theory).

In that case an inter-theoretic reduction has been achieved. Notice that the emphasis here is on theories. 'Inter-theoretic' means 'between theories'.

The example of inter-theoretic reduction standardly given is the derivation of classical thermodynamics from the kinetic theory of gases.

The former theory describes the behavior of gases in terms of their temperature, pressure and volume. The later describes the behavior of gases in terms of the kinetic energy and impacts of gas molecules.

The derivation is achieved with the help of 'bridge-laws' which identify the terms of one theory with those of another. For example,the pressure of a gas is identified with the mean kinetic energy of its gas molecules.

For the moment this is how I look at the identity between mental states and brain states. It is our brain / mind that generates knowledge about reality.

All this knowledge is in the form of (tested) theories. As the example shows theories can be reduced to more basic theories eventually, e.g. psychological theories to neurobiological theories

This is not a law of physics but an observed fact. A fact of which we don't know whether it is universally true about all our theories about reality, but it is an indication about the structure of our knowledge about reality.

A completely different subject, but just as a hint to think about: the structure of knowledge.

And then there is functionalism, promising to solve problems to which the identity theory had no answer. The view is: Don't ask what stuff something is made of, just look what it does.

If some entity does what I call feeling pain, then the sentient being has the mental state of pain, to put it in a straight forward way. This implies that anything can have mental states.

I still don't know why exactly, but I don't like functionalism as an answer, although it is said that almost all physicalists (materialists) are functionalists. Probably I am not (yet:-).

Don't ask me for rock solid arguments at this moment. Philosophy is a creative adventure, not just plain and simple logic and ratio.

And then you run into the question: Who "invented" functionalism? It begins in the 1950s and 1960s and yes, alongside the development of computers.

The initial inspiration for functionalism comes from the useful analogy of minds with computing machines. Hilary Putnam was certainly not the first to notice that this comparison could be theoretically fruitful.

Hilary Whitehall Putnam (born July 31, 1926) is an American philosopher, mathematician and computer scientist, who has been a central figure in analytic philosophy since the 1960s, especially in philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of science, as Wikipedia tells us.

His idea was to model functions using the contemporary idea of computing machines and programs, where the program of the machine fixes how it mediates between its inputs and standing states, on one hand, and outputs and other standing states, on the other.

Modern computers demonstrate that quite complex processes can be implemented in finite devices working by basic mechanical principles.

If minds are functional devices of this sort, then one can begin to understand how physical human bodies can produce the tremendous variety of actions and reactions that are associated with our full, rich mental lives.

The best theory, Putnam hypothesized, is that mental states are functional states, that the mind is of a functional kind.

So, to put functionalism to the test our next question should be….. can computers have mental states?

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: Thank you ㋡
[13:19] Chantal (nymf.hathaway) is Offline
[13:20] Qwark Allen: what is "bothering" you about functionalism?
[13:20] Qwark Allen: ::::::::: * E * X * C * E * L * L * E * N * T * ::::::::::
[13:20] Lizzy Pleides: brilliant!
[13:20] Sybyle Perdide: great
[13:20] herman Bergson: Good question Qwark....
[13:20] Ladyy Haven (ladyy.haven) is Offline
[13:20] herman Bergson: the thing is a metaphysical approach....
[13:21] Ladyy Haven (ladyy.haven) is Online
[13:21] Elle (ellenilli.lavendel) is Offline
[13:21] herman Bergson: it says ...a combination of in put and output and some side effect...that is for instans 'pain'
[13:21] Wonny (wonda.masala) is Offline
[13:21] noego is Online
[13:21] herman Bergson: let me put it in other words...
[13:22] herman Bergson: a diamond is a physical thing with properties....
[13:22] Qwark Allen: we doubt a artificial intelligence can feel pain, but, for sure some other mental states can occur
[13:22] herman Bergson: it is extremely hard, can cut glass , can glitter, etc....
[13:22] The Silent one (odie.rhosar) is Online
[13:23] herman Bergson: but functionalism looks at things as processes in causal relations
[13:23] Qwark Allen: we have pain cause we have sensors for it, cause of evolution
[13:23] Sybyle Perdide: I think, it depends on your definition of pain, Qwark ..some machines have programs to recreate themselves if there are errors
[13:23] Qwark Allen: probably no need to apply pain sensors to a AI
[13:24] herman Bergson: yes but there you relate pain to sensors, while functionalism defines pain as amental state as a function....
[13:24] herman Bergson: Well...maybe it is a matter of meaning....
[13:24] herman Bergson: what does 'pain' mean....
[13:24] Mick Nerido: Pain is a function of our primitive brain...
[13:24] Qwark Allen: danger, something is messing with your physical integrity
[13:25] herman Bergson: there the functionalist says....a relation between input and output and causal realtions with other mental states
[13:25] herman Bergson: I still think....the reference of pain is a bodily brain process...
[13:26] herman Bergson: the word pain is another word for certain neural processes....
[13:26] herman Bergson: it is about meaning and reference
[13:26] Mick Nerido: Pain is an overload of sensation
[13:26] Lizzy Pleides: pain is not only a physical state
[13:26] Qwark Allen: its our sensors that alert us for something
[13:26] Qwark Allen: pain is just one
[13:26] herman Bergson: There we go Lizzy....
[13:26] Velvet (velvet.braham): I like Mick's definition
[13:26] Farv Hallison: the brain has many processes. There is no distinct before and after for any single process.
[13:26] Qwark Allen: fun thing, to think about, is the brain short circuits
[13:27] Qwark Allen: cause some sensors are mixed
[13:27] herman Bergson: True is like streaming water....
[13:27] Qwark Allen: like cold and menthol, and hot and spicy
[13:27] Quiet-Water (pearl.moonlight) is Online
[13:27] Mick Nerido: to much of a good sensation can hurt
[13:27] Farv Hallison: you can never step twice into the same river.
[13:27] Farv Hallison: Heraclitus
[13:27] Bibbe Oh: reptile brain
[13:27] Qwark Allen: when you eat a peper, the body tells you its hot, but in reality its not
[13:27] herman Bergson: you know your classic Farv ^_^
[13:28] Velvet (velvet.braham): wow Farv
[13:28] Qwark Allen: the same goes for menthol
[13:28] Lizzy Pleides: but menthol and pepper are different despite
[13:28] Qwark Allen: so some mental states of us are kind confused
[13:28] herman Bergson: I know I am a kind of classic in my ideas....
[13:29] Qwark Allen: yes, but menthol and cold receptors are the same
[13:29] Qwark Allen: hot and spicy also
[13:29] herman Bergson: Funny thing is....I am still cherishing the ideas of my thesis of 1977 :-)
[13:29] herman Bergson: Even though we have functionalism now…which is so much applauded...
[13:29] Lizzy Pleides: and why do they taste different?
[13:30] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): why are you cherishing them Herman?
[13:30] Farv Hallison: Can we be conscious of more than one thing at a time?
[13:30] herman Bergson: Well....
[13:30] Qwark Allen: ehehhe mentol have one receptor, spice another
[13:30] herman Bergson: Like everything....also philosophy is a matter of trends.....
[13:30] herman Bergson: especially in academic circles...
[13:30] Qwark Allen: the short circuit is between hot/spice and menthol/cold
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: a dedicated follower of fashions .. giggles
[13:31] herman Bergson: Take for instance the China Brain argument against functionalism....
[13:31] Lizzy Pleides: so not the same receptors as you said b4
[13:31] herman Bergson: I won't trouble you with that...
[13:32] herman Bergson: But when you are a scholar at a have to publish...
[13:32] Farv Hallison: How does the brain understand anything?
[13:32] Qwark Allen: lizzy, read it, lol, the receptor for cold is the same for mentol, and the one for spice is the same one for hot
[13:32] herman Bergson: like everyone the thought experiment of the China Brain (you can ggole it) has to be discussed
[13:33] herman Bergson: "How does the brain understand anything?"
[13:33] herman Bergson: That is the whole point it the brain or the mind ?
[13:33] herman Bergson: and is the mind identical to the brain, just another word for the same thing?
[13:33] Farv Hallison: I'm thinking of the Chinese Room.
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: so the mind is metaphysic at its best? if existing?
[13:34] herman Bergson: Ahhhh...brilliant argument of John Searle....
[13:34] Amera Pomilio is Online
[13:34] herman Bergson: We try to find that out Sybyle ^_^
[13:34] Farv Hallison: Room. we see and translate chinese to English without knowing the meaning.
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: so I got you
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: : )
[13:34] herman Bergson: We'll discuss the Chinese Room soon Farv....
[13:35] herman Bergson: You got me Sybyle? :-)
[13:35] Mick Nerido: Brain is the physical machine the mind is the function effect?
[13:35] herman Bergson: You want me???? ^_^
[13:35] Sybyle Perdide: one of your argumentations..I understood I mean
[13:35] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:35] herman Bergson: ok Sybyle
[13:36] Sybyle Perdide: and sure ..I want you
[13:36] herman Bergson: Yes Mick....maybe that is a way to put it...
[13:36] herman Bergson: grins
[13:36] Paula Dix is Offline
[13:36] Amera Pomilio is Offline
[13:36] Farv Hallison: Is the Mind a thing or a process?
[13:37] herman Bergson: I love the dozens of loose ends we have to deal with here....
[13:37] herman Bergson: That is the quintessential question Farv
[13:37] herman Bergson: is the mind something or a function....
[13:37] Farv Hallison: Is Consciousness a thing or a process?
[13:37] Sybyle Perdide: but.. if the effect follows physical processes, isn't it the effect of them and so also a physical effect
[13:38] herman Bergson: Let me put it this way Farv....
[13:38] Bibbe Oh: Brain is the machine and mind the hard drive?
[13:38] Lizzy Pleides: both will be needed for it i guess
[13:38] herman Bergson: ...the best explanation of consciousness/ the mind I have heard sofar is from John Searle
[13:39] herman Bergson: He says...take a glass of water....the water is liquid....
[13:39] herman Bergson: yet you can not separate liquidity from the water...
[13:39] herman Bergson: neither can you find an H2O molecule that is liquid...
[13:39] herman Bergson: yet
[13:40] herman Bergson: put a bunch of H2O molecules together and you got liquidity
[13:40] herman Bergson: so put a bunch of neurons together and you get under certain circumstances consciousness
[13:40] Farv Hallison: Would you say liquid water in an emergent property of H2o molecues?
[13:41] herman Bergson: here we come up with the concept of 'emergence'
[13:41] herman Bergson: we have't reached that subject yet.....but it is a tempting idea...
[13:41] herman Bergson: But one must be careful with it in terms of ontology...
[13:42] herman Bergson: because...when it is an emergent property of H2O molecules...then still it has to be something physical..
[13:42] Farv Hallison: Is ther a difference between Ontology and Metaphysics?
[13:42] herman Bergson: otherwise we are back to dualism again
[13:43] herman Bergson: yes....
[13:43] herman Bergson: ontology tries to explain what IS
[13:43] herman Bergson: Metaphysics tries to explain how what it is structured....
[13:44] herman Bergson: Like functionalism tells us how mental states are structures, but doesnt say anything about what IS.....what it is that makes the function possible....can be anything theoretically
[13:45] herman Bergson: for instance....Physics explains physical processes...
[13:45] herman Bergson: Metaphysics would tell us that these processes have a goal...
[13:46] herman Bergson: ontology would tell us that is is only matter that is at the basis of all
[13:46] herman Bergson: while Descartes for instance would say NO there is also a mental substance
[13:47] Farv Hallison: that is materialism, that matter is the basis. We could have a theory where pure Mind is the basis.
[13:48] Mick Nerido: Lots to think about, thanks Professor
[13:48] Sofie DuCasse is Offline
[13:48] herman Bergson: Yes Farv, that also can be an option....Chalmers postulates for instance a kind of panpsychism...
[13:48] herman Bergson: You are so right Mick
[13:48] herman Bergson: Sometimes I don't know where to begin and where to end...
[13:49] Mot Mann is Offline
[13:49] herman Bergson: that is why I chose fro my materialist starting point....
[13:49] herman Bergson: whether it will hold or not, we'll see in future lectures... ㋡
[13:50] herman Bergson: So ...thank you all for this good discussion today...
[13:50] Guestboook van tipjar stand: Velvet Braham donated L$50. Thank you very much, it is much appreciated!
[13:50] Qwark Allen: ::::::::: * E * X * C * E * L * L * E * N * T * ::::::::::
[13:50] herman Bergson: See you next time again...
[13:50] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:50] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:50] herman Bergson: Class dismissed
[[13:50] Bibbe Oh: thank you very much
[13:50] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman!
[13:50] Sybyle Perdide: it was really great herman
[13:50] Sybyle Perdide: thank you
[13:51] herman Bergson: My pleasure...
[13:51] Qwark Allen: really good lecture
[13:51] bergfrau Apfelbaum: ty herman :-) and class
[13:51] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): Thank you was very interesting as always
[13:51] herman Bergson: thank you Beertje
[13:51] bergfrau Apfelbaum: byebye class :-) see u soon!
[13:51] Velvet (velvet.braham): Thank you, Professor!
[13:51] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): have a goodnight all:)
[13:52] Farv Hallison: thank you professor Bergson.
[13:52] Lizzy Pleides: nite Beertje!
[13:52] bergfrau Apfelbaum: bussi herman :-)
[13:52] herman Bergson: Thank you Farv for you good remarks!
[13:52] Farv Hallison: bye Lizzy
[13:52] Sybyle Perdide: bye beertje
[13:52] Lizzy Pleides: bye farv
[13:52] Flying Lips Vector interactor: Lizzy Pleides bids Farv Hallison farewell!
[13:52] Farv Hallison: bye Bibbe
[13:53] herman Bergson: Bye Bibbe

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