Thursday, November 10, 2011

360: Introducing Functionalism

Maybe it is due to Descartes (1596 - 1650) that we are talking about mind stuff, asking the question what the mind is made of.

But perhaps that is the wrong question in this philosophy of mind. For instance, practically all cars have carburetors.A carburetor is a device which combines petrol with air and delivers the resulting mixture to the engine.

There is one in almost every car, but I guess not two are alike. They can have all kinds of shapes, been made out of all kinds of materials.

But is that of primary importance? To question what stuff a carburetor is made of or how it is constructed? Isn't it more relevant to focus on what a carburetor does?

An antibiotic is a substance which does a certain job: it kills disease-causing bacteria without doing serious harm to the patient.

Penicillin kills disease-forming bacteria without doing undue harm to the patient; consequently it's an antibiotic.

Erythromycine also kills disease-causing bacteria without doing serious harm to the patient; consequently it too is an antibiotic. However, penicillin and erythromycine have quite different chemical structures.

Like with carburetors we can say that antibiotics are multiply realized, that we have multiple instantiations of them. To understand what is happening in the world, the right question is not "What stuff is it made of?" but "What job does it do?"

When we talk about ontology, the philosophy of what IS, we are easily inclined to think that what IS, is built of matter. Thus is overlooked that what IS equally are processes, actions, functions. And there was FUNCTIONALISM!

“Functionalism” is one of the major proposals that have been offered as solutions to the mind-body problem.

Solutions to the mind-body problem usually try to answer questions such as: What is the ultimate nature of the mental?

At the most general level, what makes a mental state mental? Or more specifically, what do thoughts have in common in virtue of which they are thoughts? That is, what makes a thought a thought? What makes a pain a pain?

Cartesian dualism said the ultimate nature of the mental was to be found in a special mental substance.

Behaviorism identified mental states with behavioral dispositions; physicalism, in its most influential version, identifies mental states with brain states.

Functionalism says that mental states are constituted by their causal relations to one another and to sensory inputs and behavioral outputs.

Functionalism is one of the major theoretical developments of twentieth-century analytic philosophy, and provides the conceptual underpinnings of much work in cognitive science.

Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. It examines what cognition is, what it does and how it works.

It includes research on how information is processed (in faculties such as perception, language, memory, reasoning, and emotion), represented, and transformed in behaviour, (human or other animal) nervous system or machine (e.g., computer).

Cognitive science consists of multiple research disciplines, including psychology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, and education.

In coming lectures we'll learn what part philosophy and in particular functionalism plays in this interdisciplinary world.

The Discussion

[13:21] herman Bergson: thank you...
[13:21] Qwark Allen: ::::::::: * E * X * C * E * L * L * E * N * T * ::::::::::
[13:21] Lizzy Pleides: Bravo!
[13:21] herman Bergson: thank you Qwark
[13:21] Farv Hallison: Functionalism begs the Ontological question.
[13:21] herman Bergson: Explain Farv....
[13:22] Qwark Allen: seems "everyday" more disciplines are kind melting in each others, making a better view of "reality"
[13:22] Farv Hallison: you change the question rather than answer it.
[13:22] Qwark Allen: the perception we have today of it, is so much diferent, it was 50 years ago
[13:22] Qwark Allen: just to do not go, more far in past
[13:22] herman Bergson: well.... for the moment it sounds to me more as an other approach to the ontological question...
[13:23] herman Bergson: in fact you could say that functionalism isn't much concerned about ontology...
[13:24] herman Bergson: when you define a mental state in terms of what is does, it isn't important what the material basis is
[13:24] herman Bergson: functionalism is therefor even neutral regarding materialism or dualism...
[13:25] herman Bergson: And yes qwark you are quite right about that....
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: we can take an analogy, an electric motor
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: can be made of different materials
[13:25] herman Bergson: My perception of the philosophy of mind has changed so greatly in relation to what I knew in 1977
[13:25] Farv Hallison: that's good, you leave open the question of whether matter is an emergent property of the mind.
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: for dc or ac and be made in different shapes and so
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: but they all do one thing the same
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: transfer electric energi to mechanical movement 8rotation)ö
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: rotation
[13:26] herman Bergson: Yes Farv....functionalism wouldn't question that
[13:27] herman Bergson: We'll go in to much more detail in next lectures....
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: i guess its sort of the same with the mind in speaking of functionalism
[13:27] herman Bergson: functionalism is a dominating view, these days...
[13:27] Mick Nerido: Transportation can be walking flying driving not at all the same
[13:27] herman Bergson: there you find the mind / computer analogy....
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:28] herman Bergson: the mind as software and the brain as hardwear...
[13:28] Lizzy Pleides: but you come from point A to point B, the result is the same as if you use a bycicle
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: yes exactly
[13:28] herman Bergson: We'll come to talk about that…don't worry...
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: hmm well but for certain distances like my trip to turkey before bike wouldn't be very practical
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: but basically yes
[13:29] herman Bergson: This functionalism is a kind of answer on the identity theory...
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: its about moving around in different ways
[13:30] Sybyle Perdide: lets change the example
[13:30] Mick Nerido: we don't know how a mint works
[13:30] Mick Nerido: mind
[13:30] Sybyle Perdide: a bomb destroys as well as a flood..but they are different
[13:30] herman Bergson: ok Sybyle
[13:30] Farv Hallison savors mint.
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: both generates a pusch , a force
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: push
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: but the difference is greater as between bike and plane
[13:31] Mick Nerido: I have to leave early, sorry
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: very, the result is that you move i n both cases but a plane can move over water and MUCH faster
[13:31] herman Bergson: lecture I'll explain in detail in what way functionalism thinks to be an answer to limitations of the identity theory...
[13:31] Lizzy Pleides: i think it is the result what counts and not how we reach it
[13:31] Farv Hallison: nice seeing you Mick
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: tc Mick
[13:32] Lizzy Pleides: tc mick
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:32] herman Bergson: Yes Lizzy, such an observation is in line with functionalism...
[13:32] Mick Nerido: See you next class thats all Herman also
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: you cannot divide it completely, Lizzy, I think
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: cu Mick
[13:32] herman Bergson: Well, don't worry....
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: if you look at the aim..yes
[13:33] Lizzy Pleides: i forgive you Sybyle, giggle
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: but if you ask if the aim was planned for example
[13:33] herman Bergson: I will gonna be a pretty complex and abstract issue, this functionalism...
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: sighs
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: thx Lizzy
[13:33] herman Bergson: It
[13:34] herman Bergson: I am not sure about is 100% myself, how to interpret it....
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: i a bit tricky indeed
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: its
[13:34] Farv Hallison: what is tricky?
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: philosophy
[13:34] herman Bergson: Main point is: Is it an answer to our questions about the mind - body problem...
[13:34] Sybyle Perdide: ; )
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: how to attack this subject
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: but will be interesting
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: i think i get the point so far anyway
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:35] herman Bergson: Yes Bejiita.....
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: s i said about the motors before
[13:35] herman Bergson: especially because this functionalist view is widely accepted....
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: they can be made way different for ac and dc but do the same thing basically
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: every theory ignores important matters i think
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: electricity becomes rotation
[13:35] Sybyle Perdide: nods
[13:35] herman Bergson: but of course, as always in comes in a number of flavors ㋡
[13:36] Qwark Allen: heeheh
[13:36] Farv Hallison: mint I hope
[13:36] Sybyle Perdide: strawberry I prefer
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:36] herman Bergson: So..I would suggest.....take a good night rest and be here next Thursday for the next lecture on this subject ^_^
[13:37] Qwark Allen: nice
[13:37] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:37] Sybyle Perdide: great start Herman
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: will be interesting
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:37] Sybyle Perdide: thank you
[13:37] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Professor!
[13:37] herman Bergson: thank you for your participation...
[13:37] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): thank you Professor
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: nice Herman
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:37] herman Bergson: class dismissed
[13:37] Qwark Allen: ::::::::: * E * X * C * E * L * L * E * N * T * ::::::::::
[13:37] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): *•.¸'*•.¸ ♥ ¸.•*´¸.•*
[13:37] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): Goed Gedaan Jochie!!
[13:37] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): .•*♥¨`• BRAVO!!!! •¨`♥*•.
[13:37] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): ¸.•*`¸.•*´ ♥ `*•.¸`*•.¸

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