Tuesday, November 15, 2011

361: Functionalism

Theories of the mind PRIOR to functionalism have been concerned both with (1) what there is, and (2) what gives each type of mental state its own identity,

for example what pains have in common in virtue of which they are pains. Stretching these terms a bit, we might say that (1) is a matter of ontology and (2) of metaphysics.

Here are the ontological claims: Dualism told us that there are both mental and physical substances,

whereas behaviorism and physicalism are monistic, claiming that there are only physical substances.

Here are the metaphysical claims: Behaviorism tells us that what pains (for example) have in common in virtue of which they are pains is something behavioral;

dualism gave a nonphysical answer to this question, and physicalism gives a physical answer to this question, referring to, for instance, the firing of c-fibers.

Turning now to functionalism, it answers the metaphysical question without answering the ontological question.

Functionalism tells us that what pains have in common, what makes them pains, is their function;

but functionalism does not tell us whether the beings that have pains have any nonphysical parts.

In the beginning I have said, that I wish to investigate the feasibility of a materialist theory of mind, which also may be called in more contemporary wordings, a physicalist theory of mind.

The catching title of a book, which has been a bestseller in the netherlands, "Wij zijn ons brein" (We are our brain) may sound nice, but becomes questionable due to functionalism.

Let me explain, what this means. Water is type identical to H2O, which means that any drop of matter with certain characteristic is H2O

and the discovery that water is H2O facilitated the (ontological) reduction of water to H2O. Why has water been reduced to H2O rather than vice versa?

The general idea is that chemistry has the resources to deal with a much wider range of phenomena than does a science that is restricted to studying water. Consequently, chemistry is held to be the more 'basic' or 'fundamental' science.

But suppose, that pain is identical with firing c-fibers. Whenever you say, that is pain, you can point at the firing of c-fibers.

Then we have a problem, because when "pain" and "firing c-fiber" are identical, then every organism that has no c-fibers can not feel pain, because that mental state is identical with firing c-fibers.

This is a serious problem for what we call the type identity theory. Now suppose that your dog has no c-fibers, but d-fibers.

When you accidentally step on its tail, the poor fellow barks "woooowau..", jumps up and tries to get away, you see on a scanner certain nerves and parts of its brain become active.

These nerves are different from our c-fibers, but the state poor doggy is in looks certainly identical to our behavior when someone steps on our toe. Difficult to deny, that your dog feels pain.

Here functionalism seems to offer a real solution. "We are our brain" may be true, but that doesn't cancel the possibility, that for instance, an alien, not carbon based as we are, but silicon based can have a brain too.

Like I said about carburetors in the previous lecture: they can be made of all kinds of materials, have all kinds of different shapes, they all do the same job: mix air and patrol.

Thus, as functionalism states: if A, B and C do the same job, have the same functional role in an organism or system, then it is ontologically not important what A, B and C are made of.

This has serious consequences, for it can mean that any system, that does the same as our brain-based mental states, would have a mind too and consciousness.

I guess you already see it coming….. a computer, when properly programmed….. would there ever be a HAL like in "2001: A Space Odyssee"? We'll see.

The Discussion

[13:22] herman Bergson: Thank you.... ㋡
[13:23] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): too much to digest!
[13:23] Qwark Allen: ::::::::: * E * X * C * E * L * L * E * N * T * ::::::::::
[13:23] herman Bergson: The floor is yours....
[13:23] Qwark Allen: Just what do you think you,r doing DAAAAVE ::: -_+
[13:23] herman Bergson: oh dear...Gemma!!!!
[13:23] Qwark Allen: *•.¸ I'm sorry Dave... I'm afraid I can't do that... ツ ¸.•*
[13:23] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): well the dog and I function the same
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: hmm the hal thing im a bit skeptical about because a computer may be analogous to a sort of mechanical brain
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: but our brains involve chemical signals
[13:24] Mick Nerido: It make sense that a brain system other than ours could be called conscious…
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: but a computer instead does not at all the same
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: here electricity flip a switch relying on pure math
[13:24] Bejiita Imako: pure
[13:24] Nigel Qissinger: thank you, very interesting points you made
[13:24] herman Bergson: that is the point Mick.....
[13:24] Qwark Allen: the language that brain use to process and transport information is already decoded, and can be simulated by a computer
[13:24] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[13:24] Sybyle Perdide: its the same like the comparison with bike and care or flood and bomb, isn#T it?
[13:24] herman Bergson: functionalism doesn't formulate ontological claims...
[13:24] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Yes-ah!
[13:24] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): to mick i mean
[13:25] herman Bergson: Well..the next debate will be Artificial Intelligence...
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: acomputer can simulate but never do the same cause sure it can replicate but it does it in a completley different way then a brain
[13:25] herman Bergson: does it exist?
[13:25] herman Bergson: Well Bejiita
[13:26] herman Bergson: our computers of today, yes....
[13:26] Sybyle Perdide: the problem is the reduction
[13:26] herman Bergson: but that is not the point
[13:26] Sybyle Perdide: a computer can be intelligent, but he cannot taste oranges
[13:26] Nigel Qissinger: but IF a computer did DO the same stuff as a brain, it wouldn't matter if it was made of metal or flesh
[13:26] herman Bergson: from a functionalist point of view it isnt relevant how that computer is constructed...
[13:26] Qwark Allen: heheeh why not sybyle?
[13:27] herman Bergson: when it does the same as what our mental states do...it must be conscious too
[13:27] Lizzy Pleides: he can taste it but he can't enjoy it
[13:27] Sybyle Perdide: because artificial intelligence is not the same like tasting oranges
[13:27] Qwark Allen: probably in the future they will taste it better then us, cause will have better sensors
[13:27] Nigel Qissinger: it can not taste oranges only because it does not have a tasting organ. If we built a tongue that could send the data about the orange to the computer, then it could taste
[13:27] Sybyle Perdide: yes Lizzy
[13:27] Sybyle Perdide: he can analyze
[13:27] Mick Nerido: When your computer crashes does it feel pain? lol
[13:27] Raphael Lazarno is Offline
[13:28] Qwark Allen: they have sensors, so taste is not a issue
[13:28] Lizzy Pleides: mine does
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: ia computer could sense what it does maybe but all a computer see is a binary string of 1 and 0 in a pure mathematical way
[13:28] Qwark Allen: to have pleasure with it, is another story
[13:28] Mot Mann is Offline
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: in the future maybee but how would a such cpu operate then?
[13:28] herman Bergson: Welll In Sybyles words I hear Nagel's "what is it like to be a bat..?"
[13:28] Qwark Allen: in a way, we feel pleasure with things, because there is release of endorfines
[13:28] Sybyle Perdide: blushes
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: can not rely solely on transistor base binary math
[13:28] Qwark Allen: in the brain
[13:29] herman Bergson: You must not talk about computers as we understand them now...
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: interesting idea at least
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: can machines think
[13:29] Qwark Allen: in some damaged brains there is no endorfines
[13:29] herman Bergson: you must talk about functions they perform
[13:29] ewaslogos.blogspot.com (ewa.aska) is Online
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: hmm
[13:29] Sybyle Perdide: perform is the right word I think
[13:30] Qwark Allen: we have very limited sensors
[13:30] Sybyle Perdide: if a computer starts to do more than performing, then the difference is shrinking dangerously
[13:30] Qwark Allen: as a specie
[13:30] herman Bergson: Functionalism was the step towards a computational model of the mind
[13:31] Mick Nerido: Functionalism means if it functions the same way no matter the construct the results are the same.
[13:31] herman Bergson: yes Mick.....
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: but it is an aim-oriented thinking
[13:31] Sybyle Perdide: like a black box
[13:31] herman Bergson: So our idea of a computer can be completely wrong and in a 10000 years maybe a computer is made of water ㋡
[13:32] Qwark Allen: that will happen before
[13:32] Qwark Allen: maybe in 50 years
[13:32] Qwark Allen: with quantum computers
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: a futore machine might be more similar but not today's machines
[13:32] herman Bergson: yes Qwark..then we are all fishes in the ocean again, back to our roots ^_^
[13:32] Qwark Allen: with 1 zero and -1
[13:32] Lizzy Pleides: and when we drink it we suddenly can speak chinese
[13:32] Sybyle Perdide: laughs
[13:33] Qwark Allen: there are already quantum computers done
[13:33] herman Bergson: I always dream of that Lizzy....
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: cause although they perform sort of same things their INTERNAL functioning is different, carbureators work internally the exact same principle
[13:33] Lizzy Pleides: me too
[13:33] Qwark Allen: they use atoms the atoms spin to save information
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: but a brain and a computer of today does not even both can produce and process information
[13:33] herman Bergson: Like in the Matrix....put in the disk martial arts....and poof...there you go
[13:33] Sybyle Perdide: but..are this technical details relevant?
[13:34] herman Bergson: You must look at it in an other way Bejiita....
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: i think so, the internal principle of operation i think is important, don't know
[13:34] herman Bergson: You must imagine a computer that DOES all the things our brain does
[13:34] Qwark Allen: yes, you should read about the new technologies, and realize, that the utopia of yesterday, will be the present, in a near future
[13:34] herman Bergson: and from there you start analyzing the consequences...
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: but who knows what ex a quantum computer could do and they also talk about dna based machines
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: a such computer might be able to do that
[13:35] Qwark Allen: they have 3 states, zero one and minus one
[13:35] Mick Nerido: a computer would not need all our lower brain functions to be conscious, or would it?
[13:36] Qwark Allen: just need the same capacity of processing information
[13:36] herman Bergson: I really wouldn't know Mick
[13:36] herman Bergson: because this implies already a real definition of consciousness
[13:36] Qwark Allen: their speed duplicate every 18 months
[13:37] herman Bergson: And consciousness is our biggest problem in the philosophy ogf mind
[13:37] Qwark Allen: in 25 years they will have the same rate of processing information as our brain
[13:37] Qwark Allen: they AI will born for sure
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: hmm AI is an interesting thing for sure
[13:37] Qwark Allen: thats what we are talking about today
[13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): but then we get into the issue of feelings
[13:38] Qwark Allen: will be possible in a very near future
[13:38] herman Bergson: You can read about functionalism....
[13:38] Sybyle Perdide: do we talk about constructing new iPads?
[13:38] herman Bergson: I am still not sure how to deal with it and its consequences...
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes Gemma...
[13:39] herman Bergson: feelings , beliefs, desires.... consciousness...
[13:39] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): right!
[13:39] herman Bergson: big big hurdles still to take
[13:40] herman Bergson: So....for the time being....
[13:40] Qwark Allen: lets hope we don`t end like in terminator or in battlestar galactica
[13:40] herman Bergson: let's assume that mental states can be multiply realized.....
[13:40] herman Bergson: Well Qwark...I loved the movies ㋡
[13:41] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:41] herman Bergson: they had a happy end ^_^
[13:41] Sybyle Perdide: what about tragic ends?
[13:41] Sybyle Perdide: are they wrong
[13:41] Sybyle Perdide: ?
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): those two movies had a happy end
[13:42] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): others do not
[13:42] Mick Nerido: endings are personal not objective
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: but that's because the manus often have a happy end
[13:42] herman Bergson: We have the greek tragedies...
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: in reality evil often wins at least for very long
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: just look at all terror and wars all over the world that never ends
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: and all greediness
[13:43] Sybyle Perdide: but would a computer be able to feel the tragic.. not only recognizing that the end was not good for all because one is dead?
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: bank directors and such
[13:43] herman Bergson: But even the end of the tragedy was regarded as a happy end..offering the katharsis to the audience
[13:44] Sybyle Perdide: but Orestes is unlucky and dead at the end
[13:44] Mick Nerido: Tragedies make you feel lucky it did not happen
[13:44] herman Bergson: yes, he is, but the audience experience the meaning of it
[13:44] Sybyle Perdide: but I was always on his side
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:45] herman Bergson: Well....Let's investigate if we can have an Orestes computer in the future...:)
[13:45] Mick Nerido: Thanks for a great class! BYe
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:45] Sybyle Perdide: yay
[13:45] herman Bergson: Therefor...thank you all for your participation...
[13:45] Sybyle Perdide: thats a good idea
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: interesting
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:45] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:45] herman Bergson: Class dismissed ㋡
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: ok cu next time

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