Topic: Philosophy For centuries Man had remained mesmerized by the workings of brain. The philosophers had always tried to judge how thoughts occur in our mind, how feelings are generated, how pain is felt, how senses are affected by emotions and so many other questions regarding our existence…
With this emerged various schools of thoughts which promoted specific theories of brain functioning and psyche. One of them is functionalism. Functionalism Functionalism in philosophy of mind is a school of thought that states: “…a physical or abstract entity is identified by its causal or operational role” (Floridi). It is a doctrine that negates the idea of internal causes and constitutions of various mental states. It rejects the idea of unseen and abstract, even structural causes for these states and believes that every mental state has a separate and distinctive function or role in its respective system. As far as the origin of this doctrine is concerned, its roots lie back to Greek civilization. The concept of soul projected by Aristotle seems to offer the elementary base for functionalism whose antecedent goes back to Hobbes’s idea of human mind as a mere ‘calculating machine’. However, this particular school had got fame in the last quarter of twentieth century. Moreover, functionalism is not merely restricted to the philosophy only; it is rather involved in almost every natural and physical field of science including psychology, sociology, even education. Functionalism in Psychology Psychology emerged as a science in the late 19th century and functionalism proved to be an important mile stone in its wider acceptance and visionary exposure. It rose as a protest against structuralism and added various functional aspects of human brain along with the structural ones that shapes the humanistic behavior. According to Coon, it is “…concerned with how behaviour and mental abilities help people adapt to their environments”, and in this way it defines the function of various psychological and mental states Invalid source specified.. Functionalism offers an alternative to behaviourism and identity theory of mind: one regards every mental activity as a particular behaviour formed as a habit through continuous practice; the other divides them into types that are further correlated to the physical events occurring within the brain. Functionalism projects that every mental activity that takes place in the mind performs a particular function in the physical systems. These mental states are realized on multiple levels each of which offers a complete separate system. Thus, human mind behaves like a computational machine which directs external behaviours of the man (Jaworski). Putnam’s Philosophy of Mind Hilary Putnam was an American computer expert, mathematician and philosopher who had caught special attention in philosophy of mind in around 1960’s when he had put forward his hypothesis of ‘multiple realizability’ (Figure 1). He argues that all living beings can feel pain, yet their reasons of pain are not the same. With the help of the example of animals, he further elaborates that every creature cannot have the same brain structure, and therefore same mental events (like pain, emotions, desires, sensations, etc.) cannot happen in everyone. Thus, he tries to imply that mental realizability differs from creature to creature as a result of which feelings and sensations differ, and this is so because each sensation is due to a physical property that differs. Figure 1 Putnam’s Philosophy of Multiple Realizability Moreover, he has also put forward the first formulation of this functionalist theory in the form of ‘machine-state functionalism’. It was based on the analogy between human mind and the Turing machine that can calculate any ...
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