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All Mental States Can Be Reduced to Functional States

Autor:   •  March 31, 2017  •  Essay  •  1,298 Words (6 Pages)  •  370 Views

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‘All mental states can be reduced to functional roles which can be multiply realised’

Throughout this essay, I will argue that mental states cannot be reduced to functional roles which can be multiply realised.

Functionalism claims that we can give a true an analysis of what our mental states are in terms of their ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’. Functionalism further claims that mental states consist of dispositions to behave in particular ways and have particular other mental states, given particular inputs from the senses and particular other mental states. In other terms, functionalism claims that mental states can just be reduced to functional states. Mental states ‘just are’ functional states, what it is to be a mental state is just the same as being a state with particular causal relations to behaviour and other mental states.

I will argue this through firstly addressing the main criticisms of functionalism, namely inverted qualia, the knowledge argument revisited and absent qualia. I will show how functionalists may respond to these criticisms but prove how functionalism doesn’t stand up well to the criticisms as the responses can too be criticised. Therefore, I will prove that mental states can’t be reduced to functional roles that can be multiply realised.

First and foremost, the most crucial criticism to functionalism is inverted qualia. Functionalism fails to account for our phenomenal properties of our mental states and functionalism doesn’t take into consideration our own perspectives. Phenomenal properties can’t be understood simply in terms of their function if two people can have the same function but at the same time, opposing phenomenal properties. Take for example, two people are looking at ripe tomatoes and fresh grass, they grew up in the same linguistic community so they have learnt to use ‘red’ to describe the tomatoes and ‘green’ to describe the grass (so both say tomatoes are red and grass is green). But the particular way that grass looks to person 1 is the same way tomatoes look to person 2 and vice versa. So, functionally these two people are identical, but still have different colour experiences. Both are functionally identical, but are not identical in terms of their intrinsic properties (they have different qualia). Because inverted qualia are conceivably true, this therefore means that functionalism is false.

Contrarily, functionalists may reply that in these certain situations, you are not functionally identical. If you’re perceiving things differently, then its impossible for you to be functionally identical. It may be argued that there are small but very important differences between the two people because the causal relationship of phenomenal properties is very complex and intricate. For example, ‘red’ is known as a warm colour and ‘green’ is known as a cool colour, if person 1 saw grass the same was person 2 saw tomatoes, would they describe grass as being warm? For functionalists this just doesn’t appear to be logical, inverted qualia can be conceived but can’t be possible.


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