Functionalism and Physicalism


While acquiring knowledge on the topics of Functionalism and
Physicalism, I ran across many disagreement between the two. Interestingly,
those disagreements gave me an impression of different sides arguing with their
own support from their own theories. As if an Arabian and a Roman were arguing
about whether the number eleven is an "Arabic" number or a "Roman" number.
Though, as I read more and more of the readings (especially Putnam\'s), I started
to see a pattern that led me to think that maybe Functionalism is compatible
with Physicalism after all; that these two theories can coexist.

The claim above is based on the information gathered in the two readings
assigned and therefore, I should go step by step in order to arrive at my
conclusion that they can indeed coexist. First, I draw Ned Block\'s elaboration
on Metaphysical Functionalism as a start of my argument. As Block suggests,
Metaphysical Functionalism is mainly concern about what mental states are;
instead of a psychological explanation (Block, p. 172). Moreover, they concern
themselves with mental state type; not a specific token of the type. As in the
case of pain, they are concerned with a mental state called pain, and not of
particular pains (i.e. stomach-ache, pin-pricks, etc.). But, according to
Putnam, if the Physicalists does indeed attributes the name "physical states"
to the enormous number of mental states we humans have, then, I think it would
be impossible for them to be concerned only with the type and not the tokens.
But once they started to consider each specific pain (token), they will have to
ascribe a different physical-chemical state to each token-state. Ultimately,
the common thing "to all pains in virtue of which they are pains (Block, p.
172)" cannot be put in terms of a single physical state. Recall that the same
problem does not exist in the consideration of Functionalism because
Functionalism concern itself basically with the causal relations between these
tokens and not a particular one. Therefore, the common thing that exists in
Functionalism "to all pains in virtue of which they are pains" is actually the
function or the functional state that account for all mental states type; and
not a particular mental state token.

Therefore I conclude by suggesting that the disagreement (or the
incompatibility) between the two theories is actually a misunderstanding on each
side on their scope on studies. And while they do not conflict each other in
the same scope, I grant them their coexistence. (At least this is what I can
dig up in the readings!)

Category: Philosophy