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Functionalism and Behaviorism

by Math Is Hard
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Math Is Hard
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Feb6-05, 01:53 AM
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I can't understand the difference between mental states as functional states vs. mental states as behavioral states. Can anyone explain?

Thanks,
MIH
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honestrosewater
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Feb7-05, 07:57 AM
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"one difference from behaviorism is that functionalism admits mental states as part of understanding behaviors;"- phil. dict. (in the materialism>functionalism entry)

"The deepest and most complex reason for behaviorism's demise is its commitment to the thesis that behavior can be explained without reference to mental activity."- article on behaviorism

"Though functionalism is significantly different from behaviorism in that the latter attempts to explain behavior without any reference whatsoever to mental states and processes..."- article on functionalism
Math Is Hard
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Feb9-05, 11:35 AM
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Hi Rachel,
Thanks for those links. I am just looking at them now, but I think these will help me.

honestrosewater
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Feb10-05, 12:25 AM
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Functionalism and Behaviorism

Sure. I wish I could be more helpful, but it seems there's only one difference: Mental states as behavioral states don't exist, according to behaviorists. That would seem to cover everything, but maybe it's more complicated than that. Anyway, yes, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has always done a great job- definitely worth bookmarking. If the topic you're looking for isn't listed, the site is searchable.
BoulderHead
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Feb12-05, 06:40 PM
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Quote Quote by Math Is Hard
I can't understand the difference between mental states as functional states vs. mental states as behavioral states. Can anyone explain?

Thanks,
MIH
Hello, MIH.
Consider the Mind/Brain Identity theory a good place to gain some bearing. Identity theory looks to the historical string of scientific advancements which lend support to physicalism. Just as Rainbows, for example, can now be explained in materialist terms, in similar manner it is believed the ‘problem of mind’ is to be, and will be, found in the physical body (brain). More pointedly; a given mental state is a specific physical state. Functionalism, which you specifically asked about, likewise rejects the idea of an immaterial mind but differs in holding a given mind state is possible by multiplicity of physical states. Multiply realizable I believe is the catch phrase, iirc.

Logical Behaviorism and Methodological Behaviorism are different animals from each other as well as the above. The former does not accept beliefs and ideas are inner states that can be used to explain (cause) behavior, the latter differs on that point but holds mental states to be irrelevant in explaining same.
Math Is Hard
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Feb14-05, 06:26 PM
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Quote Quote by BoulderHead
Functionalism, which you specifically asked about, likewise rejects the idea of an immaterial mind but differs in holding a given mind state is possible by multiplicity of physical states. Multiply realizable I believe is the catch phrase, iirc.
Thanks for your post, BH. Now with functionalism, my feeling is that it doesn't necessarily reject the idea of an immaterial mind since technically a dualist could be a functionalist. With functionalism, aren't we just avoiding the whole "what is the mind made of" issue altogether?
Q_Goest
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Apr4-05, 11:52 AM
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Hi MIH, happy belated birthday. I've been trying to figure this one out myself so I figured I'd resurect this thread. You asked a good question:
Now with functionalism, my feeling is that it doesn't necessarily reject the idea of an immaterial mind since technically a dualist could be a functionalist.
Don't quote me, but I believe the conventional view is that a functionalist can't be a dualist. I'd be interested in seeing what others think. I'm under the impression that functionalism is one of the most fundamental concepts which supports strong AI. Functionalism says the state the brain is in and the states it goes through are equal to the mind.

If I can expand that a bit, I'd also see that as the same as cause and effect. The states the brain goes through are determined by previous states through cause and effect relationships. For example, if neuron A fires, it creates a signal which causes neuron B to fire, etc... Functionalism says that all these cause and effect relationships in the brain are equal to the mind. The states the brain goes through are equal to qualia for example. I've been told that to disprove strong AI, one needs to disprove functionalism, though I'm not sure that's true.
Math Is Hard
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Apr5-05, 07:53 PM
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Hi Q Goest! Thanks for the belated birthday wish. I wrapped up that course a while back so I had to go back and try to remember why I seemed to feel satisfied that there wouldn't be a conflict with a dualist being a functionalist. I believe it was something I read in one of the links honestrosewater gave me:

from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/functionalism/

Still, though functionalism is officially neutral between materialism and dualism, it has been particularly attractive to materialists, since many materialists believe (or argue; see Lewis, 1966) that it is overwhelmingly likely that any states capable of playing the roles in question will be physical states.

So I suppose functionalism is an option for the dualist, but it's probably not a popular one.

I'm not familiar with the "strong AI" concept you mentioned. Forgive me, I'm just a beginner. Can you tell me where I could read a little bit more about this - or maybe point me toward a particular author? thanks!
honestrosewater
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Apr5-05, 11:20 PM
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I'm pretty sure John Searle coined the term "strong AI", but since it's become a popular term, it's taken on different meanings. You can get the basic idea by considering whether something which behaves as if it is [blank] actually is [blank] in the same way that humans are [blank]. Fill in the blanks with "intelligent", "conscious", etc. Strong AI then says, "Yes, in some or all cases, it actually is [blank]." Weak AI says, "No, it only seems to be [blank]."
I think reading The Chinese Room Argument/Objection and replies to it would be a good place to start. There are several explanations to be found, but here are a few nice ones, in increasing detail:
http://www.alanturing.net/turing_arc...is%20AI14.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Room
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-room/
For someone in CogSci, I think this would be interesting, at least to ponder.
Math Is Hard
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Apr6-05, 07:42 PM
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Thanks so much - you always have the best links. I was just reading the Chinese Room argument today. I can't believe I have never come across this before. It's a really well-thought-out objection. I need to take some time and read through everything at the alanturing.net site. There's a lot of good information there.
Q_Goest
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Apr6-05, 10:28 PM
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Thanks for the quote that says "...functionalism is officially neutral between materialism and dualism..." I wouldn't have guessed that, but it certainly says that in black and white! lol

I guess I don't understand how that can be. I must be missunderstanding something. I read this from NYU:
What is 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.
Ref: http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/f...tionalism.html

And this one from Washington Univ.:
Ned Block (1980) identifies three senses of functionalism. The first is simple decompositional functionalism. 'Functionalism' in this sense refers to a research strategy that relies on the decomposition of a system into its components; the whole system is then explained in terms of these functional parts. Second, computation-representation functionalism is a special case of decompositional functionalism which relies heavily on the 'computer-as-mind' analogy. Psychological explanation under computation-representation functionalism is "akin to providing a computer program for the mind" (Block 1980, p.171). Thus, mental processes are seen as being decomposable to a point where they can be thought of as processes which are as simple as those of a digital computer or, similarly, a Turing machine. Lastly, Block identifies metaphysical functionalism. This form of functionalism is a theory of mind that hypothesizes that mental states simply are functional states. The metaphysical functionalist claims that mental states are the types of mental state they are because of the causal relations between inputs, outputs and other mental (i.e. functional) states of the system, as in the Turing machine. The physical implementation of the set of functions which implement a mind are irrelevant to what makes something a mind – it's the functional relations that count.
Ref: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~philos/...tionalism.html

If I were to put "functionalism" into my own words from reading that, I'd say that functionalism is the belief that the mind emerges from the functioning of the brain. The brain exists as so many biological parts made of cells, and the state those cells are in and what they do over time are equal to and correspond to, all of what we call 'emergent properties' of the brain, including consciousness. I would think that functionalism (from reading the above) says that there is no other 'ghostly, spatially extended substance' that needs to be identified in order for consciousness to emerge. The mind IS the brain.

This is very much unlike dualism:
Popular dualism: mind is an as yet undiscovered kind of spiritual substance, a sort of ghostly, spatially extended substance which can interact with physical substance
Ref: http://classes.colgate.edu/pgregory/...lossary.html#K
So I guess I can't see how functionalism is silent in regards to dualism. Perhaps someone here can better explain.

Regarding strong AI, honestrosewater is correct, Searle did coin the term. Searle describes strong AI as follows: ". . . according to strong AI, the computer is not merely a tool in the study of the mind; rather, the appropriately programmed computer really is a mind, in the sense that computers given the right programs can be literally said to understand and have other cognitive states. In strong AI, because the programmed computer has cognitive states, the programs are not mere tools that enable us to test psychological explanations; rather, the programs are themselves the explanations."

What I'm trying to understand here is what philisophical arguements are used to support strong AI. What I gather so far is that first, one must reject dualism and accept that the states which the brain goes through are governed by causal relationships and it is these states which correspond to everything we think, feel, experience, etc... I've been calling that functionalism, but maybe that's not correct. Regardless, that doesn't seem to get you to the point of strong AI. We also need to assume that it is the computational nature (causal relationships are calculable) of the brain which give rise to these phenomena we call consciousness, such that any equivalent computational machine would experience the same phenomena. I've heard the Church-Turing thesis being used as an arguement for that part of the problem.

What I'm most interested in understanding is:
- what is functionalism (in simple terms) and
- what assumptions does strong AI rest on?
honestrosewater
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Apr7-05, 02:52 AM
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Quote Quote by Q_Goest
What I'm most interested in understanding is:
- what is functionalism (in simple terms) and
Maybe the first phrase to identify with functionalism is you don't need to look inside. "More precisely, functionalist theories take the identity of a mental state to be determined by its causal relations to sensory stimulations, other mental states, and behavior."* IOW, it doesn't matter what's going on inside of a mental state; You only need to consider a mental state as it relates to other things. So functionalists are interested in a mental state's extrinsic properties, not in its intrinsic properties.
I'm not sure if functionalism goes so far as to claim that mental states have no intrinsic properties. I suppose there could be a weak form of functionalism that is merely silent about the intrinsic properties of mental states.
The other main concept of functionalism is multiple realization. Think of copyright protection. A work need only meet some general criteria in order to be eligible for copyright protection: Mainly, the work must be in some tangible form and there must have been some creative input by the author. So copyright protection can apply to many different kinds of works- novels, paintings, sound recordings, etc. In a similar way, "a functionalist theory might characterize pain as a state that tends to be caused by bodily injury, to produce the belief that something is wrong with the body and the desire to be out of that state, to produce anxiety, and, in the absence of any stronger, conflicting desires, to cause wincing or moaning. According to this theory, all and only creatures with internal states that meet these conditions, or play these roles, are capable of being in pain."* Then pain is any state that meets these general criteria, whether the state occurs in a person, frog, alien, robot, etc. Such a state is said to be multiply realizable.
So the two main concepts of functionalism would be 1) disregard for any intrinsic properties of mental states, and 2) multiple realization of mental states. At least, that's what I gather from my reading- I'm not a functionalist or an expert on the subject.
*SEP
Q_Goest
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Apr9-05, 09:49 PM
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Can you define "mental states"? By "mental states" I'd have imagined that to mean: If one could locate all the matter, energy, and fields in the brain at any given point in time, ie: if one knew the configuration of all the brain cells, including all the electrical, magnetic, thermal flux, all of the locations of all the chemicals in the brain at a given point in time - that would be a mental state. That state changes over time as cells emit molecules, suck ions in, discharge bits of electric current, energy is emitted from glucose being broken down, etc... Note also that all these states are governed by causal relations. I believe that's what is meant anyway.

My mother would simply suggest that a mental state is my emotional state, how I felt at some point in time. She could tell my mental state from my behavior. If I was happy, sad, or had diaper rash, my mother would simply see some "extrinsic property" and say that was my "mental state". And isn't that "behaviorism"? Doesn't the Turing Test match this concept in saying that if a computer acts like it's conscious, looks like it's conscious, talks like it's conscious, then it must be conscious. If this is a mental state than I'm way off base. It sounds as if you're saying that "functionalism" is the "extrinsic property" that my mom might see.

Also, when you say "multiple realization" I'd take what you're saying to mean that if any person, frog, alien, robot, etc... was writhing on the ground and producing a loud, squealing noise after having an appendige forcibly removed without anesthetic, that creature was in pain. So any of these creatures can feel pain, and we see that a creature is experiencing pain from their behavior.

But from what I've read, it seems the mental states are the mental states as I'd have defined them. Obviously, I'm making a mistake here somewhere.
honestrosewater
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Apr10-05, 03:39 AM
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I found a page that I think answers your questions; If it doesn't, I'll try to help where I can. Your first definition of mental state is in conflict with a mental state being multiply realizable. You've got the basic idea of multiple realization; I would just pay attention to the three causal relations listed in the page- behavior isn't the only way a mental state is identified. If the extrinsic v. instrinsic distinction isn't helpful, sorry- just forget it; They're quite muddy terms anyway. Functionalism is concerned with what causes a mental state (ex. I slam your fingers in a door) and what a mental state causes (ex. you scream and are mad at me). Functionalism isn't concerned with what it is like to be in a mental state- the qualitative properties of the experience (ex. the way pain feels to you).


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