[lit-ideas] - Functionalism

  • From: "palma@xxxxxxxxxx" <palmaadriano@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 11:09:45 +0200

On Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 10:55 AM, John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>wrote:

> Donal, could you or someone else here describe what philosophers mean by
> "functionalism"? When I hear the term, what leaps to mind is a now
> discredited sociological proposition that societies are homeostatic systems
> maintained by negative feedback. "Functions" can mean all sorts of things
> from x=f(y) to a dress-up party. It would help a lot to know what, in
> particular, we are talking about.
> John
> On Fri, Jan 13, 2012 at 5:33 PM, Donal McEvoy 
> <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>wrote:
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx" <Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx>
>> >O. T. O. H., Grice, was was not a mathematician, nor a logician, nor a
>> cryptanalyst, nor a computer scientist, thought highly of Turing. Grice
>> endorsed, contra Popper, a strong form of FUNCTIONALISM (in "Method in
>> philosophical psychology", repr. in his second book, "The conception of
>> value").  For
>> functionalism, the mind is a Turing machine:>
>> Some sort of 'functionalism' is what I took to underpin Turing's
>> 'Imaginary Game', though his is a tendentious rather than explicit way of
>> proposing a functionalist approach. (Perhaps we should turn to
>> 'functionalism' as a topic, pro and con. As Grice defends it, JLS would
>> have a stake in the game.) But I will indicate why I don't think
>> Wittgenstein should be taken as a functionalist (though elements of
>> Wittgenstein's approach may be viewed as 'functionalist-friendly').
>> Wittgenstein's earlier and later philosophy both have an opaque character
>> [being open to various interpretation; given what Wittgenstein says, it
>> unclear often exactly what his point is] but I do not think the later (or
>> earlier) Wittgenstein was a 'functionalist' - simply that he may be taken
>> this way in much the same way that his later philosophy of mind could be
>> read as 'behaviourist'. The better interpretation, I suggest, is that
>> Wittgenstein in his later period is not to be aligned to any (metaphysical)
>> '-ism': rather, as per the earlier Wittgenstein, his is still an
>> anti-metaphysician:- but where the TLP declared metaphysics 'nonsense',
>> albeit sometimes most important non-sense, (the upshot being we should not
>> try to speak 'metaphysically' as we are at best trying to say what cannot
>> be said), his later approach is more nuanced. But it is similar in that
>> when we try to pin down a metaphysics by way of some -ism (like
>> 'functionalism' or 'solipsism' or 'empiricism' or 'idealism' or 'dualism'
>> or 'monism') for Wittgenstein we are in effect trying to say what cannot be
>> said but at best only shown. So if you ask later Wittgenstein whether a
>> thought is a merely material or physical entity, you will not get an answer
>> a la Popper where a World 2 is distinguished from a World 1 (or indeed a la
>> traditional philosophy insofar as it hinges on a mind-body dichotomy):-
>> what Wittgenstein might want to do is find out what exactly you think you
>> are trying to say by claiming, or denying, that thought is merely material;
>> and then he would seek dissolve the misleading metaphysical pictures (or
>> conceptual confusions) that are thrown up by this kind of thinking -
>> dissolve them by showing how they lead to both patent nonsense and
>> disguised nonsense. But at the root of Wittgenstein's method is an absence
>> of any clear metaphysical stance in the sense of an -ism. This is because
>> the divide between sense and nonsense cannot be said it can only be shown
>> (this is a thesis common to both the earlier and later Wittgenstein, who
>> may be characterised as having two distinct philosophies of sense and
>> nonsense and of 'showing not saying''); so any attempt to mark the divide
>> by a clear metaphysical stance is a futile attempt to 'say' what can only
>> be 'shown'. And what is 'shown' by looking at the interlocking complexity
>> of 'language games', as set out in 'Philosophical Investigations', seems to
>> tell against any clear metaphysical stance.
>> Now one way to characterise 'functionalism' is that it seeks to side-step
>> the metaphysics of what is at stake by translating problems into
>> 'functionalist' terms (as indeed does Turing with his 'Imaginary Game');
>> and, given that Wittgenstein's later philosophy also eschews taking any
>> clear metaphysical stance, we can see how 'functionalism' might easily be
>> attributed to the later Wittgenstein, though this would perhaps be a
>> mistake.
>> Donal
>> Salop
> --
> John McCreery
> The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
> Tel. +81-45-314-9324
> jlm@xxxxxxxxxxxx
> http://www.wordworks.jp/

palma, KZN

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