Why Functionalism Is A Better Theory Than Identity Theory

1231 Words5 Pages
In this essay, I am going to write a response to the objection raised by the functionalists towards identity theory. Identity theory is a form of physicalism; it states that a particular mental state is identical to a particular physical state of body and brain, for instance mental sensation such as pain is simply just the firing of C-fibres (Smart, 1959). This is a reductionist view as it reduces our psychological state to a materialistic and physical form. A prominent objection against identity theory is Functionalism, in which the main advocate Hilary Putnam stated that identity theory is too narrow as it ignores multiple realisability. In the next paragraph, I will write a little more about functionalism, and in the end, I will ultimately conclude that functionalism is a better theory than identity theory. Putnam claims that what makes up a psychological state can vary between different species (Putnam, 1975). He then attempted to undermine the validity of identity theory with the examples of octopi and aliens. Octopi and aliens have brains that are made up of totally different material, yet they can still function the same. Hence he came to the conclusion that we shouldn’t look at what our mental states are made up of, but rather their function, which is that they cause particular behaviours. By saying mental states are functional states, and not brain states, you are accepting the possibility of brainless systems having mental states (Block, 1978). One type of
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