Robert Van Gulick

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mind

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780199262618
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy



Functionalism at its core is the thesis that minds and mental kinds are to be understood in terms of the roles or functions that specific states and processes play within suitably organized systems. From a functionalist perspective, minds differ from non-minds not in any distinctive substance or fundamental substrate, but in their systemic organization and the roles played by their parts and sub-parts within it. A minded system is simply one that is organized in the right sort of way, though just which ways those are is a difficult and disputed matter. Functionalists classify states or processes largely, if not solely, in terms of the relevant roles or functions that they play in some such system.

Keywords: substrate; functionalism; systemic organization; behaviourism; mental states; brain processes

Article.  11953 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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