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Multiple realizability: also a difficulty for functionalism

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Functionalism argues that since any mental state can be realized by different physical systems, it is therefore wrong to define or identify a mental state of an organism by the corresponding physical-chemical state of its body (as type physicalism has intended to do). In this paper, I argue that since a single mental state can also be realized in different functional patterns, multiple realizability creates the same problem for functionalism. This means that it is wrong to implicitly define a mental state by its causal role in an interconnected network of inputs, outputs and internal states. It is discussed that the functionalists’ responses to this criticism are as plausible as the physicalists’ responses to the problem. It is concluded that in dealing with the multiple realizability problem, functionalism has no advantage over its rival, type physicalism

Keywords: Mental state functionalism; Turing machine; multiple realizablity; physical realization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 70 Laurier Ave., Department of Philosophy, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5, Canada.

Publication date: July 1, 2000

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